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St. Pauli go to Fortuna Düsseldorf on Friday evening (kick-off: 1830 CET) looking to extend their positive run and, after the recent victories over Nürnberg and Würzburg, collect more points in the battle against the drop. In Fortuna, they meet a side who have been sucked into the relegation mire after a good start to the campaign.

After four matches without a win (1-2 against Union Berlin, 0-0 against Hannover, 0-1 against Erzgebirge Aue and 0-0 against Sandhausen) the Boys in Brown have announced their return to the relegation scrap with victories over Nürnberg (2-0) and Kickers Würzburg (1-0). The late win over Würzburg was even more important, as apart from Bochum (1-0 against Fürth) no other team in the bottom half of the table claimed three points. It also saw Ewald Lienen's side back in 14th place in the table for the first time since September. "A pleasant snapshot but nothing more," said several players after the defeat of Würzburg. With five games left to play and every one of them a final, nothing has been achieved yet.

Fortuna's season has been the complete opposite of ours. Their snapshot has faded quite badly after a decent start to the campaign. Funkel's men sat in fifth place after the 1-0 win in the reverse fixture at the Millerntor and had one eye on promotion. In mid-November, they were just two points off third and a place in the promotion-relegation play-off. Since that win, however, things haven't gone so well. Düsseldorf won just two of the next 16 games and have gradually slipped down the table as a result. In the second half of the season only Würzburg (5) and Karlsruhe (8) have picked up fewer points than Fortuna, who have taken just ten points since the winter break to become involved in an unwanted battle against relegation.

Düsseldorf missed out on a chance to climb the table at Dynamo Dresden last time out when the home side grabbed a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw. Head coach Friedhelm Funkel saw a "really good performance" by his team that went unrewarded. His team have often impressed away from home this term but their form at the ESPRIT Arena has been mediocre in the last six months. The last of their three home wins came on 21 September 2016 when they comfortably saw off Arminia Bielefeld by four goals to nil. That win has been followed by four draws and five defeats on their own patch.

A stuttering home team come up against a resurgent away side, then. For after waiting until December for the first away win (2-0 at Fürth), Lienen's charges have secured victories at Braunschweig, 1860 Munich (both 2-1) and Nürnberg (2-0). The only games in which they failed to pick up three points were against fellow relegation battlers Bielefeld (1-1) and Aue (0-1).

The fans can therefore expect to see an exciting and no doubt high-intensity game on Friday evening between a Fortuna team desperate to reverse their negative trend and a confident St. Pauli team looking to extend their recent good run at all costs. In the run-up to the game Lienen, who has Bernd Nehrig at his disposal again after a suspension, said: "Defensive stability is the secret to success."

That defensive stability is the main reason why the Boys in Brown are well placed to avoid the drop after sitting last after the first half of the season. Since the winter break they have shipped just seven goals – only Bayern Munich have conceded fewer (5) in the top two divisions. While Bayern can no longer win the treble after elimination in the Champions League at the hands of Real Madrid, Lienen's side hope to do their own, admittedly not comparable, treble by claiming their third win on the bounce at Düsseldorf to take an important step towards second-division safety.


Photo: Witters