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Before the fourth and last international break of the season – and the seven-game run-in – St. Pauli go to bottom side FC Kaiserslautern on Saturday looking to take all three points. The home side are desperate for a win in their bid to avoid the drop, while the Boys in Brown are hoping to put aside their injury concerns and register their fourth win in succession at the Betzenberg.

It's 5 May 2017, Round 32 of the 2016/17 season, and St. Pauli are away at FC Kaiserslautern. The Boys in Brown go to the Betzenberg full of confidence on the back of four wins in a row. A fifth would give them 41 points and secure their second division status for another year. Goals from Aziz Bouhaddouz and Christopher Buchtmann give them a 2-0 lead after the restart, and though Marcel Gaus pulls one back for the home side in the final minute, the three points are secured to the huge relief of everyone connected to the club. The Boys in Brown, who ended the first half of the season bottom of the table on just 11 points, have done the impossible and beaten the drop.

Ten-and-a-half months later, FCK are the ones battling against relegation to the third tier. Like St. Pauli in the previous season, the Red Devils picked up a meagre 11 points in the first half of the campaign. But with a gap of seven points to the relegation play-off spot, and ten to 15th place, they find themselves even further away from safety than the Boys in Brown did last term.

FC Kaiserslautern haven't been this close to going down in ten years (on the final day of the 2007/08 season they defeated the already promoted FC Cologne 3-0 to ward off the drop). The Red Devils have been fighting with all their might since the turn of the year, and under former FCSP coach Michael Frontzeck, who replaced the illness-hit Jeff Strasser at the helm at the end of February, they have collected 12 points, securing home wins over Holstein Kiel (3-1) and Union Berlin (4-3) in the process. So despite defeats against fellow strugglers Aue (2-1) and Fürth (2-1), Kaiserslautern still retain hopes of bridging the six-point gap to the play-off spot.

Lautern's recent upturn in form has not gone unnoticed in Hamburg, of course, but FCSP coach Markus Kauczinski's side are ready for the challenge and determined to take all three points despite a number of injury worries in defence. In addition to long-term absentees Marc Hornschuh (back) and Clemens Schoppenhauer (shoulder), Lasse Sobiech (ankle) and Luca Zander (recovering from flu) are definitely ruled out, while Christopher Avevor (muscle problems) and Philipp Ziereis (back) are doubtful.

It remains to be seen which eleven players will run out on Saturday, then. Kaiserslautern has been a happy hunting ground for the Boys in Brown, who have won three times in a row at the Betzenberg. The task now is to extend that run to four.


Photo: Eibner