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All out for victory!

It's derby time! The Boys in Brown go into Monday's night game (20:30 CET) looking to maintain their upward trend and dig out another stellar performance against HSV to emerge victorious from what is sure to be another 90 hard-fought minutes.

The reverse fixture at the Volkspark was certainly a ding-dong affair, with the Boys in Brown falling behind early on before recovering to take the lead towards the end, only to concede a late equaliser. Ultimately, the draw was a fair reflection of a high-octane 90 minutes.

Timo Schultz's side go into the sixth cross-city derby at this level as the league's in-form team. Six wins from the last seven games have not only lifted them from 17th to 11th place in the table and opened up an eight-point cushion to the relegation play-off spot, but also ushered in a massive boost of confidence. "I always knew we'd come good once we'd turned things round," said Philipp Ziereis in the run-up. "The win at Hannover gave us the confidence and belief that we're a good team capable of winning games."

This understanding of their own ability provides an added lift against a HSV side who after surrendering top spot towards the end of November had opened up a four-point gap on the chasing back by early February, only to go through a sticky patch since then. The "Red Shorts" began the month by squandering a 3-1 lead to draw 3-3 at Erzgebirge Aue and were then held to a home scoreless draw in the top-billing meeting with Greuther Fürth despite enjoying a man advantage for over half an hour. Last time out, our cross-city rivals crashed 3-2 at bottom side Würzburg – their first defeat this year after an 11-game unbeaten run.

The four-point lead has thus melted away, and going into this weekend's round of matches Daniel Thioune's side retained top spot only by virtue of their superior goal difference over level-pegging Fürth, Bochum and Kiel. Yet wins for Bochum (3-0 against Würzburg) and Kiel (1-0 against Aue) on Saturday and a point for Fürth in a 2-2 draw at Hannover have seen HSV slip to fourth place ahead of the derby. And with Karlsruhe winning by the only goal at Darmstadt to move within three points of Monday's visitors, the promotion race is really hotting up.

The heat is definitely on, then, ahead of Monday night's matchup at the Millerntor, with the scene set for another exciting 90 minutes of derby football, especially as games involving the two teams tend to be high-scoring affairs characterised by free-flowing football. In attacking terms, the Boys in Brown aim to carry on where they began six weeks ago at Hannover and left off against Darmstadt last week. At the back, however, they will need to be on high alert against the league's most potent frontline. "We have to defend well as a collective, that will be the key," concluded Ziereis.

Photos: Witters