Bitter rivals St. Pauli, Hamburg face off, buoyed by cup upsets

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Berlin (AFP) – Rivals St Pauli and Hamburg clash on Friday in historically one of the fiercest derbies in German football, with the two sides fresh from knocking Bundesliga clubs Borussia Dortmund and Koln out of the German Cup.

The near-neighbours will meet in a second-division clash fuelled by memories of violent ideological battles in the 1980s and 1990s, when neo-Nazi hooligans ruled the Hamburg stands and sought confrontation with St Pauli's ultra-left fans.

Restrictions designed to curb Germany's record high daily Covid figures mean just 2,000 spectators will be allowed into Hamburg's stadium.

St Pauli, who top the Bundesliga 2 table, dumped out holders Dortmund with a shock 2-1 win in the third round.

The beers flowed in the hosts' changing room after their first victory over Dortmund since 1989, but St Pauli coach Timo Schultz put his squad through their paces on Wednesday.

"We have to be at full strength again, because our city rivals are also in a good mood," he said. "We want to put in at least as good a performance there."

Hamburg are fifth in Germany's second tier, six points behind St Pauli, and pulled off their own cup surprise by knocking out Koln on penalties.

But Hamburg goalscorer Robert Glatzel insisted that playing St Pauli is "even more important for our fans" than the cup win.

Hamburg have won only one of the last nine derbies and their previous victory over St Pauli was nearly three years ago.

Just over four miles (seven kilometres) separates Hamburg's Volksparkstadion arena from St Pauli's Millerntor-Stadion and tensions are always high for the game in the north German city.

A police officer was injured when fights broke out between rival fans after St Pauli beat Hamburg 3-2 at home last August.

"It is now a sporting rivalry between 'ultras' (hardcore fans), who provoke each other, but the potential for violence is not what it used to be," said Jonas Gabler, an expert on fan culture in Germany.

Both clubs are eager to return to the Bundesliga.

St Pauli have never finished a season ranked higher than Hamburg and were immediately relegated at the end of each of their two seasons in Germany’s top tier in 2001/02 and 2010/11.

In contrast, Hamburg, a sleeping giant of German football, were relegated from the Bundesliga for the first time in 2017/18 and the former European champions have finished fourth in the last three second-division campaigns.

Hamburg's win at Koln was a surprise, but St Pauli's performance in seeing off Dortmund capped a historic night for the hosts.

Despite their lofty position in the table, St Pauli have hit a bit of a rough patch having not won their last three league games.

St Pauli fans were already chanting that their team can win the cup, which drew a wry smile from Schultz.

"We are specialists here in such would-be titles," he quipped, with St Pauli yet to win a major trophy.

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Bitter rivals St. Pauli, Hamburg face off, buoyed by cup upsets
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