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There is a huge sense of anticipation in the St. Pauli camp ahead of Monday night's derby against HSV. Everyone wants to be involved, of course, and Philipp Ziereis, who has featured in just one of the five second-division derbies to date due to injury, is no exception.

Hi Zier, first of all, how are you? Did you come through the Darmstadt game OK?

Except for a bit of a black eye, I came through unscathed. It looks worse than it is. These things happen sometimes and other than that, I'm fine. I have no problems and I'm in great shape.

The recent winning run has catapulted you to eleventh place and you're now eight points clear of the relegation places. Crazy, isn't it?

No one could really have expected we'd get so many wins and points in the last few weeks, but we're happy to take them and we worked hard for them. That said, I always knew we'd come good once we'd turned things round, which is what we did with Igor's goal at Hannover. That gave us our confidence back and the belief we can win games and are a good team.

Six wins in the last seven games - despite conceding nine goals. That's easier to cope with as a defender when you're winning, isn't it?

I'd have preferred not to concede them of course, but as long as we're winning games, I can live with it. Nevertheless, as a defender I obviously want to keep a clean sheet every game. We're extremely focused on attacking as a team and have a lot of attack-minded players on the pitch. We have to defend better as a team, though. When we're two-nil up like we were against Darmstadt, we have to see the game out without getting into trouble again. One of things we're focusing on at the moment is conceding fewer goals because we can't expect to score three or four every time. Ultimately, though, it's results that count and they've been good recently.

In his only derby so far Philipp Ziereis was kept busy by Pierre-Michel Lasogga in the closing stages - here he wins the aerial battle.

In his only derby so far Philipp Ziereis was kept busy by Pierre-Michel Lasogga in the closing stages - here he wins the aerial battle.

Things couldn't have gone much better for you lately but HSV have faltered a bit. Nevertheless, they still top the table. How do you rate HSV's recent performances?

They've had a bit of a blip but are still a team with loads of individual quality. We have to focus on ourselves, however, not them. To be honest, I have to admit I haven't seen much of them recently.

What kind of derby are you expecting: tactical battle or open game?

It's hard to say. I think there'll be a bit of everything. Derbies are special occasions where different rules apply. Anything is possible, so let's see who's better on the day. We've done very well in recent weeks and so obviously want to impose our game on them. We still want and need to improve a few things, of course, but if we do that, we'll be in with a chance.

To date, the first second-division derby in September 2018 is the only one you've played in. You've missed three derbies due to injury and didn't feature in the 2-0 win at the Volkspark in February 2020 because you weren't fully fit. You must be really geared up for this one after a good two-and-a-half year absence.

I am! I was really fed up about not being able to play in the reverse fixture, but I'd been out for quite some time and had a few problems so it didn't make sense to take the risk. I'm even more up for it now, especially as we've hit a rich vein of form and I'm in top shape. The sense of anticipation is huge, everyone wants to play in the derby. These are the games you remember when your career is over.

What are you looking forward to most?

Simply being involved. I'm fired up for the game and want to make it a successful one for all of us. We want to continue on the path we've been on since the winter and do our utmost to give our fans the derby win.


Photos: FC St. Pauli/Witters