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A long wait is almost over. Sunday is derby day. Everyone is looking forward to it, and summer signing Marvin Knoll is no exception. The defensive utility player is expecting a hard-fought 90 minutes and wants to win the game for St. Pauli, of course, but he also hopes the day won't be overshadowed by negative incidents off the pitch.

"The build-up starts now," said Marvin Knoll a day after the home win over SC Paderborn. "The derby is all that counts from this moment on. We can hardly wait." Sunday's date with the neighbours had been banished from the mind before then, with the focus solely on the games against Ingolstadt (1-0) and Paderborn (2-1). "Because of all the derby talk those games were overlooked a bit, but we took six points. Compliments to the team for keeping the concentration levels high. A six-point haul is good in its own right, but we want to put the crowning touch on a busy few days by talking that tally to nine."

To aid his recovery, the combative utility man hopped straight into an ice bath after the Paderborn game, but made sure not to cool off too much. "I'm fired up for the derby, don't you worry about that," he laughed.

HSV drew 0-0 at Fürth on Thursday, a game the 27-year-old saw on TV. But he was at the game in person for their 5-0 home defeat against Regensburg last Sunday. "HSV won't play like that again," said Knoll. "It was a one-off, but it shows that for all the money they have, and all the quality they have in the squad, they're still vulnerable." Recent results will mean nothing from 1330 CET on Sunday, however, as Knoll knows only too well: "These 90 minutes are all that count. And both sides are out to show they're the better team."

Knoll has worn the brown-and-white colours for just over three months now but didn't need long to grasp the importance of the game: "You catch derby fever straightaway," he admitted. "You don't need to take a course for a game like this. You only have to stand on the pitch to know what the derby is all about. It means a lot, not only for me but for every single one of us, and especially for the fans, of course. It's a very special game, and we aim to show who the top dogs in town are."

Asked what kind of a game he was expecting, Knoll said: "It's going to be a scrap. There won't be much fancy football. In the first few minutes the tackles will be flying in and it'll be physical and dynamic, so we'll need to keep a cool head. We have to try not to overdo things or play at too fast a pace early on."

While things may get heated on the pitch, Knoll is hoping the derby will pass off peacefully off it. "We want it to be a festival of football. We all love football, we all love the emotions. Emotions belong on the pitch. They belong in the stands as well, but in the form of singing, not with fists or other things. The fans can lead by example by ensuring it is a festival of football. The whole city is looking forward to a great game without any negative headlines off the pitch. So I'd appeal to all the fans in Hamburg to get a grip, look forward to the game and enjoy it. May the best team win. And I hope we're the ones who give a performance that will leave us celebrating for a long time to come."


Photos: Witters