The lifeline to another Champions League season or the end of a Bundesliga dream? That’s what will be on the line in the penultimate match of the season when FC St. Pauli hosts FC Bayern Munich, with kickoff set for 9:30 a.m Eastern on Saturday. ESPN3.com will have a live stream, while ESPN Deportes will carry a delayed broadcast at 2 p.m. Eastern. Eurosport 2 will carry live coverage in many European countries-check your local listings. Setanta Australia will have a delayed broadcast at 6:45 a.m. Sunday down under. The FC Bayern Report Fan Chat will be up and running as well.
The preseason predictions of those who said FC St. Pauli simply didn’t have the class to survive in the Bundesliga are on the brink of coming true. Saturday’s hosts have ridden a 10 match winless streak straight to the bottom of the table. And while St. Pauli has simply failed to put the ball in the net with any consistency, it has to be said that injuries have been a mitigating factor in their failures. The club made weird-news sites the world over earlier this year when it added its press officer, a retired player, to the squad due to the rash of injuries. They’ll still have 8 players missing on Saturday.
Still, they haven’t exactly been going down without a fight. Last week in Kaiserslautern, they produced plenty of chances, but just didn’t convert any of them. A draw against Wolfsburg was really a victory that slipped away. And a lead against Leverkusen a few weeks earlier slipped away in the 2nd half.
It’s sure to be an emotional day at Millerntor. With only a slim chance of survival in the Bundesliga, this will be the final appearance for several players in front of the home fans. Also saying goodbye is head coach Holger Stanislawski, who will be ending a nearly two-decade association with the club to take the reins at Hoffenheim next season. At least St. Pauli was able to get the guy from “The Lives of Others” as their new coach..
(Yes, I know he died).
Of specific interest is the fact that St. Pauli keeper Thomas Kessler should be ready to resume his duties in goal this week. It was Kessler who saw red in the 68th minute of the Hinrunde match between the teams, and the resulting penalty quashed any dreams St. Pauli had for stealing a point in Munich.
Who Are They This Time?
I know what you’re thinking. As usual, I’ve run through the litany of hard luck and pitiful results of an opponent before a Bayern away match, and yet you’re thinking to yourself “So won’t this be another awful 1-1 draw?”
The one factor that’s really playing into Bayern’s hands is the obvious one: St. Pauli MUST win this match. I suppose some will argue that’s a disadvantage for a Bayern team that turns into a bunch of nervous nellies any time anyone pressures the ball. But an organized defense is not going to be among the priorities for the hosts, and that can’t be a disadvantage, especially if Arjen Robben is going to move around the pitch as much as he did last week.
Say what you want about Bayern’s opponents not showing up the last couple times out a the Alllianz Arena, but last week’s effort in the passing game had not been seen for some time. It was probably the best effort of the calendar year from both Schweinsteiger and Müller, which bodes very well for a match that ought to be approached with all the shackles off.
If for some reason St. Pauli doesn’t start the match as though they’ve been shot out of a pirate cannon, I think we’ll see a bit more of a Van Gaal-style approach from Bayern. St. Pauli’s recent match against Bremen should give Andries Jonker pause for thought. Although Bremen needed a little help and a late rally, their absolute domination of possession meant that St. Pauli hardly produced a worthwhile chance all match. But I doubt we’ll see a game flow resembling that.
Jonker appears ready to sacrifice Tymoshchuk to get Luiz Gustavo back into the lineup, a refreshing vote of confidence for the “let’s play CBs at CB” approach. Despite the healthy return of of Danijel Pranjic, Diego Contento is still the favored starter at LB. All the other regulars were healthy and practicing by midweek, with only long-term absentees Altintop and Olic missing.
Transfer Rumor One-Liners:
Manuel Neuer: Now owes Butt at least one airport pick-up for his role in facilitating a deal.
Jerome Boateng: Obviously of interest, but straight denial from both sides (and Merkur using exact same wording as tz’s Van der Wiel “exclusive”) means non-story..for the moment.
Emmanuel Adebayor: Don’t waste my time.
Nils Petersen: I initially thought he was part of the E-Street Band, but genuine interest emanates from low-cost, high-ceiling potential even if he’s destined to be the “remember that year he was with Bayern?” guy in 2014.
Klose’s 2-year contract desire: Don’t get greedy Miro; Jupp isn’t interested in having you break G. Müller’s Munich records.
Ekici to Bremen: Allofs likes Ekici, but if I like a Bentley, it doesn’t mean someone’s going to sell me one.
Gomez to Liverpool: See Adebayor
Kraft to Hertha: Northbound train ticket was booked before Van Gaal’s flight to Portugal.
*Willy Sagnol was the last Bayern player to score a league goal at Millerntor.
*Bayern sporting director Christian Nerlinger was in the starting 11 the last time FC Bayern defeated St. Pauli away in a league match. Ruggiero Rizzitelli and Mario Basler scored for the visitors on the way to a 2-1 win in the opening match of the 1996-97 season.
*The first recorded meeting between the two clubs was in 1949, less than 2 weeks after the establishment of the Bundesrepublik, as a qualification play-in for the German championship. With the match ending 1-1 in an era before penalty shoot-outs and a strict schedule for the national tournament, the teams were forced to play again the following day. St. Pauli won the replay 2-0.
This match has to open up, one way or another. The most dangerous time for Bayern is going to be in the opening quarter hour when the emotions of the moment will be the most raw, and we’ll probably see very average St. Pauli players making all kinds of runs and tackles they wouldn’t ordinarily attempt. An early Bayern goal gives the match wild potential, and I expect it’s headed somewhere into that territory..
FC St. Pauli 2:4 FC Bayern Munich