St. Pauli (5th) welcome Eintracht Braunschweig (6th) to the Millerntor on Thursday night, with the 19:15 kick off being broadcast live on BT Sport in the UK. It’s only a couple of times a season that German clubs play their league matches ‘midweek’ (does Thursday still class as midweek?), and those rare occasions see the German media dub it ‘Englische Woche’.
The squad has been hit by a spate of flu in recent days, despite which St. Pauli still managed to pick up a 2-0 victory against bottom club Duisburg on Sunday with a depleted squad. Speaking of the special measures in place to prevent the flu spreading, Marc Rzatskowski spoke of ‘blowdrying my hair after training’. Good job, Marc.
Sobiech, Nehrig and Kalla are all doubts due to the flu, whilst Sobota and Picault may also not be fully fit for the visit of Braunschweig. Meanwhile, Ziereis and Davidson Eden are doubtful through injury, whilst longer-term Maier, Gonther and Miyaichi are all still out. Ewald Lienen, who hasn’t avoided the flu himself, has some selection headaches to go with the flu as well!
The win over Duisburg wasn’t pretty, but it was effective. Particularly with the absentees which had mean Dudziak played in defence, and u23 defender Keller played in the centre of defence with Hornschuh, usually found at right-back. It also meant Lienen had to change to a 4-4-2 with (Big) John Verhoek partnering Thy upfront. Big John was rewarded with a last minute goal that clinched the points, which may tempted Lienen to stick with two upfront despite preferring 4-2-3-1.
The focus ahead of the game is on the two goalkeepers, Robin Himmelmann and his counterpart Rafal Gikiewicz – both of whom have kept 12 clean sheets this season. Braunschweig also have the best defence in the league, conceding only 19 goals (although they have played a game less than leaders Leipzig who have conceded 20).
All 4 teams above St. Pauli have won their midweek games, meaning Nurnberg in 3rd are now 5 points clear ahead of tonight’s game. Leipzig have 13 wins and 2 losses in their last 15, Freiburg have won 3 in a row having gone on a bit of a dip, Nurnberg are unbeaten in 11 and Bochum are 8 games unbeaten after a terrible October/November period. Those 4 teams are all finding the form just at the right time, and if St. Pauli want to challenge this season then they’re going to have to find consistency and dig out results, just like they did on Sunday. What they can’t afford is another performance like that in the 1-3 home defeat to FSV Frankfurt. It’s now 9 points from 12, and if they can go unbeaten against Braunschweig and then Heidenheim on Sunday then Lienen’s team will still be in with a good chance of fighting for promotion in May. If not, it’s been a good and unexpectedly pleasing season.