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FC St. Pauli enter the eight-game run-in at home to Eintracht Braunschweig on Monday evening (20:30 CET) with Rico Benatelli targeting another good performance to help his side continue their impressive run of form since January and finish off the season as well as possible.

The Boys in Brown were in upbeat mood when they took to the training ground on Monday afternoon for the opening workout ahead of the visit of Eintracht Braunschweig. Three days off ensured the players began their preparations with enthusiasm and renewed vigour. "It's been a long time since we had several days off in one go, so it definitely did us good," said Rico Benatelli. Along with the rest of the squad, the midfielder was able to switch off for a few days and recharge his batteries for the run-in. A welcome break, then, albeit not one Benatelli felt he needed at all costs "because the last few games have gone well for me."

Named the most consistent player in a substandard first half of the season by head coach Timo Schultz, Benatelli was a permanent fixture of the team from the turn of the year but then went four games without making an appearance, starting with the game at FC Heidenheim. "It came rather unexpectedly, as we were having a good spell and I was playing well," he said. "But that's how it is in football sometimes. It's happened to other lads as well. You can't stick your head in the sand, you have to keep working on your game and wait for your chance." Benatelli, whose doggedness in midfield has produced a squad‑high 59.4 per cent of duels won, was given his chance in the derby and took it, leading to starts in the next three games against Karlsruhe, Paderborn and Osnabrück for the No26, who also ranks highly league‑wide in terms of his running and passing stats.

"The battle for places is fierce, we have a big squad with lots of good players," Benatelli continued. "You can't afford to relax. You have to stay focused all the time – both in training and on matchdays. When you go through the second division, you won't find many teams who have at least two decent options in every position." Despite the strong internal competition, the midfielder aims to prevail and start as many of the remaining eight games as possible – starting against Braunschweig on Monday, of course.

Benatelli had words of warning for his teammates ahead of the game against relegation-haunted Braunschweig: "We can't afford to underestimate them. They might be below us in the table, but their form is on the up. They're much more stable at the back and haven't conceded many goals. It could be a game of patience where we have to force the goal. It's not about winning the game in the first ten minutes, we have 90 minutes to do that. But we have to start intelligently and ensure we put our game plan into action both on and off the ball. If we do that, we have a good chance of winning."

While the aim is to maintain the successful run of form until the end of the season, Benatelli's focus is firmly on Braunschweig. Taking each game as it comes remains the motto. "Quite right, too. We're on a good path and aren't going to stray from it. It's what's made us so strong recently and we shouldn't anything by setting targets. Our approach in all of the remaining games will be to do as well as we can each time." The Boys in Brown intend to make a start against Braunschweig, with Benatelli determined to help his side bag the next three points with another good performance.


Photos: Witters


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