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Three games left to go to the winter break. On Saturday (kick-off: 13.00 CET), the Boys in Brown guest at Fortuna Düsseldorf, who boast a decent home record. The Schultz XI go to North-Rhine Westphalia buoyed by the performance in the 1-1 draw against league leaders Darmstadt last time out.

FC St. Pauli have three games left to contest this year before they enter the winter break. Or rather "three huge games”, as head coach Timo Schultz termed the assignments against Fortuna Düsseldorf, Holstein Kiel and Karlsruhe. Two of those three games are away from home, the first of them Saturday’s daunting trip to Fortuna Düsseldorf. 

To put it mildly, the club’s away form this season has been nothing to write home about, the Boys in Brown having collected just two points from seven outings thus far. Schultz is well aware that the return at the Millerntor has been so much better. “We know we have to step up a gear and become more efficient away from home,” he said at the pre-match news conference, while pointing out that his team’s meagre points haul on the road was not a true reflection of the performances they have put in. “We have the characters to handle the pressure,” added skipper Jackson Irvine. On top of that, the Schultz XI will go into the game feeling buoyed by the performance in the 1-1 draw against high-flying Darmstadt last week.

The Boys in Brown have shown what’s possible in their last two meetings with Fortuna. A 2-0 home win on the final day last season was preceded by a 1-1 away draw last December which could have ended in victory had Guido Burgstaller not strayed offside before Irvine put the ball in the net. That was then, however, when the Schultz XI travelled to the North-Rhine Westphalia capital six points clear at the top. It is a very different situation this Saturday.

Daniel Thioune has moulded Fortuna into a compact unit with individual talent and, above all, a versatile strike force. Their 24 goals so far have been scored by 12 different players, first and foremost Polish forward Dawid Kownacki, whose six goals and six assists have softened the blow of Khaled Narey’s departure to PAOK. And in Dutchman Jorrit Hendrix, Düsseldorf also have a midfielder with Champions League experience.

More recently, however, it has been 19-year-old full-back Michal Karbownik who has caught the eye with two assists in five matches. And Thioune also has former St. Pauli player Rouwen Hennings up his sleeve. “I hope Rouwen sits on the bench for 90 minutes," said Schultz, who knows all about the centre-forward from the time they spent together at the Millerntor, with a smile. Small wonder, it being Hennings who grabbed Fortuna’s equaliser in that 1-1 draw back in December. 

One player who particularly enjoys facing Düsseldorf is Marcel Hartel. The midfield dynamo has had a hand in our last three goals against the Rhinelanders, scoring two and setting up another. A repeat would be more than welcome on Saturday, when the Boys in Brown contest the first of three “huge games” in the winter run-in.

Photos: FC St. Pauli