2. Bundesliga – Matchday 15 Preview: Crucial clashes across the weekend

Last week was a treat for any 2. Bundesliga fans and, with an even more dramatic matchday waiting in the wings, things could be about to get a whole lot better. It’s hard to see a match-up where any side is a complete outsider, and every team needs a win for various reasons. Sit-back, relax and enjoy Matchday 15.

1. FC Union Berlin – SV Darmstadt 98 (FOX Soccer Match Pass, Friday 17:30)

Union Berlin were 2. Bundesliga form team before they were brought back down to earth with a bump by Heidenheim, as the Berliners went down 4-3 at the Voith-Arena. Jens Keller will have no issues in picking up a very focused group for a big game, which could put them to within two points for Fortuna and Kiel before they play. Christopher Trimmel will be welcomed back after missing the loss in Heidenheim with suspension, while Marcel Hartel should also return to the midfield after coming off the bench last time out.

Darmstadt, on the other hand, are undergoing a surprisingly tough run of form. They have failed to pick up a win for eight games and run the risk of being dragged into a relegation battle instead of a fight for the promotion places. Injuries certainly have not helped and the Lilies remain without Tobias Kempe, Felix Platte and Daniel Heuer Fernandes for the trip. Goalscoring is a concern, but the usual solidity and stability of a Darmstadt defence has been sorely missed and needs to return on Friday to try to make up for their recent woes.

SV Sandhausen – 1. FC Heidenheim (Friday 17:30)

Sandhausen were the side to get the better of Darmstadt last weekend, and put themselves back in the promotion race as a result. Kenan Kocak’s side had been finding it tough to get results for a period before the win, and the fact that Lucas Höler and Richie Sakuta-Pasu both played a key part in the win will relax fears in front of goal. As well as possessing the joint-best defence in the league, things are moving in the right direction. They are, however, without the usual long-term absentees and Stefan Kulovits for the Friday night clash.

Heidenheim, as mentioned, managed to upset Union’s apple cart in a seven-goal thriller. Frank Schmidt’s men have finally found something that works, and it’s been a long time coming. They are still in trouble at the wrong end of the table but a win over Sandhausen would do their cause no harm whatsoever. John Verhoek and Marc Schnatterer have led the revival from the front, with the latter already notching up his 10th scorer point of the season. That makes it nine-in-a-row for the winger, and he’ll been keen to add to that while Sebastian Griesbeck and Mathias Wittek miss out once again.

Eintracht Braunschweig – 1. FC Nürnberg (FOX Soccer Match Pass, Saturday 12:00)

Torsten Lieberknecht’s side were so close to claiming a morale-boosting win in Bielefeld last weekend, only to fall victim to a late equaliser. That said, Suleiman Abdullahi’s performance showed that he is beginning to pick things up. Quirin Moll is back from injury and Christoffer Nyman is nearing a return, adding some much-needed depth to the side. Eintracht have been the true draw specialists this term, with a stalemate in nine of their 14 games. They’ll hope that it’s not another game unbeaten, but another game won in an important encounter.

After lighting up the league for weeks, Nürnberg have just failed to win any of their previous three matches. Had the Franconian outfit claimed a single win in that period, they would be in third. However, they are not and face a tough test away in Lower Saxony. There are no fresh injury concerns from what would have been the case before they gave up a two-goal lead against Kiel, Kevin Möhwald is fit again and will likely replace Edgar Salli on the left. Cedric Teuchert may also be lined up for a return, as all attention turns to star hitman, Mikael Ishak to grab the goals.

Holstein Kiel – FC Ingolstadt 04 (FOX Soccer Match Pass, Saturday 12:00)

Without much doubt, the highlight of the matchday. Kiel come into the game full of confidence after their comeback against FCN, and Aaron Seydel will be pushing for a start once more after another fine showing off the bench. As they have been all season, the Storks are still injury-free and will be at full strength. Markus Anfang will be aware that this is a chance to go three points clear at the summit before Fortuna play, which is more than enough incentive to give a big effort to secure a sixth home win in eight league games.

Ingolstadt are the league’s form side, having won four on the bounce and five of their last six in total. Sonny Kittel could be getting the call for Poland’s national team if all continues how it is, having been the undoubted star of the season with 15 scorer points to his name. Their win against Fortuna further outlined their case as one of the sides who’ll be in the mix come May, though this is another sizeable test in a short space of time. Like Kiel, there are no new injury worries and are likely to name the same side that won last weekend.

Jahn Regensburg – MSV Duisburg (Saturday 12:00)

Jahn have turned a real corner in recent weeks, and with a bit of luck they find themselves in their best form this season. Achim Beierlorzer’s side did have a two-goal lead in St. Pauli but fell victim to a strong comeback, yet seven points from three games is a strong return. The fact that these results have been achieved without Jann George is even more impressive, and he looks set to settle for a spot on the bench as the current front four have been excellent. He could be the difference maker later on in the game, however.

The Zebras have been in exceptional form recently as well, making this all the more interesting given that it’s two confident promoted sides. They have conceded just once in their last five games, and finally got their first home win of the season after taking Aue apart. Cauly Olivieira Souza and Moritz Stoppelkamp continue to cause chaos on the wings, which helped Borys Tashchy finally get back on the scoresheet. Lukas Fröde will miss the game through suspension, meaning Tim Albutat is set to be reunited with Fabian Schnellhardt in the middle.

SpVgg Greuther Fürth – FC St. Pauli (FOX Soccer Match Pass, Sunday 12:30)

After one win in their first nine, two wins and a draw have been a welcome change from the previous five. Damir Buric has seen some improvement from his Shamrocks but is well aware that more is required, especially given the recent form of the teams above them. Fürth has been much stronger at home than on the road, and have already been away from the Ronhof eight times this season. That, coupled with a squad that is almost fully-fit once again, should give them some hope that they can get a positive result.

St. Pauli will get a crack at going away from home again, something that has played into their hands better than anyone would have expected. With just one win at the Millerntor and four on their travels, this could be the perfect chance to snap a five-game winless run. There are no new injuries or returnees for Olaf Janßen to choose from, and in that sense it’s hard to see any changes being made. The only exception to that is Johannes Flum, who was excellent against Jahn when he came off the bench and should replace Bernd Nehrig.

1. FC Kaiserslautern – Arminia Bielefeld (FOX Soccer Match Pass, Sunday 12:30)

The battle that the world has been waiting for is now upon us. Jeff le Chef against Jeff le Chef. Strasser against Saibene. While the two Luxembourgian coaches go head-to-head, Kaiserslautern and Bielefeld are also desperate to get the better of one another. Strasser has no new injury worries to contend with and a team that will be brimming with confidence after a shock 2-1 comeback win in Dresden. The late nature of the goals, coupled with the fact it was the first time that the Red Devils had come from behind to claim three points since 2015/16, gives them fresh impetus.

As for the other Jeff, Herr Saibene is desperately searching for a win. Despite being top after Matchday 3, Arminia have won just twice since then and are following a group of teams who were unable to capitalise on a good start. After three straight loses, two late equalisers have steadied the ship in recent weeks. However, those draws will only be a stop-gap for so long and a win would do them the world of good. One bright spark was Henri Weigelt, who has shown that their youth academy is alive and kicking with a fine defensive performance.

Erzgebirge Aue – VfL Bochum (Sunday 12:30)

Aue’s indifferent form with Hannes Drews continued last weekend as they were soundly beaten by Duisburg. Tobias Kempe is suspended after picking up his fifth yellow card, and the side might get a shake-up from what has been somewhat stale in recent weeks. The Violets need Pascal Köpke to rekindle his form, who has just a solitary assist since Matchday 8. That said, his fellow forwards haven’t helped in the vein. There is only so much the Aue back-line and Martin Mannel can do, and they’ll hope for more support this weekend.

It’s hard to find something to say that hasn’t already been said about the crazy Ruhrpott club this season. With four draws in a row, they have slipped dangerously close to the bottom three under Jens Rasiejewski and need three points to turn their fortunes around. Bochum fans will breathe a sigh of relief that Robbie Kruse and Kevin Stöger are both set to start this weekend after their absences, something that is badly needed given their lack of goals this season. Tim Hoogland’s return off the bench against Fürth was also a positive sign.

Fortuna Düsseldorf – Dynamo Dresden (FOX Soccer Match Pass and BT Sport 3, Monday 19:30)

They looked unstoppable for so long, but Fortuna are slowly showing signs of weakness. Winless in three and a first defeat since Matchday 6, Friedhelm Funkel knows just how important this game is to get back on track. There are doubts over Adam Bodzek and Benito Raman, while Florian Neuhaus serves the second instalment of his three-game suspension. Kaan Ayhan is back from a ban and Oliver Fink is fit again, which should lighten the loss of the aforementioned trio. Fortuna could be under pressure from both Union and Kiel, so three points would be a welcome relief.

Dynamo haven’t got too much to shout out either, having failed to win in their last five. The defeat to Kaiserslautern, when everything looked so sure, ended up being a real hit to the already fragile confidence. Uwe Neuhaus might be without some key players but have still underperformed massively this campaign. With no pressure or expectations on them for this game, it could be the ideal situation in order to free some of the players up. A heavy defeat and another win for Lautern could see Dynamo drop into the bottom two.

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Jonathan Walsh

Jonny is a 2. Bundesliga fanatic who does little else with his time other than follow, watch, write about, think about, and promote his favorite league. When he isn't in university or trying to defend the Bundesliga's 50+1 rule, you'll most likely find him watching whatever football he can find on TV. Follow him @jonathanwalsh_

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