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Home opener against Stuttgart: Boys in Brown out to make amends for Fürth defeat

FC St. Pauli entertain VfB Stuttgart in the opening home game of 2020 on Saturday (13:00 CET). The restart in midweek could not have gone any more differently for the two teams: the Boys in Brown slumped to a 3-0 defeat at Fürth, while Stuttgart won the top-billing fixture against Heidenheim by the same scoreline. After Saturday's game at the Millerntor, the mood in both camps will hopefully have gone through a 180 degree turn.

Eight games into the season Stuttgart were cruising on top of the league with 20 from a possible 24 points, and as the only team left unbeaten, they looked to be well on their way to an immediate return to the Bundesliga. In the last four months, however, the Swabians have struggled, picking up just three more wins before the winter break along with five defeats and three draws. The club responded by dismissing head coach Tim Walter and bringing in Pellegrino Matarazzo, assistant coach at Bundesliga outfit TSG Hoffenheim, just before the turn of the year.

Matarazzo had around four weeks' time to get to know his new players and infuse his team with his playing philosophy. In the opening game against promotion-chasing Heidenheim, the Swabians certainly made a promising start, sticking three past the league's meanest defence to tighten their grip on third place. Stuttgart thus travel to the Millerntor full of confidence for their first away game of the year.

As we know, the Boys in Brown guested at Fürth in their opening away game. And for the 14th away game in a row, Jos Luhukay's side failed to take all three points. An improved second-half performance was not enough to prevent Fürth sweeping to a comfortable 3-0 win. It was a very sobering evening for the Boys in Brown, who had hoped to build on the two home wins against Wiesbaden and Bielefeld before the winter break. Instead, they slipped to a "bitterly disappointing defeat", as head coach Jos Luhukay put it after the game.

"We'll keep our nerve, we know what we have to do differently," said captain Daniel Buballa in an interview with the match programme for the visit of Stuttgart. "In the defeat at Fürth, our lapses in concentration and loose balls allowed Fürth to break dangerously at pace, so we have to keep them to a minimum against a strong Stuttgart side. We have to reduce the gaps between the different sections of the team and not allow ourselves to fall apart so quickly under pressure".

Pressure is something the Boys in Brown will have to expect from 13:00 on Saturday, however, against an free-flowing Stuttgart side who have registered more attempts on goal than any other team so far this season. If they are to make amends for the defeat at Fürth and get a result against the promotion favourites, they will need to produce a cohesive team performance across the board. And if that yields all three points, as in the previous two home games, all the better.


Photo: Witters