St. Pauli are bidding to end an 11-year exile from the Bundesliga. In Guido Burgstaller, Daniel-Kofi Kyereh and Jackson Irvine to name but a few, Germany's cult club have the personnel to take them back to the promised land...
Schalke's Simon Terodde leads the Bundesliga 2 scoring charts in the early part of 2021/22, but Burgstaller's not far behind. The Austrian has six goals to show for the first eight games of the campaign, and is only one shy of his half century in Germany's second tier. The former Nuremberg and Schalke centre-forward of 14 goals in 95 Bundesliga appearances also has knack of puling wide to involve his teammates, as evinced by his assists on Matchdays 3 and 8.
Watch: Burgstaller struck twice to down fellow promotion hopefuls Jahn Regensburg
Burgstaller's selfless streak aside, Kyereh is usually front and centre of the Pauli supply line. The Ghanaian winger has produced a league-leading five assists, among them four for the head or feet of Burgstaller. With two goals of his own, he's on track to trump his career-best hand in 18 Bundesliga 2 strikes, set in 2020/21. If the 25-year-old succeeds, there's every chance of a 2022/23 reunion with one-time Bundesliga champions Wolfsburg, whose U17 and 19s teams he represented between 2012 and 2014.
If Burgstaller brings the goals and Kyereh the creativity, Irvine is the lungs of Timo Schultz's team. Capable of playing in defensive and attacking central midfield, the Australia international brings a wealth of experience to the table. He captained Celtic's U19s to a Scottish league and cup double before racking up 152 appearances in England's notoriously taxing Bundesliga 2 equivalent. Back to full fitness following some early-season niggles, expect the 28-year-old to be a driving force behind Pauli's promotion push.
Philipp Ziereis is the foundation. The 28-year-old is enjoying his ninth season of Bundesliga 2 football, but first as Pauli captain having inherited the armband during the second half of 2020/21. Mentally tough, he's experienced the highs of winning promotion to Bundesliga 2 via the play-offs and the lows of relegation to Germany's 3. Liga with Jahn Regensburg. Should Pauli miss out on automatic promotion and face a play-off against Bundesliga opposition, his previous encounters of a pressure-cooker kind will be priceless to their cause.
Pauli's well-versed dressing room may well be the difference between a 12th straight season in the second tier and a first in the Bundesliga since 2010/11. Marcel Hartel was brought in with exactly that in mind. The versatile midfielder was part of the Union Berlin side that won promotion to the top flight via the 2018/19 play-offs, and only missed one game the following year for Bundesliga 2 winners Bielefeld. The ex-Cologne man was also a big part of Arminia's survival job last term, making 20 Bundesliga starts. A third stint at Germany's top table awaits...
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