Austrian striker Guido Burgstaller has fired St. Pauli to the top of the Bundesliga 2 table going into 2022. - © Thomas Metelmann via www.imago-images.de/imago images/Metelmann
Austrian striker Guido Burgstaller has fired St. Pauli to the top of the Bundesliga 2 table going into 2022. - © Thomas Metelmann via www.imago-images.de/imago images/Metelmann
2. Bundesliga

St. Pauli: the 2021/22 season so far

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A league-leading 14 goals from Austrian striker Guido Burgstaller helped St. Pauli top Bundelsiga 2 going into the winter break.

bundesliga.com looks back on how Timo Schultz has got his team in the hunt for promotion.

The story so far

Schultz took over in the summer of 2020, and by this stage of the campaign in 2020/21 his side were third from bottom. An impressive return of 31 points from the final 16 matches, however, secured a 10th-place finish and suggested that something special could happen on the former Pauli midfielder's watch.

That suspicion was backed up on the opening weekend of 2021/22, when Pauli enjoyed a resounding 3-0 home win over Holstein Kiel. They also beat city rivals Hamburg 3-2 in their next home match before a three-game unbeaten start was sullied by two defeats in three. Pauli responded by reeling off five wins in a row between matchdays seven and 11 - scoring 18 goals while they did so. The Boys in Brown were playing an attractive, attacking brand of football, with 12 different goalscorers contributing in the first half of the season. Another three-match winning streak in late November and early December included victories over top-five rivals Nuremberg and Schalke, but they finished 2021 with a draw in Düsseldorf and defeat at Kiel.

Key player

Burgstaller was already the main man during Pauli's resurgence in 2020/21, scoring in seven successive matches in January and February and getting all 11 of his league goals in the second half of the campaign. The 32-year-old continued delivering this season, starting with a goal in the opening-day success against Kiel. Two late goals did for early pacesetters Jahn Regensburg on Matchday 5, and his penalty against Dynamo Dresden on Matchday 9 helped Pauli go top for the first time. Burgstaller followed up with a double against fellow promotion hopefuls Heidenheim a week later, before he matched his career-best tally for a season by striking twice against former club Schalke on Matchday 16. With 14 goals in 18 matches he leads the scoring chart in Bundesliga 2 - and he also has two in the DFB Cup for good measure.

Watch: Burgstaller was the matchwinner against Schalke

Best game so far

There were plenty of contenders for this prize given that Pauli have scored at least three goals in nine of their league games as well as beating four of the top six. Schultz's team have eight wins from eight at home - conceding only five goals at the iconic Millerntor stadium - but a derby victory in front of the fans is particularly sweet. The triumph over Hamburg on Matchday 3 - when Simon Makienok found the net twice - was a sign of things to come in what's been a thrilling season to date.

Watch: Pauli beat Hamburg in the derby

One to watch

Attacking midfielder Daniel-Kofi Kyereh has been a standout, grabbing five goals himself and getting a league-high nine assists already. He was capped by Ghana for the first time in September 2021 as a result of that form, but such recognition will come at a cost for Pauli. The 25-year-old was named in the Black Stars' provisional squad for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, and he is expected to travel to Cameroon for the tournament, which kicks off on 9 January. What type of shape Kyereh returns to Germany in - full of confidence, lacking in sharpness, or tired out - could have a big say in how far Pauli's promotion push can go.

Daniel-Kofi Kyereh - who scored in the 4-0 win over Hansa Rostock - has become a fan favourite at St. Pauli. - Andreas Knothe via www.imago-images.de/imago images/Lobeca

The view from inside the camp

"If you look at the points total, it's gone very well, but what's more important for me as a coach is seeing how the lads work in training every day, how they love coming to the training ground and how long they stay, the intensity with which they train, how they interact with each other and keep encouraging and pushing each other. Watching that is what gives me the most pleasure. As a coach, I'm highly satisfied with the first half of the season, although the way we play is always more important for me than the result." – St. Pauli coach Timo Schultz

Key fixtures

Hamburg (a) - Matchday 20
Darmstadt (h) - Matchday 31
Schalke (a) - Matchday 33

How Pauli negotiate the first week after the winter break will have a big bearing on their promotion prospects. They resume with a run of three matches in seven days, starting with a home encounter against second-bottom Erzgebirge Aue on 15 January. Top-flight heavyweights Borussia Dortmund visit the Millerntor in the DFB Cup last 16 on 18 January, and three days later Pauli are away to third-placed Hamburg in the second derby of the season. A good start to 2022 would be welcome, but a strong finish to the campaign could be necessary. Pauli will be out to avenge a 4-0 loss when second-placed Darmstadt visit with four games to go, while a trip to fellow promotion contenders Schalke on the penultimate day could be decisive.