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FRIDAY, WE’RE IN LOVE

With the 2016/17 season entering its defining phase, Ewald Lienen's side have developed a new love for Friday games just at the right time. How appropriate, then, that FC Heidenheim guest at the Millerntor tomorrow evening (kick-off: 1830 CET), when the Boys in Brown will attempt to secure their third win in a row on a Friday evening.

The joy knew no bounds when Aziz Bouhaddouz ran onto a long pass from Daniel Buballa, looked up briefly and then lofted the ball over the onrushing Michael Rensing to make it 3-1. A cool, nonchalant and clinical finish to see off Düsseldorf and ensure the Boys in Brown returned to Hamburg with all three points. It was their third win on the bounce and the second on a Friday evening, a marked contrast to the previous matches under floodlights, which until the 2-0 win at Nürnberg earlier this month had brought just one point from four outings. Not a record to be proud of on this most romantic of matchdays, but just in time for the business end of the campaign it's clearly a case of "Friday, we’re in love" again.

Fittingly, two of the four games left to play are on a Friday (tomorrow against Heidenheim and the game at FC Kaiserslautern in Round 32). Uncertainty remains over the fitness of Bernd Nehrig (pelvis) and Jeremy Dudziak (shoulder). Both players were in the wars in Düsseldorf and have not trained fully this week. But regardless of who pulls on the St. Pauli jersey on Friday, head coach Ewald Lienen has no concerns about the commitment of his players: "The lads are ready to give their all."

Lienen's counterpart Frank Schmidt has more injury problems to contend with. Though the Heidenheim boss will in all probability be able to plan for the second division next season, he still travels to the Millerntor with worries on his mind. Kevin Kraus (cruciate), Timo Beermann (shoulder), Dominik Widemann (ankle), Tim Skarke (groin) and Sebastian Griesbeck (one-match ban) will not make the journey to Hamburg, and a large question mark hangs over captain Marc Schnatterer, who grabbed both Heidenheim goals in the reverse fixture. The veteran alpha leader has ten goals and 13 assists to his name this term and is the linchpin in Schmidt’s side. One certainty, however, is that former St. Pauli striker John Verhoek will make his first appearance at the Millerntor in Heidenheim colours: "I'm really looking forward to it because I had three very nice years here and experienced a superb atmosphere every time."

That atmosphere will be unleashed once again as soon as Hells Bells triggers the famous Millerntor roar, the confetti flies through the air and a deafening "Aux Armes" rings out from thousands of throats. From that moment on the Boys in Brown will do their utmost to electrify the crowd. And when the first sliding tackle has the fans up on their feet, more than a few will be thinking: "Friday, we’re in love!"

 

Photos: Witters

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