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Decimated Boys in Brown out to spoil Schalke party

It's the penultimate day of the Bundesliga 2 season, and while the relegation scrap has been resolved, the promotion race is still wide open. FC Schalke 04 have the best cards, and a win over the fifth-placed Boys in Brown could see them go up. Yet despite being adversely impacted by the recent Covid outbreak in the squad, Timo Schultz's side go to Gelsenkirchen determined to ruin the party at a packed Veltins Arena on Saturday evening (20.30 CET).

There was no lack of excitement in last weekend's round of fixtures but unfortunately it all went pear-shaped for the Schultz XI at the end. A last-gasp equaliser by Nürnberg's Taylan Duman proved a brutal body blow, the latest setback in the promotion campaign. Around the same time, Schalke were going bananas at Sandhausen thanks to a stoppage-time strike from Simon Terodde (who else?) that earned them a 2-1 win. Until those two goals went in, the Boys in Brown were just one point behind the Royal Blues and Werder Bremen, who were beaten 3-2 at home by Holstein Kiel. But then came time added on…

All that means that with two games left to go the Royal Blues are in pole position to return to the top flight after just a 12-month absence. The Boys in Brown, in contrast, are winless in five and go into the penultimate day fifth in the table – three points adrift of the promotion places and dogged by major personnel worries. Captain Philipp Ziereis missed out against Nürnberg after testing positive for Covid-19 and he was followed by another nine players at the weekend, leaving Timo Schultz with his biggest selection headache this season. Meanwhile, Mike Büskens, the man behind Schalke's rise to the top, has almost a full squad to pick from, with only winter recruit Dong-gyeong Lee (broken metatarsal) ruled out by injury.

Director of sport Andreas Bornemann would have preferred to have experienced the season finale "from a different position", both in footballing and personnel terms. The loss of so many players led him to speak of a "clear opportunity to lay down a big marker as a group" before the trip to Schalke. In the face of all adversity, the task facing the Boys in Brown is to accept things as they are and do everything in their power to rule out any Schalke celebrations when the final whistle goes, thus ensuring there is still something to play for in the final home game against Fortuna Düsseldorf, as Timo Schultz put it in the run-up.

After six wins in their last seven games, the Royal Blues can seal promotion with another victory should Darmstadt fail to beat Fortuna Düsseldorf on Friday evening. The Boys in Brown will have something to say about that, of course, and no matter which players Timo Schultz is able to field on Saturday evening, they will be desperate to keep their promotion hopes alive with a defiant performance.

 

Photos: Witters

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