Two of the pre-season promotion favourites will try and get their flagging 2. Bundesliga campaigns back on track on Saturday afternoon as St Pauli visit Energie Cottbus. Both teams lost last weekend, with Cottbus going down 4-2 to Fortuna Düsseldorf, and St Pauli suffering their first home defeat at the hands of Aue.
Saturday lunchtime’s visitors have looked a bit iffy on the road so far this season, having lost to Eintracht Braunschweig and Eintracht Trier (in the cup), and also sharing a draw with another Eintracht, Frankfurt. However, they comprehensively and professionally defeated Karlsruhe in their last away match, showcasing the effectiveness of new coach André Schubert’s floor-based and positionally-fluid football system. Cottbus, meanwhile, sat five points and five places behind Pauli in ninth, are certainly missing the presence of last season’s 2. Bundesliga golden boot Nils Petersen (who joined Bayern Munich over the summer). Nevertheless, they’ve not exactly been wanting for goals: unfortunately, Claus Dieter ‘Pele’ Wollitz’s side are just far too leaky at the other end of the pitch to make their own strikes count.
Despite starting the campaign impressively with two league wins and not a single point dropped, Cottbus were then humiliated in the first round of the DFB-Pokal, losing 3-0 to lower-league side Holstein Kiel. Defeats such as the 5-0 drubbing at the hands of 1860 Munich can be written off because of an early red card (although Cottbus really were awful before and after that dismissal), but last Saturday’s visit to Düsseldorf was the third game in which they have been especially disappointing; a run which has involved throwing away 2-0 and 3-1 leads to draw with Eintracht Frankfurt, and being pretty much hammered by both Braunschweig and Düsseldorf.
Pauli lost three key players over the summer in Gerald Asamoah, Bastian Oczipka and Matthias Lehmann, but those who have stayed with the club have used their recently acquired Bundesliga experience to good effect. Whereas previous coach Holger Stanislawki was keen on a direct 4-4-2 system, Schubert prefers to set his players out in a 4-1-4-1. This has given the likes of Fin Bartels and Florian Bruns the freedom, full-back overlaps and triangle-pass options they need to shine, and Marius Ebbers has also been able to benefit in front of goal.
Speaking ahead of the game, Schubert said: “Cottbus are like Aue – a team that has no intention to look down the barrel of the gun and turn round.” After last weekend’s shock defeat, the 40-year-old coach has had his players working on tackles, one-on-one situations and fast switching and response situations in training this week. “We want to be present and awake in Cottbus from the beginning,” added the coach, who expects defenders Ralph Gunesch and Fabio Morena to be fit to play – one of whom will line up alongside Markus Thorandt at centre-back. Three players not expected to make the four-hour drive from Hamburg to Cottbus, though, are Jan-Philipp Kalla, Moritz Volz and Deniz Naki.
As well as seeing his side go four games without a win, Wollitz has the added issue of seeing two of his best players suspended after being sent off last weekend – striker Dimitar Rangelov, and centre-back Roger. What a chance, then, for Martin Fenin to show the world that he is still a match-winning player. On last weekend’s defeat, the 46-year-old Cottbus coach blamed “too many catastrophic individual mistakes”, and said that the current situation at the club is “difficult.” This is because key players such as Daniel Adlung, Dennis Sørensenand Markus Brzenska are still missing for Energie through injury. While his squad may not be down to bare bones just yet, Wollitz will nonetheless be praying that the 31-year-old set to referee Saturday’s game at Stadion der Freundschaft – Christian Dingert – keeps his cards in his pockets.
Energie Cottbus vs St Pauli kicks off at 12pm in the UK tomorrow, and can be watched live on Bet365.com.