It’s all set to be a tight, tense and telling 2. Bundesliga Matchday 4 before we break for the internationals. Who will be laughing, who will be crying? And will there be some managers nervously awaiting a dreaded phone call come Monday?
SpVgg Greuther Fürth – FC Ingolstadt 04 (Friday 17:30 – all times in BST)
One thing is for sure – this game will see one of these sides pick up their first points of the 2017-18 season. The Shamrocks have been unfortunate in losing all three of their league games thus far, the latest being a 3-1 defeat to Holstein Kiel after going 1-0 up. Janos Radoki will be hoping that his side can improve their concentration, which has been found lacking in crucial moments. That said, it was a tough start and this fixture represents a major chance to get off the mark. The main question is whether it will be Philipp Hofmann or Serdar Dursun leading the line.
The Schanzer will see the fixture in the same light, having gone from survival favourites to joint-bottom with the Kleeblatt. Maik Walpurgis has paid the price for the poor start with his job and with Marcel Tisserand off to VfL Wolfsburg, and Florent Hadergjonaj looking set to be the latest to join David Wagner’s Huddersfield Town, there is plenty of change at the Audi-Sportpark. Last weekend’s changes against Jahn Regensburg did produce goals, but the 2-4 defeat was far from what they had hoped for. A tough away trip is not what they will have wanted to try to get back on track.
MSV Duisburg – SV Darmstadt 98 (Friday 17:30)
The Zebras picked up a hugely impressive first win of the season against Heidenheim last time out and will see this game as a chance to build some real momentum before the international break. Borys Tashchy’s performance was key in that turnaround 2-1 victory, and the defence turned in a really solid performance to hold firm when it mattered most. The return of Lukas Fröde alongside Fabian Schnellhardt helped massively, and that partnership will again be vital if they are to stay strong against one of the best in the league.
As for Darmstadt, they sit on the verge of signing Felix Platte in another attacking reinforcement after beating St. Pauli 3-0. A shock result, perhaps not in the outcome but the score-line, as the Lilies outlined their credentials once more for an immediate Bundesliga return. That aforementioned midfield has been near impenetrable in the opening three games, minus the Pokal blip. With Yannick Stark and Wilson Kamavuaka also getting on the scoresheet early on, it appears that they might not only be helping out defensively this season.
FC St. Pauli – 1. FC Heidenheim (Saturday 12:00)
After that drubbing in Darmstadt, the aim is to bounce back at the Millerntor for Olaf Janßen’s men. The Pokal defeat and the loss in the league should provide more than adequate motivation to get back to winning ways and secure a first home victory this season. Fans have been unhappy with the tactical set-up in recent weeks, with the 4-4-2 seemingly unable to provide the necessary platform going both ways. It means that a return to the traditional 4-2-3-1 could be on the cards, which leaves Janßen to choose between Sami Allagui and Aziz Bouhaddouz.
Frank Schmidt and Heidenheim have endured a topsy-turvy start to the season, with Pokal progression and a win against Aue matched with defeats to Duisburg and Braunschweig. The former will have greatly frustrated the long-standing head coach, given that his side gave up a relatively comfortable position in the game. A lack of clinical finishing has cost the Voith-Arena side and will again prove costly if that is repeated again in Hamburg. This promises to be a real midfield battle, given the strength of both teams in that area.
Erzgebirge Aue – 1. FC Nürnberg (Saturday 12:00)
Aue showed what they can do in Braunschweig last week, under Robin Lenk’s interim command. It is still unclear as to who will take over permanently but with Lenk having served under Domenico Tedesco, he seems like a pretty good fit to fill the head coach void. Their performance at the Eintracht-Stadion was much more “Tedesco-like” than anything Thomas Letsch had managed, with the front-line looking back to their menacing best. Mario Kvesic should also return to the squad after missing out last week, in another huge boost.
There is somewhat of a wing worry developing for Michael Köllner, with Sebastian Kerk out for an extended period after tearing his achilles. Now that Abdelhamid Sabiri and his attitude problems have gone, the Franconia side look a little short in depth on the wings. This will open the door for Rurik Gislason and Cedric Teuchert to get more playing time, but it is likely that another wide player will come in to add some competition and depth until the issues ease. Eduard Löwen should come back into defence, and continue his partnership with Georg Margreitter, after missing the Union game.
Jahn Regensburg – Holstein Kiel (Saturday 12:00)
After their spectacular win in Ingolstadt last weekend, there is no doubt that confidence will be high with Achim Beierlorzer’s men. That, combined with the victory against Darmstadt, showed everyone that they are not around to simply make up the numbers when it comes to 2. Bundesliga. The fact that they’ve hit the ground running, in terms of goalscoring, is a big factor in their early promise but it is clear that their defence requires some work if they are to have a stable first season back in 2. Bundesliga.
Their fellow promoted powerhouse, if you will, have been the Storks. Markus Anfang and his side have brought goals, drama and entertainment to 2. Bundesliga by the bucket load. Their first three games have produced 15 goals, and last weekend saw them get off the mark by beating Greuther Fürth after falling behind to an early opener. They turned things around in style, and Marvin Ducksch’s goals show no real sign of stopping which has seen them taken to the hearts of most neutrals. With both sides keen to go into the break with momentum, this could be a key tussle.
1. FC Union Berlin – Arminia Bielefeld (Sunday 12:30)
After making their way through the tough task of a trip to Max-Morlock-Stadion on Sunday, Union are again at the centre of another big battle at the top a week later. They’ll be without Grischa Prömel after his late sending off, though a full-strength side can still be named. Jens Keller will know the capital club were moments away from making it three wins from three, and this clash represents a great chance to make up for that. If Union can keep playing as they are, but maintain concentration, there is every chance they will come out on the right side of any result. Sunday’s contest will also be the first for longtime Schalke fullback Atsuto Uchida, who was acquired by the Berlin side days ago and has been sidelined seemingly forever with injury.
Arminia Bielefeld are equally keen to keep up their unblemished record, with Jeff Saibene enjoying a superb start to his first full season in charge. They will be without captain, Julian Börner against Union and that is an absence that is a definite blow to their chances. However, Brian Behrendt and Stephan Salger represent a solid and capable duo, that did very well to shut-out Bochum on Monday evening. Being clinical has played a huge part in their success so far, and Bielefeld will have to do that in Berlin if they are to their surprise start.
VfL Bochum – Dynamo Dresden (Sunday 12:30)
There was a real positive vibe surrounding Bochum before the season began but, after going three games without a win, there are constant questions being asked of Ismail Atalan and his side. Manuel Riemann has come under fire and, try as they might, scoring goals has proved near impossible. Despite having 23 shots in Bielefeld, the bar, Stefan Ortega and a lack of luck and finishing cost them dear. With injuries still troubling the side and who they can field, it looks set to be another tough afternoon at the Ruhrstadion.
Dynamo have also not been in the best vein of form, though some of that pessimism stems from a shock 4-0 defeat to Sandhausen. After almost levelling the game, things got out of hand quickly and Uwe Neuhaus was left to ponder what on earth had gone wrong. However, this game represents a good opportunity to climb back to winning ways and break on seven points from four games – a very respectable tally given a tough set of fixtures to start off. Yet, given that Dynamo went 2-0 up only to lose 4-2 last year, anything can happen.
SV Sandhausen – Fortuna Düsseldorf (Sunday 12:30)
An unlikely top of the table clash if there ever was one. Sandhausen, the club that rejected Dietmar Hopp and have a breakdancing badger as a mascot, went onto seven points from three games after that incredible, aforementioned win against Dynamo. An attractive brand of football fuelled by Kenan Kocak and mostly Regionalliga stars has proven irresistible. Whether they can maintain this remains to be seen, and history would have it that they won’t, but Sunday will certainly be a day that has potential to be very memorable indeed.
The same can also be said for Fortuna, who also have the chance to head to the top of 2. Bundesliga with a win and some favourable results. Friedhelm Funkel’s side have been equally impressive this season and with Ihlas Bebou looking set to stay put, he could get his wish of Bundesliga football – but at Fortuna. Rouwen Hennings has been in excellent form, as have the defence, but the absence of Michael Rensing is a worry. Raphael Wolf will deputise, and what a game to come in to. No pressure.
1. FC Kaiserslautern – Eintracht Braunschweig (Monday 19:30)
A traditional duel to finish off the matchday will be at the Betze. Kaiserslautern lost Robin Koch during the week to SC Freiburg, but not without receiving a healthy €4m. Fans are hoping that it will be reinvested in a strike-force that have failed to set the world alight in recent weeks, though injuries have not helped Norbert Meier’s cause. Home form and defensive solidity will be key to forming the platform to build off this season, though a striker who can notch up 15 goals would seriously help their ambitions of moving forward.
As for Torsten Lieberknecht, he was unhappy with the reaction his players received after their 1-1 draw with Aue. That will only add to their motivation to get back to winning ways after what was a fairly limp performance, notably in attack. Saulo Decarli has also left, which may lift some of the mood around the squad. Despite that, their defensive additions more than cover his absence and perhaps playing away from home will allow the Lions to play with more freedom. They’ll be looking for Christoffer Nyman to show his form from last season under the floodlights.