Here is the third and final part of the 2. Bundesliga Hinrunde review. This season we have two contenders that seem to have the biggest chance of securing the two automatic-promotion spots. However, we also have four teams who all want to jump in front of them or at least grab the third place to take the chance of the relegation-playoff match against a Bundesliga team. Let’s see who is in what position to claim a right for promotion.
St. Pauli are enjoying a really good season so far. They have a talented squad who are able to play fluent and solid combination football. They did struggle a little bit to bring in points after the first few matches but they quickly improved and stayed right behind the top positions in the table. One big issue for St. Pauli this Hinrunde was the sacking of Michael Frontzeck. St. Pauli were in a good position and playing good football; everything seemed fine. The next day, Frontzeck was gone. At first nobody really understood why, but it turned out that Frontzeck wanted more trust from the board and a longer contract than St. Pauli were willing to give him. Some say that the availability of transfer funds was also an issue but one thing we do know for sure is that, with the new coach Roland Vrabec, St. Pauli have continued to deliver good results. If they keep them up, they definitely have a chance to take third place. Anything above that they would need the top two sides to struggle but in this league anything is possible
Union Berlin and a patchy season; nothing new for the team out of the capital. For a long time it looked like Union Berlin could be on course to easily securing a direct promotion spot, but a 4:0 defeat in Cologne started a bad streak and it all went downhill from there. One draw and four defeats later and they found themselves in 3rd position, which shows how close the league is this year. Union’s biggest advantage is also their weak link: Torsten Mattuschka. He is an excellent player and the heart of the team who, if playing well, rubs off his performance onto the rest of the team. However, if Mattuschka has a bad day, Union end up playing way below their standards. Another issue, especially towards the end of the Hinrunde, was the fact that Union were getting a lot of bookings. Weakening their own team’s performances through completely unnecessary bookings did not make things easier for them. So, can Union Berlin get promoted? Of course they can! However, possibility is one thing and probability a whole other, as there are teams that will most likely be more consistent than Union. They will definitely stay close to the top places but promotion will be something hard to achieve.
Karlsruhe are most definitely the biggest surprise of the season so far. Having just achieved promotion from the 3. Liga last season, nobody really expected much more from Karlsruhe than staying in the league. Who would have thought that, on Matchday 19, they would be within touching distance of the promotion spots and not showing any signs of slowing down? After a short phase of mediocre matches halfway through the Hinrunde, they quickly got their best football back on track and are now on a roll nine unbeaten matches. They are a complete with quality at both ends of the pitch. Their forwards Koen van der Biezen (6 goals) and Ilian Micanski (4 goals) are particularly efficient, but it’s not just them two, with three other players having scored at least three times. In defense they are just as good, with Karlsruhe’s defence being one of the best in the league. One sign that shows the confidence and status that Karlsruher SC has earned is the contract renewal of their defensive chief boss Daniel Gordon before the winter break. It would have been unthinkable before the season started but KSC are the team most likely to break into the top 3 from all the chasing pack.
Kaiserslautern are currently enjoying a strong season that is in line with the expectations they had before it began. Now, they have the potential, the desire and by now the duty to promote. Unnecessary defeats against VfR Aalen and SV Sandhausen at the start of the season and the problematic losing-streak against deep-defending opponents between matchdays 16 and 18 exemplify how little it takes to lose touch with the top of the table. They still are in third position although they have the same number of points as the three teams below them, with four points separating them from Greuther Fürth in 2nd. They are obviously still are amongst the favourites for at least a Bundesliga relegation-playoff spot but especially after the losing streak at the end of the Hinrunde, it’s a strong possibility that one of the teams below them like Karlsruhe or St. Pauli can jump in front of them and snatch that 3rd place.
In the whole of the Hinrunde, Greuther Fürth never fell below 3rd place. Three or four years ago, Fürth seemed to always be doomed to just miss out on promotion, most likely ending up in fourth place. However, since they proved two seasons ago that they can actually get promoted, I certainly think that they will make it up to the Bundesliga again. They have the best attack in the league, a solid defense and have not yet had a weak streak in the season that they could not turn around quickly enough before getting caught by the teams below them in the table. One big plus for Fürth is their offensive variability. Pretty much every player they have used as a forward or a midfielder has proven to be a serious threat to the opposition, so if there are no crucial injuries or unexpected performance holes, there is not reason to believe that Greuther Fürth will end up any lower than second place. They have to remind themselves that they just have to keep performing, because there are several teams waiting in line behind for them to start slipping up.
The team that nobody is really expecting to make mistakes is Köln, simply because they just made so few in the Hinrunde. Their attack is truly amazing, with strikers Patrick Helmes and Anthony Ujah (6 and 7 goals respectively) and attacking midfielder Marcel Risse (8 goals) being the main threats. Even more impressive is their defensive performances, conceding only 10 goals in 19 matches, which is by far the least in the whole league. They were only defeated twice in the Hinrunde, with the first defeat being as far in as Matchday 14 against VfL Bochum. It’s hard to see how Köln can be stopped from achieving promotion this season, with them being 8 points ahead of Kaiserslautern; promotion is theirs to lose. The teams below might hope for that, but coach Peter Stöger has the team well under control and will be able to prevent them from becoming lazy or believing promotion is a done deal already.
1. FC Köln will win the league followed by Greuther Fürth. No big surprises with my choices for places one and two. I really think that this year nobody can remove Köln from 1st place. Fürth will make no big mistakes and will stay where they are, on the 2nd place but predicting 3rd place is a little more tricky. The obvious choice is Kaiserslautern, but I think St. Pauli are good enough to take that position away from them. They are on a roll and, to be honest, it’s just a gut feeling. (Also just imagine the possibility of a promotion match against Hamburger SV!)
I think it is a little sad, but I can see three clubs from East Germany finishing in the bottom three places. For me, Energie Cottbus will fight until the end but will not make it above last place. In front of them I can see Erzgebirge Aue moving down to a direct-relegation spot and Dynamo Dresden holding onto 16th place with the hope of staying in the league after the relegation-playoff matches.
If I am wrong about my predictions please be merciful; if I am correct, I will gladly accept congratulations.
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