After an incredible and almost unbelievable 2. Bundesliga weekend last time out, the league returns for the final 10 games of the season. With promotion and relegation playing on the minds of almost everyone in the division, this matchday promises to start off a memorable conclusion.
1. FC Kaiserslautern – 1. FC Union Berlin (Friday 17:30)
After defeat last time out to Aue, a somewhat disappointing result given recent form, Michael Frontzeck will welcome back three key players for the visit of Union. Brandon Borrello, Ruben Jenssen and Philipp Mwene are all set to return for the Red Devils, with the former and latter sorely missed during the trip to eastern Germany. Now six points from safety, despite three wins in five, Lautern are back to yet another must-win situation. Backed by a no-doubt fervent home support, Friday night under the floodlights will be a big test of their resolve.
Union got back on track thanks to a hard-fought 2-1 win against Sandhausen, as Steven Skrzybski continued his fantastic recent form. He is leading the recovery under André Hofschneider and, despite their tricky start, they are now just three points from third. With Michael Parensen in midfield, Union moved away from a three-man defence to the usual four and had relative success at both ends of the pitch. Kaiserslautern will bring more of an attacking threat, though that should open more chances for Union to move on the counter.
Dynamo Dresden – SV Darmstadt 98 (Friday 17:30)
Dynamo are another side on the up and their new-look formation seems to have solved their issues. Lucas Röser and Moussa Koné have formed such a rich partnership that the two look like they’ve been playing together for a prolonged period of time, rather than just since January. The 4-4-2 has worked well in recent weeks and should be what Uwe Neuhaus goes for on Friday evening. Despite conceding twice against Arminia, Dynamo were relatively solid and will take plenty of confidence from that win.
On the other hand, things are getting increasingly desperate for Darmstadt. They showed great resolve to earn a point against Heidenheim after falling behind and going down to 10 men. Immanuel Höhn was the man to see red and will miss Friday’s encounter, meaning Romain Brégerie is likely to slot back into defence beside Aytac Sulu. Otherwise, it’s likely to be the same side that Dirk Schuster – Kevin Großkreutz’s ban aside – has trusted with delivering survival since he took charge once again. However, with that gap potentially rising to seven points by Monday, three points are vital in Saxony.
1. FC Nürnberg – SpVgg Greuther Fürth (Saturday 12:00)
Frankenderby. The biggest game of the entire 2. Bundesliga season. The 264th instalment sees Nürnberg come into the tussle with the bragging rights from earlier on in the season, and also the top spot in 2. Bundesliga. Michael Köllner is, however, with Enrico Valentini through suspension which is a shame for one of the club’s most-dedicated players. Eduard Löwen may end up at right-back to cover, and that opens the door for a Kevin Möhwald to return. Nürnberg would dearly love to extend their unbeaten run, and lead at the top, to 12 matches with a positive result here.
Fürth are heading to the Max-Morlock-Stadion in search of revenge and the chance to move further away from the dropzone. Damir Buric has two wins in the last three and the Shamrocks have only lost once in the previous six matches. Fürth, following their very impressive triumph over Braunschweig, should set up in the same way as they make the short trip across Franconia. Goals might still be a problem but Sascha Burchert and Mario Maloca have been two of the stand-out performers in recent weeks, and deserve huge credit for their efforts in the turnaround.
Holstein Kiel – MSV Duisburg (Saturday 12:00)
Markus Anfang’s quest to end an unfortunate winless run continued last weekend after they managed to blow yet another lead as Sankt Pauli secured a late 3-2 win. That meant Kiel moved onto an 11th game without a victory, and the pressure grows after their incredible start. Marvin Ducksch has refpund his scoring touch but the defence hasn’t been able to match the efforts of the attack, and just seven points from 10 means they have slipped from automatic promotion contenders to just five points from 12th. Things have got to change, and fast, for the Storks to get back on track.
After Mark Flekken managed to go viral last week, the Dutch shot-stopper will be hoping for a much more quiet week in Kiel. Ilia Gruev knows that third place is on the line and is there for them to snatch away from the opponents, in what would be a continuation of a remarkable and sustained run of form. Over the last 15 games, Duisburg have taken 29 points; as many as Nürnberg. With Dustin Bomheuer and Cauly Oliveira Souza still absent with their respective illnesses, it’s likely that the Zebras will name an unchanged side from the impressive and controversial win over Ingolstadt.
SV Sandhausen – Erzgebirge Aue (Saturday 12:00)
Kenan Kocak’s Sandhausen are hoping to keep up the pressure on the sides above them in the promotion race this weekend, and to bounce back from defeat to Union. Leart Paqarada will return and that is music to the head coach’s ears, as he will now have the opportunity to move Tim Knipping back into the middle of defence. The hosts are one of a number of surprise performers this year and, given their injury woes, it is even more admirable. Sandhausen will also be hoping one of their forwards can find form for the remainder of the season, with goals proving hard to come by of late.
Aue earned a confidence-boosting win over Kaiserslautern on Matchday 24, something that was very much-needed and welcomed by all around the club. It’s been a tough few weeks before and after Christmas but after three games unbeaten, things finally seem to be turning around. Ridge Munsy looks to be working his way into a starting spot after his winner last weekend, and another goal for Pascal Köpke also bodes well. The issue is now, after putting that run together, keeping it going and staying above the relegation zone until May.
1. FC Heidenheim – Arminia Bielefeld (Sunday 12:30)
After failing to get past 10-man Darmstadt last weekend, Heidenheim missed the chance to go seventh and really close the gap on third. They have a chance to leapfrog one of the sides who are above them on Sunday, as Frank Schmidt aims to emulate the success of last season. Promotion is a realistic target for all the sides in and around Heidenheim, and Marc Schnatterer should come back in from the bench to start once more to help that push. Maxi Thiel and John Verhoek are also in line for a recall after joining Schnatterer on the bench in Darmstadt.
Arminia head to Heidenheim after defeat to Dynamo, and will be hoping to quickly put that behind them and get back to their previous good run of form. That was their first loss in five games and, even though the game was close in terms of scoreline, it was a performance that lacked their usual bite. The main positive from the game was Andreas Voglsammer finding himself amongst the goals, his first in six, and the hope is now that he can go on and recreate the form of earlier in the season. This will be another real test of Jeff Saibene and Arminia’s promotion credentials.
Eintracht Braunschweig – Jahn Regensburg (Sunday 12:30)
After the positive results in Aue and against Union being mixed in with more losses, Torsten Lieberknecht’s men are very middle of the road. For of a squad of their calibre, more is expected and the pressure is mounting; not in terms of promotion, but instead sitting just two points from 16th. Mirko Boland is pushing for a start in midfield which would form the successful pairing of himself and Quirin Moll that did so well last season. The team, in general, need a shot in the arm and a win against a side in excellent form would do just that.
As for Jahn and Achim Beierlorzer, they were the architects of a fantastic comeback to pip Fortuna last weekend. That win took them to fifth and given the recent momentum and never-say-die attitude they currently have, it’s hard to see a more in-form side challenging for the play-off spot. There are no new injury worries for Jahn either, which will only give them further impetus to go on and make the most of a shaky Braunschweig side. Knowing that one, or possible both, of Kiel and Duisburg will drop points, it is an excellent chance for Beierlorzer to continue their recent march.
Fortuna Düsseldorf – FC St. Pauli (Sunday 12:30)
Fortuna’s ability to go from good to great to poor this season, on a semi-regular basis, has come around once more as they enter this game without winning their last three games. The good news is that Genki Haraguchi is back after the concussion he suffered against Sandhausen, although it is a tough call for Friedhelm Funkel as to whether or not he gives him a start over Takashi Usami. Marcel Sobottka should also be fit in time to take his place alongside Florian Neuhaus at the base of midfield.
Sankt Pauli, on the other hand, are enjoying a mini-revival. They’ve won their last two and are now just three points from third, harbouring real ambitions that they could snatch it off all the other promotion charges. Markus Kauczinski will be without Bernd Nehrig after he picked up a fifth yellow card during the impressive comeback win against Kiel, meaning Johannes Flum is set to partner Jeremy Dudziak in midfield. The real story of the last few weeks has been Richard Neudecker’s form, and it was his inspirational performance that helped them to grab a rare home win.
FC Ingolstadt 04 – VfL Bochum (Monday 19:30)
Unfortunately, Monday night games have made a return. However, Ingolstadt will be hoping for a return to form and normality after a few turbulent weeks. After the snow against Sankt Pauli and controversy in Duisburg, Stefan Leitl would like nothing more than to get back to winning ways. He will have to do it without Almog Cohen who was sent off during the game, with Christian Träsch perhaps moving into the holding role while Tobias Levels returns at right-back. With goalscoring a noted problem, the injury to Dario Lezcano will certainly not help matters.
Bochum earned a very credible draw with Nürnberg last time out and will hope to go one better on Monday evening. Ingolstadt might have issues with scoring but the Ruhrpott club have scored less goals than anyone else in 2. Bundesliga this season. They have, however, defended resolutely and there is reason to suggest both sides could cancel each other out come kick-off. Lukas Hinterseer and Jan Gyamerah will both hope to be making a comeback this weekend following their respective issues that kept them out against Nürnberg.