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The Boys in Brown face a tough challenge at relegated Bundesliga outfit Darmstadt 98 on Friday evening (kick-off: 18.30 CET). Earlier today head coach Olaf Janssen spoke to the Hamburg media about the freshness of his players, the injury to Lasse Sobiech and, of course, the opposition.

"Physically, we've coped well with Monday's game," said Janssen. "The lads have looked fresh in training, which is important because Darmstadt have had more time to recover, but I think we'll be OK. Apart from that, we've shaken ourselves down, analysed the game and since Tuesday our focus has been solely on Darmstadt."

Janssen revealed that his players have been very critical of themselves after going out of the DFB Cup at the first hurdle, possibly even a touch too critical: "Expecting more of yourself is generally a good attitude to have but the question is how you deal with critical situations. Do you go to pieces over them or do you come out stronger? I think my players have been a bit too hard on themselves."

The St. Pauli boss continued: "I don't want the players to stop being self-critical, of course, but it has to be within reason to ensure the mind is free enough to tackle the next project with joy and conviction. That's something we'll need against Darmstadt on Friday. For both teams it's a game where the winners can emerge from it stronger."

Following their relegation from the Bundesliga, Darmstadt have signed and released more players than any other club, so Janssen is not reading too much into their performances so far. "As you can imagine, the team can't have gelled yet after all those changes, but things will improve with every week as the players get to know each other better. Darmstadt have a lot of individual quality, nevertheless. Aytac Sulu is exceptional in central defence, as we know, while Hamit Altintop is a midfielder with international experience. And up front they have equally good players in Kevin Grosskreutz and Artur Sobiech."

As far as his own strikeforce is concerned, Janssen feels the trend is positive even though Aziz Bouhaddouz and Sami Allagui have not found the net in the two league encounters so far. "I'm sure they'll get the odd goal or two," he said. "It'd wouldn't be good if our attack consisted of just two players. The onus is on the entire attacking department. I've always demanded that other players become a threat in front of goal. I think we've seen that the responsibility has been spread over several shoulders recently. Our opponents haven't had one striker to prepare for."

A question mark remains over the fitness of Lasse Sobiech, who suffered a head wound that required stitches against Paderborn. "We'll decide whether he makes the trip later today," said Janssen. "The fact is that when there's a serious injury I want to hear from all sides that there's no risk involved. The health of the player is paramount, so we'll wait and see what the doctors say and how he himself feels before we make a decision."


Photos: Witters