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Ewald Lienen's side visit fellow relegation battlers Erzgebirge Aue on Friday evening (kick-off: 1830 CET). At today's pre-match press conference the 63-year-old was keen to point out that the combative, in-form Saxony outfit will push his team to the limit.

Lienen began his remarks with the usual detailed look at the personnel situation. Whereas Lasse Sobiech has served his one-match ban and will return to the side at Aue, the coach will be without ten-goal Aziz Bouhaddouz, who is suspended. Also absent are Christopher Avevor (ear infection), Johannes Flum (groin strain), Joel Keller (ill) and Cenk Sahin. "Cenk's been out with illness and was still taking anti-biotics on Sunday," said Lienen. "It's proved worse than we thought. We wanted to take him to Aue with us but he's only been able to do recovery work and won't be available." The attacking wide player should be fit to face SV Sandhausen at home on Tuesday, however (kick-off: 1730 CET).

Things are looking better in central defence, however, where Lienen is spoilt for choice thanks to Sobiech's return from suspension and Marc Hornschuh's recovery from a slight thigh strain. Sören Gonther and Philipp Ziereis are also available for selection. "That's a very positive situation for us," said Lienen with a view to the looming fixture congestion with three games in seven days.

That trio of crunch matches begins with the trip to Aue. "Games against immediate rivals are always special," said Lienen, who had words of praise for the next-to-bottom side. "Aue have done really well in recent weeks. Although they've only won two games since the winter break, they've only lost two as well, which shows they're difficult to beat. Their new coach Domenico Tedesco has introduced a new system, which has given them more stability," said Lienen, pointing to the much lower number of goals conceded in the second half of the season. Whereas Aue let in 32 goals in the first 17 games, they have conceded only 11 in eight outings since the turn of the year.

Not only have the Violets improved at the back, they also have a dangerous front three in Cebio Soukou, Pascal Köpke and Dimitrij Nazarov. "They're very variable in attack and their strikers constantly change positions. Nazarov is a very good player who scores lots of goals and is in really good form at the moment. Five of their eight goals since the resumption are down to him, including the last four, which funnily enough have all come from the spot," said Lienen of the Azerbaijan international. "Aue are a good side all round, though. They're very competitive and have quick players. They'll push us to the limit."


Photo: Witters