SC Paderborn Brought Back Down to Earth, but Hope Remains

Last season’s Bundesliga 2 runners up SC Paderborn 07 are now involved in a relegation battle. Ok, let’s be honest that’s what all Bundesliga fans expected of them when they were promoted, but their flying start to the season suggested that the Bundesliga debutants may have been able to punch above their weight. At the end of Match Day 4, SC Paderborn were surprisingly league leaders after registering eight points from a possible 12. Despite back to back loses to Bayern Munich and Borussia Monchengladbach in the next two matches, Paderborn were still looking good, and at the end of Week 10 were sitting 7th, but since then it has been a downward spiral for the team.

Paderborn went on a ten match winless run, which included five draws and five defeats, and were starting to look like the team everyone expected them to be at the start of the season. The winless streak was finally broken a couple of weeks ago when they defeated Hannover 96 2-1 away from home which they hoped could give the confidence to climb back up the table. Unfortunately hopes halted as last weekend they hosted league leaders Bayern Munich. Manager Andre Bretienreiter’s team were hoping to try and shut out Bayern’s high-powered offense with a very defensive minded 5-4-1 formation — however those hopes proved to be all in vain as this strategy backfired against them with Bayern dominating the game, eventually defeating Paderborn 6-0.

Heading in to Week 23 of the Bundesliga SC Paderborn sit 15th in the table,  only one point above the relegation playoff spot which is currently occupied by SC Freiburg. One cannot be too critical at the fact Paderborn find themselves in this position — after all at the beginning of the season, Breitenreiter described his team as the “biggest underdogs in the league’s history.” To their credit they’ve played very well with some brilliant attacking football and a mix of both experienced and young players at their disposable. However, ever since their dream start to the season began sliding southwards, the sheer toughness and intensity of the Bundesliga has caught up with them, and now Paderborn realize the mega task they have to stay in the Bundesliga.

Paderborn’s next few matches won’t make that task any easier as they face Borussia Mönchengladbach Sunday, with challenging encounters against Bayer Leverkusen, Eintracht Frankfurt and 1899 Hoffenheim following but the upside is that Breitenreiter’s men earned a Hinrunde result against Die Werkself and Die Adler. Then they’ll meet fellow relegation candidates Hertha BSC in what will be a relegation six pointer after beating BSC in the first half of the season. These are the games that Paderborn will need to risk everything and go for the win. Other relegation candidates they face from now up until the end of the season are Dortmund (if you still consider them to be in that category), SC Freiburg and VFB Stuttgart.

Paderborn’s chances of staying in the Bundesliga as of now are looking slim, and if they continue to drop points, especially against relegation rivals, then their stay in the Bundesliga will be short lived. They’ll need to count on their top players. Goalkeeper Lukas Kruse has been brilliant this season, as the 31 year-old has played every minute for Paderborn, making seven outstanding saves and keeping five clean sheets for a club that came into the season with a roster very short on first-division experience. Captain Uwe Hünemeier has been a rock, completing 83% of his passes while winning 64% of tackles and 70% of aerial challengers.  Striker Elias Kachunga, 22, leads the club with five goals while midfielder Moritz Stoppelkamp brings first-division experience from his days with Hannover. Additionally, newcomer Srdjan Lakic scored two weeks ago against Hannover in a match in which Alban Meha regained his goal-scoring free kick magic, giving Paderborn fans some legitimate reasons for optimism down the stretch run despite the club’s struggles as of late.

Up until now it has been very fun watching games at their 15,000 capacity Benteler Arena which produces a great atmosphere despite being the smallest stadium in the Bundesliga. One thing is for sure though, whether they go down or not, we can still expect to see the fans of Paderborn to continue supporting and believing in their team.

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