The second weekend of the 2. Bundesliga season sees two possible promotion contenders go head-to-head in Hamburg. Yet if FC St. Pauli could have chosen an opponent for their first home game of the season, Eintracht Braunschweig might well have been it.
Braunschweig have had to wait twenty-five years for a win at the Millerntor, with a couple of humbling defeats in that time as well. However they started the season in confident fashion, and will hope that St. Pauli are still feeling the effects of a tough opening game against VfB Stuttgart.
Whatever the outcome, it promises to be a highly-pulsating clash, with both sides possessing the ability to go at full-throtle against each other.
Contrasting opening match fortunes
Braunschweig had the better of things on the opening weekend, starting with a 2-1 victory over newly-promoted Würzburger Kickers, with Salim Khelifi and Julius Biada scoring either side of half-time. Würzburg had threatened a comeback when Elia Soriano scored, but their momentum was halted by the sending off of Emanuel Taffertshofer.
“It was the difficult match we expected because Würzburg are well organised and fit in all areas,” said coach Torsten Lieberknecht after the match. “We were dominate for most of the game and deserved to win,” added midfielder Patrick Schonfeld. “It is nice to start the season with a victory.”
St. Pauli will have counted themselves unlucky not to get anything from their opening match, eventually losing 2-1 to relegated Stuttgart. Boss Ewald Lienen said afterwards that he was “very disappointed” to lose the game. “The team did not deserve to lose the game,” he added.
They had led at half-time thanks to Aziz Bouhaddouz’s goal on debut, and they could have been further ahead, such was their control. But the introduction of Alexandru Maxim at the break by the title favourites was an inspired change, with his equaliser and a later winner from Christian Gentner sealing victory for Stuttgart.
Twenty-five years of Millerntor pain
To get the three points on Saturday, Braunschweig have to overcome a quarter-of-a-century’s history. They have not won away at St. Pauli since September 1991, when Tino Löchelt and Holger Aden scored in a 2-0 win, one of only two successes they have ever had away to the Freibeuter.
Since then, they’ve drawn two and lost seven, including a 7-1 defeat in 2002 and a 5-1 loss 2013, although in the latter game the Lions had already sealed promotion to the Bundesliga. Their last win of any kind against St. Pauli was earlier that season, with Domi Kumbela scoring the only goal at Eintracht-Stadion.
St. Pauli scored just the one goal when the two met on matchday 24 last season, with the now-departed John Verhoek scoring a late winner. The reverse fixture earlier in the season was a goalless draw.
Overall, St. Pauli have 16 wins in 30 meetings, with Braunschweig victorious in just eight. St. Pauli have won nine of the 15 games played on home turf.
A child of the Bundesliga
Despite his side’s unenviable record against Saturday’s opponents, Lienen is still wary of the threat they pose, acknowledging their strength on the wings, their ability to put teams under pressure and their counter-attacking capabilities. “They also have diverse qualities and are compact,” he adds, “but are also well positioned in the offensive.”
Ahead of their first competitive home game of the season, he is clear that "the obligation to deliver before a home crowd is unchanged.” He is happy that he has few injury concerns at the moment, with Richard Neudecker and Cenk Sahin the only absentees. “You can tell that with a full squad we have a good training level and good competition,” he said.
Lieberknecht was impressive with St. Pauli’s performance in their first game, and believes that his side will have to be wary of the speed they have in their squad. “We need to implement our defensive principles well, improve our offensive automation and need individually a top performance in order to survive there,” he says.
He also had words of high praise for his opposite number Lienen. “He is a child of the Bundesliga,” he said. “He was always a great personality. The way he acts as a person makes him unique.”
Reichel back for Braunschweig
With no new injury concerns there seems little reason for Lienen to change his team from that which lost in Stuttgart. Whilst Bouhaddouz got the goal on Monday night, the real star was American international Fafà Picault, who set up the goal and caused all sorts of problems for Hamburg’s defence.
Whilst Braunschweig will have to be wary of the threat they pose, in the second half against Stuttgart they both ran out of stream, and were replaced in the last 25 minutes. Ryo Miyaichi and Jeremy Dudziak came on for them, and could come in if any changes are made.
There will almost certainly be one change for Braunschweig, with left-back Ken Reichel available again following a suspension carried over from last season. He will likely come in for Niko Kijewski, and should take the armband in the continued absence of club captain Marcel Correia.
Reichel is a regular score of goals from the back, with seven in the league last season, however in a reflection of his club’s general record against them, he has never scored against St. Pauli. Although with Correia out they will stick to a flat back four, along with Phil Ofosu-Ayeh on the right, he will provide a menace on the wings that St. Pauli will need to be wary of.
The only other two absentees are their injured new signing Suleiman Abdullahi and Saulo Decarli, who is still serving his suspension for the red card he picked up against Fortuna Düsseldorf in the final game of last season.
Quotes via FC. St Pauli, Eintracht Braunschweig and Kicker