It’s hard to believe that we’re already a third of the way through the 2. Bundesliga season. It’s been interesting, intriguing and down-right daft in the opening few months of the campaign, and the period up to Christmas and the Winterpause could prove to be even more so. With more battles at the bottom and top to come, here’s how Matchday 11 shapes up.
FC Ingolstadt 04 – 1. FC Heidenheim (Friday 17:30, FOX Soccer Match Pass)
Stefan Leitl has a full-strength side to choose from this weekend, as they get the Friday night football underway. If their game is anything like their previous encounter with Dynamo Dresden, it should be rather interesting. Despite taking a two-nil lead, they were pegged back by Dynamo and forced to settle for a draw. That said, there has been plenty of promise for Leitl since he took over. That has been especially prevalent away from home, and Friday presents a good opportunity to start and lay down some solid foundations at the Audi-Sportpark.
Heidenheim are also in desperate need of a win, and run the risk of dropping into the bottom two if they can’t manage a result against the Schanzer. The one positive Frank Schmidt can take from the 3-5 defeat to Kiel on Sunday was that Marc Schnatterer found his shooting boots in the thriller. A stunning brace couldn’t prevent them slipping to a loss, though he is now set on 99 competitive goals for the club. The carrot of guiding his side to a win away from home and securing the century of goals will be motivation aplenty for the club captain. That being said, Mathias Wittek’s absence is a blow.
Fortuna Düsseldorf – SV Darmstadt 98 (Friday 17:30, FOX Soccer Match Pass)
Fortuna are this season’s pace-setters atop the 2. Bundesliga table, and a hard-fought away win against Arminia further outlined their title challenge. Rouwen Hennings and Benito Raman have struck up a very exciting partnership going forward, and that shone through for the opening goal. The two caused havoc all afternoon, though it was Florian Neuhaus who added a second in style. Havard Nielsen and Adam Bodzek are both back in the squad this weekend, although it looks like Friedhelm Funkel will opt to stick with the same side that has proved so successful in recent weeks.
Darmstadt have found things tough in spells this season, but notably at home. Very rarely has there been a dull game back at the Bölle, and the 3-4 loss to Nürnberg was no exception. Torsten Frings is desperate to get back on track, with just a solitary win in their last six games following a very promising start to the campaign. Goals have not been the problem, that much is for sure, but keeping them out certainly has proven problematic. Without Daniel Heuer Fernandes, that will only be tougher. Yet Frings can look to the likes of Aytac Sulu and know he has the players capable of turning that around.
1. FC Union Berlin – SpVgg Greuther Fürth (Saturday 12:00, FOX Soccer Match Pass)
After a stuttering start, Union has found their feet and the back of the net in recent weeks. Sebastian Polter’s form in from of goal has improved markedly, and the results have followed suit. They will be without Atsuto Uchida in the coming weeks due to a thigh problem, though Christopher Trimmel remains as fit and fresh as he was last season. Their 2-0 away win against Jahn put them fourth in the table, and another three points would put them on the coattails of Kiel. Akaki Gogia also got off the mark last weekend, which gives Jens Keller a tough task to pick between him and Steven Skrzybski.
Last Sunday also saw the Shamrocks and Damir Buric celebrating. They claimed a deserved 2-1 win at the Ronhof against Aue, though it wasn’t until Daniel Steininger’s 87th minute scissor kick that the points were secured. It’s now about building momentum and that point total, which they failed to do after his first win. With Nik Omladic still out, it looks like Buric will name the same Fürth side that managed to get past the Violets. The major positive from the weekend was Roberto Hilbert’s performance after arriving on a free transfer. Everyone concerned is keen for that to continue.
Eintracht Braunschweig – VfL Bochum (Saturday 12:00)
For the first time in quite a while, Torsten Lieberknecht is starting to struggle at the helm of Eintracht. Despite having suffered just two defeats in 10 games, the Lions only have two wins to their name with draws holding back their progress. It’s not been for the want of trying, and the vast majority of those games have seen Lieberknecht’s men be in control. That said, Totte Nyman should return to the starting line-up on Saturday and also Salim Khelifi. The injury and suspension woes have eased slightly, but now is the time to confirm that this was holding them back.
Bochum bounced back from a torrid month with a rather routine win over Sandhausen, who never really got into their stride at the Ruhrstadion. The return of Kevin Stöger made a huge difference, and he seems to have really struck up a partnership with the dangerous Robbie Kruse. Lukas Hinterseer’s second home goal will also give him confidence, and the chance to lead the line at Eintracht-Stadion. Tim Hoogland, Vitaly Janelt and Timo Perthel are all still sidelined, yet the return of Felix Bastians after an “interesting” week should give the fans even more confidence that this is a turning point.
Holstein Kiel – Arminia Bielefeld (Saturday 12:00, FOX Soccer Match Pass)
The start to the season couldn’t have gone much better for Markus Anfang’s men, who sit just a three points off the top of 2. Bundesliga. Despite dropping Kingsley Schindler for the first time this season and Aaron Seydel replacing him, Marvin Ducksch continued his good form with a hat-trick in Heidenheim. Dominick Drexler also ran the show in midfield, with those two emerging as the key men this season. The defence is somewhat of a concern, but they’ll be confident in their front five managing to outscore whatever number that Arminia put up.
This is also a massive game for Arminia, who are looking to bounce back from defeat to Fortuna. A win here would take them just two points behind Kiel, and they are at full strength as they try to do so. Jeff Saibene’s men have been somewhat topsy-turvy since their brief stint at the top of the table, though their toughest run of games is slowly coming to an end. This would be a helpful confidence boost, even if they were able to come away from Holstein-Stadion with a draw. A goal for Fabian Klos would also be welcomed, to stop the forward from going five games without finding the net.
1. FC Kaiserslautern – MSV Duisburg (Sunday 12:30)
Sunday sees one of the biggest games of the weekend, take place at the wrong end of the table. Jeff Strasser’s Red Devils come into the game with confidence, having picked up four points from his two games in charge. However, the real proof in the pudding would be to make that seven against another side who are also in trouble. Sebastian Andersson’s four goals in those games have proved pivotal, and he’ll likely have to find the net again when a tough Duisburg side come to town. Someone to take the burden off of the hot-shot Swede would be surely welcomed, also.
Duisburg and Ilia Gruev have come up short in recent weeks, not only in terms of luck but also results wise. The Zebras are only three points ahead of Kaiserslautern at the bottom, though their performances may have warranted more. The aluminium has thwarted them on multiple occasions, yet with the return of Borys Tashchy they should find more luck. Gruev’s men face a tough run into Christmas, and an away win here would massively boost their confidence. With no new injury worries, this is a great chance to do so.
1. FC Nürnberg – Dynamo Dresden (Sunday 12:30, FOX Soccer Match Pass)
Back in action after a Monday night madness that saw the lead constantly changing hands, Michael Köllner and FCN will be hoping for a more routine outing against Dynamo. They are without injury concern following their win in Darmstadt, which should point towards the same side starting once again. Even with their attacking brilliance and Cedric Teuchert’s brace, they will look to be more defensively sound on Sunday. A win would further extend themselves from the chasing pack, with a few fixtures between those sides on Matchday 11, and give them confidence ahead of the Pokal second round.
Dynamo have found things tough this season. Despite sitting in ninth and with 13 points, there is a feeling that there is more to come from this side. However, that could finally be coming true as Peniel Mlapa comes into his own. His three goals in the last two games seem to have cemented him as first choice forward, something he’ll be looking to maintain come gameday. Uwe Neuhaus also has no fresh injury concerns. This was a big away day for the visitors last season, and another strong support is expected as they make their way down to Franconia.
Erzgebirge Aue – Jahn Regensburg (Sunday 12:30)
The honeymoon period for Hannes Drews seems to have worn off slightly after the upturn in form when he took the reins in Aue. That said, the Violets are a mighty dangerous side and can cause problems at will. They didn’t look to be their usual selves on Sunday, on a day where the front three really failed to spark. Taking everything into account, though, Aue are still just four points from fifth and are a world away from their struggles of last season. They will, however, be without Fabian Kalig and Clemens Fandrich due to suspension and injury, respectively.
As for Jahn and Achim Beierlorzer, they managed to have a penalty saved and then concede within the space for 42 seconds. Andreas Geipl, who missed that spot-kick, is suspended for this one and that is likely to see Marvin Knoll move back into midfield. Having lost four of their last five, and having failed to score in those four games, it is reaching a crucial stage of the season for the Bavarian side. The win over Braunschweig was certainly a confidence booster, yet they’ve failed to kick on. This is their best chance to get some momentum going ahead of a run against the current bottom three.
SV Sandhausen – FC St. Pauli (Monday 19:30, BT Sport 1 and FOX Soccer Match Pass)
Kenan Kocak has worked wonders with Sandhausen since he took over, and it speaks volumes that last weekend’s defeat at Bochum was disappointing. They shouldn’t have too much to worry about, at least in terms of injury concerns, though a lack of attacking threat from anyone other than Lucas Höler is perhaps frustrating. Philipp Klingmann may be given a more free role on the right in order to spark something going forward, which has been somewhat restricted in recent weeks. Tim Kister will be suspended this weekend after a fifth yellow in Bochum, which will be their main concern.
St. Pauli and their fans were left frustrated by a one-all draw with Kaiserslautern last time out, with a lack of clear-cut chances proving to be their downfall once again. Frustratingly for them, they could be in for yet another defensive reshuffle with Christopher Avevor in a battle to be fit for the game. In this case, they are lucky they have until Monday night to get him ready. Yet, with some of their stars moving further closer to full fitness it can be viewed that St. Pauli have done well to put themselves in this position with the disruption they’ve had.