Yes, it’s back again. Another international break getting in the way. Nevertheless, absence makes the heart grow fonder – and that is certainly the case for some teams and the players they have missing this weekend. It has the potential to be a set of games that could shape how some sides will perform from now until Christmas. So with that said, let’s delve into things.
1. FC Kaiserslautern – SpVgg Greuther Fürth (Friday 17:30, FOX Soccer Match Pass)
After defeat to Union Berlin on Monday, the mood is at the lowest point than it has been for years on the Betzenberg. Bottom of the table with two points from eight games is their worst ever start to a 2. Bundesliga season, and another loss on Friday would put them in a bracket with some of the poorest beginnings to a campaign since the league moved to a one-division format. Jeff Strasser has taken over the post of head coach but he faces a massive task if he is to get an immediate reaction from this side. With goals – both scoring and conceding – proving to be a problem, he’ll hope for the crowd to give the players the necessary confidence boost.
It doesn’t get much better for the green half of Franconia, who fell to derby defeat at home for the first time this century on Sunday. They’re also experiencing a tough start and have just four points to their name. This is a huge clash for obvious reasons, and neither want to be left behind the pack above before the international break. Fürth can take positives from how well they attacked against Nürnberg, forcing Fabian Bredlow into a string of fine saves. That being said, the inability to finish and the concession of goals is a worry. It’s hard to underestimate how important this game is for both Damir Buric and Strasser.
FC Ingolstadt 04 – SV Darmstadt 98 (Friday 17:30, FOX Soccer Match Pass)
There has been a definite improvement in results for Ingolstadt after Stefan Leitl was brought in as interim boss, before it was made permanent prior to their match against VfL Bochum. Two wins, a draw and two loses from the five games he has overseen has brought Ingolstadt up to 16th, recovering from the three straight loses suffered under Maik Walpurgis. This will be another tough test after the defeat in Bochum, but the squad proved their worth and showed their true class in the 4-0 demolition of St. Pauli. Sonny Kittel will, of course, be key to any success that they have on Friday evening – the attacker has been their key man during the recent surge of form.
After two draws in their last two games, leaving it very late to secure both, Torsten Frings will be keen on setting up his Lilies to get a result at the Audi-Sportpark before the latter stages. There have already been 29 goals in Darmstadt’s eight games this season, and that should continue given how Ingolstadt have played in recent weeks. Given that their fellow promotion rivals don’t play until Saturday and beyond, this is a good opportunity for Aytac Sulu and co to put the pressure on and close the gap on Nürnberg to a point before they take to the field. That said, Ingolstadt will be doing all they can to go into the international break on a high and will not make life easy at all for the visitors.
Erzgebirge Aue – 1. FC Union Berlin (Saturday 12:00, FOX Soccer Match Pass)
Aue and Hannes Drews have enjoyed a very solid start together, and will hope that another big home game will provide another three points. Currently on 13 points, the Violets are on the coattails of the teams above them and those in the promotion places. The form of Pascal Köpke has been vital to their success, with the promising forward notching up three goals and five assists in his eight games. He’ll be hoping for more support from his team-mates, who have popped up more as match-winners than regular contributors.
Union got their mojo back and then some on Monday evening, taking apart Kaiserslautern to secure a resounding 5-0 win. Sebastian Polter finally showed his goalscoring class once again with a well-taken hat-trick, even if he did miss a penalty. Marcel Hartel and Kristian Pedersen also further proved their worth, and they will all need to be on form if they are to find a way through the staunch Aue back-line. Similarly, they will also need to be on their toes defensively to avoid letting Köpke and co. get loose on the breakaway.
Holstein Kiel – VfL Bochum (Saturday 12:00, FOX Soccer Match Pass)
Kiel’s continuation of their superb start to their first 2. Bundesliga campaign in a generation has surprised everyone, but slowly people are beginning to realise it’s no shock at all. The side that had 3. Liga’s best defence and second-best attack has taken the league by storm with their fast, flowing and attractive forward play. While Marvin Ducksch has grabbed most of the headlines, Dominick Drexler, Kingsley Schindler and Steven Lewerenz have been just as important. They will look to make a Bochum side with injury problems pay, but must be equally wary not to let the Ruhrstadion side exploit any defensive lapses.
Bochum come into the game after beating Ingolstadt 2-0 at home, to lift the mood in what is becoming a topsy-turvy season. It is more of a case of what Bochum side will turn up, as to how the game will go. They will be without Tim Hoogland and Dimitrios Diamantakos this weekend, along with the other long-term absentees, which might well open up a place for Sidney Sam to return and Lukas Hinterseer to move more central. Kevin Stöger is also suspended, making for a somewhat sticky situation for Ismail Atalan. They will be looking for Robbie Kruse to continue his good form, and lead them in attack.
1. FC Nürnberg – Arminia Bielefeld (Saturday 12:00, FOX Soccer Match Pass)
The biggest game of the weekend, in terms of table positions, sees second face sixth at the Max-Morlock-Stadion. FCN are full of confidence after the Frankenderby victory, and now have a dilemma of whom to start in goal after Fabian Bredlow’s fantastic performances between the sticks. That said, in spite of all the injury problems, there is still plenty of competition for outfield places. After a really bright start to his time with Nürnberg, Tobias Werner has been made to sit on the bench again after other players have found their feet again. A win would take them top, ahead of Fortuna’s game on Monday.
However, should Jeff Saibene’s men claim all three points then it will be the boys from Bielefeld who will leapfrog Nürnberg into second. Arminia were unfortunate not to claim a victory against Heidenheim, having had more of the play and better chances. Andraz Sporar could add fresh impetus in attack, though the absence of Florian Hartherz is a big miss at left-back. That said, Tom Schütz looked at home being back in the middle of midfield and beside Konstantin Kerschbaumer they have a solid base to build off.
Eintracht Braunschweig – FC St. Pauli (Sunday 12:30, FOX Soccer Match Pass)
One of the more interesting matches of the weekend sees 10th play eighth, in what could be the shot in the arm that both sides badly need. Braunschweig fell to a first defeat of the season away in Regensburg, and have injury and suspension worries after Totte Nyman went off injured and three players were sent off. That said, Torsten Lieberknecht should have the depth in order to cope and will hope that the crowd can be the deciding factor in what looks like a very close game. The main concern will be goals, especially with Nyman and the suspended Salim Khelifi.
St. Pauli haven’t been in the greatest of form either, and defeat to top of the table Fortuna at the Millerntor derailed their plans to bunch up the table and move into the top three. Olaf Janßen’s men have endured their fair share of troubles at home this season, yet three wins from four away games mean this could be just what they need before the international break. While it will be too soon for Christopher Buchtmann to return, there are hopes that Aziz Bouhaddouz my make it back in time to lead the line in Lower Saxony.
1. FC Heidenheim – Dynamo Dresden (Sunday 12:30, FOX Soccer Match Pass)
Perhaps a tussle that many will glance over, but one that is still extremely important. Heidenheim have been struggling to string together a set of results, and even when they seem on the edge of pulling something out of the hat, it seems to fall away in the crucial moments. Vitus Eicher has deputised very well between the sticks thus far, and was the main man in securing a draw in Bielefeld. However, Mathias Wittek is absent through suspension and will be a big miss through the team’s spine.
Dynamo have problems of their own, and another miraculous turnaround saw them concede twice in added time to drop two points in Darmstadt at the very death. Sören Gonther is now sidelined for the foreseeable future with a knee problem, but the question is whether or not the team can up their level. At times, Dynamo are brilliant and at other times it’s perhaps best to turn away. Regardless, Uwe Neuhaus needs a positive result before the international break to ease any potential early season jitters of relegation.
SV Sandhausen – Jahn Regensburg (Sunday 12:30)
The only game of the weekend that hasn’t been given the Match Pass treatment could be one of the more interesting encounters on Matchday 9. Sandhausen are keen to bounce back after defeat to Aue, where Marcel Schuhen’s error proved costly in an otherwise even affair. It certainly doesn’t blot their copybook after a very strong and impressive start to the season, but further highlighted their reliance on Lucas Höler and Philipp Klingmann going forward. Haji Wright will have to show the spark that was there in Dresden, as they aim to crack another solid unit this Sunday.
Jahn got their first home win of the season last time out, in a very literal ding-dong affair with Braunschweig. Even though he didn’t find the net, Marco Grüttner showed his class once again, and was ably assisted up front by match-winner, Jonas Nietfeld. Sebastian Stolze’s second-half performance also gave Achim Beierlorzer reason to be cheerful, with a buccaneering showing from right-back giving him yet another option as to where to deploy the VfL Wolfsburg loanee. They’ll need to continue that attacking threat to keep Kenan Kocak’s men at bay this time around.
Fortuna Düsseldorf – MSV Duisburg (Monday 19:30, BT Sport 3 – Fox Soccer Match Pass)
The Straßenbahnderby, the U79 team is responsible for connecting the two Hbfs of both Düsseldorf and Duisburg, and a little further afield. Either way, these two cities and football teams are less than 40km apart and a derby under the floodlights carries great importance. Recent clashes between the two have been feisty, and this should be no different. Fortuna are the side in form and top of the league heading into Matchday 9, and are on course to go into the international break in better form than their last promotion season. Their win last weekend against St. Pauli underlined that.
For Duisburg, it’s not only a chance to claim bragging rights but also to continue their solid start and possibly knock their rivals off top spot. While recent weeks haven’t been kind, especially in terms of pure and simple luck – the crossbar has denied them as many times in recent weeks as the unbelievable saves goalkeepers have pulled off. The fact Borys Tashchy is out injured doesn’t help matters, and the pressure will be firmly on Kingsley Onuegbu and Stanislav Iljutchenko should the Ukrainian still be missing on Monday. Keeping it tight at the back against the in-form Fortuna will be vital.