Sven Piepenbrock steps in for Dimitrios Grammozis for Saturday night crunch match

FC St. Pauli and FC Schalke 04 face off on Saturday (20:30 CET), but both will be without their head coaches on the touchline. Dimitrios Grammozis and St. Pauli head coach Timo Schultz have tested positive for COVID-19 and are currently isolating at home. This means that assistant coach Sven Piepenbrock will take charge of the team on the Royal Blues’ touchline supported by coach Mike Büskens.

Sven Piepenbrock

The pair have already got used to taking the lead because Grammozis, who is fully vaccinated, stayed at home as a precautionary measure after coming down with symptoms of a cold at the start of the week, for the safety of the team. He later tested positive for COVID-19. “Given the circumstances, Dimi’s doing well,” reported Piepenbrock, who has kept in constant contact with Grammozis along with the rest of the coaching staff. “We communicate with one another every day, anyway. The only difference this week was that we haven’t been sat next to each other in the changing room but we’ve been speaking virtually,” explained the assistant coach.

Piepenbrock wants to see Büskens sprint

Piepenbrock hasn’t really thought too much about the prospect of taking on a slightly different role than usual for the St. Pauli game. “At the end of the day, it’s the same game – I’m always focused for the entire 90 minutes when I’m assistant coach,” commented Piepenbrock, who has a good relationship with Mike Büskens. “We spend more time with each other than we do with our families – we have a very close relationship. I’ll be standing on the touchline, and maybe he will too,” said the 39-year-old. He smirked before adding: “I hope to see Buyo sprinting, because that’ll mean we’ve scored a goal.”

I hope to see Buyo sprinting, because that’ll mean we’ve scored a goal.

Sven Piepenbrock

The team haven’t let this week’s events get to them either, emphasised Piepenbrock. “The lads have been very focused in training, they worked really hard and showed just how much they want to deliver another good performance like they did during the 5-2 win over Sandhausen.” There are however a few absentees who remain unavailable for this match. Michael Langer (recovery from a cruciate ligament injury), Salif Sané (training individually due to a muscular issue), Darko Churlinov (shoulder) and Simon Terodde (calf) were all unable to play in last weekend’s fixture, too.

Further injuries in the squad

Marius Bülter (high blood levels), Florian Flick (wound), Ralf Fährmann and Yaroslav Mikhailov (both muscular issues) as well as Marc Rzatkowski (infection) will also miss the game against FC St. Pauli, with the final name in this list testing negative for COVID after a PCR test. The rest of the first team and backroom staff have also tested negative throughout the entirety of their daily lateral flow tests.

Piepenbrock isn’t complaining in spite of these numerous absences. “We’re going to roll our sleeves up and take on this challenge together as a team,” said Grammozis’ understudy, who is once again able to select club captain Danny Latza after he missed the Sandhausen game due to a severe bruise. Dominick Drexler is also ready to return to the side, despite the midfield player struggling with a muscular issue at the start of the week. The first team will also be supplemented by some academy players against FC St. Pauli: attacker Rufat Dadashov and goalkeeper Felix Wienand will travel with the first team to the Millerntor-Stadion as well as U19 striker Keke Topp.

Possible tactical alterations

Piepenbrock cannot and has not confirmed that the team will line-up in their typical 3-5-2 formation this weekend. “It may be the case that we need to set up slightly differently due to our current personnel situation,” said the 39-year-old. “We will still have a strong side out on the pitch despite the numerous absentees, because all the lads who are part of the squad are quality players. If they weren’t, then they wouldn’t be playing for Schalke.”

It’s recently been important that the team plays with hunger and dedication in their more significant matches this season. Schalke’s opponents St. Pauli are not only the league leaders, but they are also the side with the strongest home record in the league this season, having won all seven of their home matches to date at the Millerntor-Stadion. “Our opponents are top of the league right now,” commented Piepenbrock. “We’re meeting a team who are very strong on the ball, have good individual players and who are very strong as a collective. They’ve come on really well in the last few months, and we’re looking forward to an exciting match and we’re going to give it our all to try and come away with something from the game.”

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