November 24, 2017

2. Bundesliga – Matchday 12 Preview: Can the top four extend the gap to the rest?

After a dreary Matchday 11, in comparison to recent weeks, 2. Bundesliga is back for the 12th instalment of the great, good and awful of the German second tier. There are plenty of well-matched games across the board and, with the added factor of tired legs from the DFB-Pokal, it should be a cracker.

FC St. Pauli – Erzgebirge Aue (FOX Soccer Match Pass, Friday 17:30)

Despite being in action on Monday evening, a break from Pokal action has given St. Pauli a decent amount of recovery time ahead of this fixture, in comparison to some of their counterparts. However, injuries have pilled up recently and half a dozen players are likely to miss out on the Millerntor clash. Enver Cenk Sahin and Aziz Bouhaddouz are among those sidelined, though Jan-Marc Schneider’s first professional goal will have given Olaf Janßen hope that the burden can be lifted from Christopher Buchtmann. A win here is key to keeping up potential promotion hopes.

Aue themselves got back on track with three points against Jahn Regensburg last weekend. The definition of dirty game, there were more cards than clear-cut chances as Dimitrij Nazarov saw red for throwing the ball at Sebastian Stolze’s face. They had to rely on Martin Mannel for periods of the game, yet battled to the win thanks to Mario Kvesic’s goal. Clemens Fandrich looks set to miss out again this weekend and those two absentees are likely to be replaced by Albert Bunjaku and Philipp Riese. Hannes Drews will expect a similar, gritty performance from the Violets this weekend.

Arminia Bielefeld – FC Ingolstadt 04 (FOX Soccer Match Pass, Friday 17:30)

Following their promising start, Jeff Saibene’s Arminia have fallen away in recent weeks to leave them on the coattails of those in a promotion place. A five point gap to Nurnberg and eight to Kiel are by no means insurmountable with two-thirds of the season left, although they will need to get back to winnings ways to do so. Once again, they have no major injury worries or suspensions to contend with, it’s just a matter of getting that same side to play in the same manner as they did earlier this season.

Ingolstadt have been the exact opposite – Bielefeld had nine points from a possible nine after three matchdays, while the Schanzer had none. Turn that around, and the following eight matches have seen Ingolstadt pick up 14 while Arminia have managed eight. Stefan Leitl has transformed their season around from what could have been a battle to beat the drop, to one where they could be dark horses for a top three spot. Albeit from the penalty spot, Stefan Kutschke is beginning to find form. Yet, in Sonny Kittel they have a true match-winner in their ranks.

Sonny Kittel

SV Darmstadt 98 – Holstein Kiel (BT Sport 1 and FOX Soccer Match Pass, Saturday 12:00)

The best home attack in the league takes on the best away attack. As much as Torsten Frings might want a nice, peaceful game at the Bölle this weekend, it could be anything but. With another loss notched up against Fortuna, the Lilies are under pressure to stay with the top three. Without Tobias Kempe and Daniel Heuer Fernandes things have been tough, yet they can take solace from the performance of Jöel Mall in Düsseldorf. This weekend is a similar challenge, if not even more difficult given Kiel’s firepower. It could be make or break.

For Markus Anfang and his side, there seems to be no end to their excellent form. While there was Pokal disappointment in extra-time during the week, they will be hopeful of getting back on track this weekend. The only real issue might be fitness after going 120 minutes in Mainz, though it is expected that the Storks will bounce back quickly. Marvin Ducksch will be out to maintain his place at the top of the scorer charts, having been hunted down despite his own scoring run, and is sure to fancy his chances given Bielefeld’s recent run.

SpVgg Greuther Fürth – SV Sandhausen (FOX Soccer Match Pass, Saturday 12:00)

Things have been on an upwards curve, at least in performance terms, of late for the Shamrocks, yet Damir Buric’s men are struggling to get the results to match. Another defeat followed in the Pokal to Ingolstadt, where two late strikes prevented them from progressing. Fürth will be without several players ahead of the game and will hope any fatigue is out of the legs, knowing that a win could take them out of the relegation zone altogether. Serdar Dursun and Philipp Hofmann, who has a great record against Sandhausen, are out to fire them to the three points.

Sandhausen were denied all three points against St. Pauli after a late strike, and are out to avenge that with a shot at closing the gap on fourth and third place before the teams above them play. Lucas Höler should return to the starting line-up for the game, and he is likely to be accompanied by Philipp Förster and Nejmeddin Daghfous in a spot in the eleven. It will be interesting to see whether or not Kenan Kocak opts for much in the way of change, in terms of formation, to combat the rather tactically flexible Fürth.

Jahn Regensburg – 1. FC Kaiserslautern (Saturday 12:00)

Jahn are the side that the bottom three are currently chasing, with Achim Beierlorzer’s men sat in 15th. They are another side that has found it tough going in recent weeks, yet Jahn know that a win will take them onto a par with the group above and further away from the drop. This is a crucial battle at the bottom, despite being so early on, and the wrong result for the hosts could make things tougher going into the Winter stretch. Jann George has been quiet in recent weeks, and some attacking flair has been sorely lacking. Is this where things turn around?

It’s also likely to be a similar side that Jeff Strasser deploys against Jahn, even if they did fall to a 1-0 defeat against Duisburg last time out. The usual suspects are still injured and Benjamin Kessel has been added to that list, yet the Red Devils can take great heart from a solid showing in their Pokal defeat to Stuttgart. Converting and taking chances has been a recent issue, and the fans will be hoping that Sebastian Andersson can find form in the league again after drawing a blank at the Betze last time out.

Dynamo Dresden – Eintracht Braunschweig (FOX Soccer Match Pass, Sunday 12:30)

With an increasing number of people beginning to level criticism at Dynamo following another dive to win a penalty, Uwe Neuhaus will be desperate to show the true, footballing side that his men possess. Peniel Mlapa has been a real highlight during a time of suspension and injury woe. Marco Hartmann is still unavailable and it’s unlikely Niklas Hauptmann will be ready to start, with Philip Heise now suspended after getting sent off in Nürnberg. A home win, especially against tough opposition, might just be what Dynamo need to kick-start their season.

Braunschweig got that win last time out against Bochum, which was even more impressive given the injuries to Jasmin Fejzic and Joe Baffo. Sadly, the Swede has torn his ACL and is out for a sustained period but Fejzic looks set for a return between the sticks. It might not have been pretty against the club from the Ruhrpott, yet it was just what was needed when the pressure was seriously beginning to mount against Torsten Lieberknecht. After having a break from Pokal action, this is an excellent opportunity to put things into practice away from home.

1. FC Heidenheim – 1. FC Nürnberg (Sunday 12:30)

A much-needed confidence boost was secured with a thumping 5-2 Pokal win in Regensburg during the week, something Frank Schmidt will hope is the catalyst for change in their campaign. It’s their worst ever start to a season under Schmidt, though the fact they managed to find the back of the net with such regularity should spark something from within. Marnon Busch is the only notable absentee, though Robert Strauß is an apt replacement. Robert Glatzel and Maxi Thiel will push for a starting place following their Pokal heroics, that much is for certain.

As for FCN, things couldn’t really get much better for Michael Köllner’s men. Had it not been for the near-perfect start from Fortuna and Kiel, they would be sitting top of the league. That said, they’re going to be desperate to keep up the pressure on Fortuna before they head to Bochum. It’s expected to be very much “as you were” in terms of the starting side, and Pokal progression has only further lifted spirits. Should they continue in this vain of form, May and the future years could be extremely bright for the Franconians.

MSV Duisburg – 1. FC Union Berlin (Sunday 12:30)

The Zebras earned all three points against Kaiserslautern last weekend, though that came at the cost of losing Enis Hajri to a fifth yellow card. With Nico Klotz injured, it looks like Andreas Wiegel will be forced into the right-back role. Otherwise, it should very much be the same side that started that game. Duisburg will take real heart from the game on the Betzenberg, especially given the recent revival that Kaiserslautern have undergone. Ilia Gruev has seemingly turned their misfortune around of late, though this will be a different test altogether.

Despite their 4-1 defeat at the hands of Bayer Leverkusen, it was a game that did not tell the full story and Union are out to show that their league form will not dip as a result. After their early struggles in the campaign, the Berliners look back to their best and just as effective as they were in the previous season. Jens Keller has a full selection available for the game, but the now tried and trusted starting line-up and formation are unlikely to change. Union are another of the teams that are hoping Bochum manage to take points from the Monday night fixture.

VfL Bochum – Fortuna Düsseldorf (BT Sport 3 and FOX Soccer Match Pass, Monday 19:30)

And to those pesky Ruhrpott wonders we go. It’s hard to know where to go if you’re a Bochum fan this season, no Pokal, no promise of promotion – instead the fight has become one against relegation. While the team are individually strong on paper, those partnerships are still being formed on the pitch. Off the pitch, things have calmed down slightly but there is still no permanent appointment at the helm. It will be three weeks, to the day, that Ismail Atalan was sacked when this game rolls around. The VfL fans will be praying that Robbie Kruse turns it on against his former employers.

Even though Fortuna followed Bochum out of the Pokal in nearly identical fashion, barring the obvious differences between their opponents, they are clear favourites for this game. Friedhelm Funkel’s men are just two wins away from setting a 2. Bundesliga record for the best start to a season after 13 games and it looks a realistic target. Between Benito Raman, Florian Neuhaus and Rouwen Hennings, they have goals across the board. Things have also been solid defensively, and they know a solid performance will see them through to a result on the night.

F95s Florian Neuhaus
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Jonathan Walsh

Jonny is a 2. Bundesliga fanatic who does little else with his time other than follow, watch, write about, think about, and promote his favorite league. When he isn't in university or trying to defend the Bundesliga's 50+1 rule, you'll most likely find him watching whatever football he can find on TV. Follow him @jonathanwalsh_

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