The 2.Bundesliga’s Promotion Race: It’s a Fight

With just seven matchdays remaining in the premier second division, Germany’s 2. Bundesliga is evenly poised as there are a number sides fighting for promotion. After 28 matchdays it seems likely that Fortuna Düsseldorf are on their way to automatic promotion and currently have a comfortable seven-point gap to their nearest rival Nürnberg.

Düsseldorf have been the standard this season with a good even contribution going forward by Rouwen Hennings and Benito Raman, a stout defence lead by former Hannover defender André Hoffmann as well as ex-Schalke and Turkish international Kaan Ayhan. Even their on loan players have been strong which includes Borussia Mönchengladbach midfielder Florian Neuhaus who has impressed mightily this season whilst the Japanese pairing of Genki Haraguchi (Hertha Berlin) and Takashi Usami (Augsburg) have adjusted well to Düsseldorf.

It should also be mentioned that Fortuna has a very strong goal keeping core, with an early season injury to Michael Rensing, ex-Werder Bremen shot stopper Raphael Wolf has proven himself as more than serviceable between the sticks. Managed by the experienced Friedhelm Funkel, Düsseldorf have been able to all kinds of ways and whether its winning in goal scoring frenzy’s or being totally outplayed and grinding out a tight victory. Funkel’s side is ready for the jump to the top flight.

Let’s take a look at who are the remaining two sides in the promotional places, who can contend for a place and who are those have challenged but will fall off the pace come the end of the season.

In the Box Set:

1.FC Nürnberg

Remaining Fixtures

@ Dynamo Dresden

vs Heidenheim

@ Ingolstadt

@ Holstein Kiel

vs Eintracht Braunschweig

@ Sandhausen

vs Fortuna Düsseldorf

They may have been the better side for a good portion of the season but Nürnberg are in a dog fight to keep themselves in the remaining automatic promotion place. Just sitting two points ahead of Holstein Kiel, Der Club have hit a brick as they are winless in their last four games. This can be attributed to the injury to striker Mikael Ishak who has been Nürnberg’s focal point in attack scoring 12 goals and producing five assists in 22 appearances. Since Ishak’s absence, Der Club has scored only four times in their last five games.

Manager Michael Köllner faces a difficult task coming out of the International break with his side having a tricky end to the season, facing four of the top six. The key for Köllner is finding another goal scoring threat, he has tried Tobias Werner, Federico Palacios Martinez and Adam Zrelak who have combined for just two goals this season. If Nürnberg can’t find a consistent scoring threat, there is a good chance that Holstein Kiel overtake Der Club with the Southerners have to earn promotion through the play-offs or missing out all together.

Holstein Kiel

Remaining Fixtures

@ Arminia Bielefeld

vs Darmstadt

@ Dynamo Dresden

vs Nürnberg

@ Ingolstadt

@ Fortuna Düsseldorf

vs Eintracht Braunschweig

The second placed team from last season 3. Liga has been one of the surprise packets of the season. An interesting blend of ex Bundesliga talent headlines Die Störche as they find themselves just two points behind Nürnberg for the final automatic promotion place. Plenty of credit must boil down to manager Markus Anfang who’s implementation of a developmental attitude over being a laptop coach similar to Domenico Tedesco and Julian Nagelsmann, has worked in spades for the 43-year-old.

Holstein Kiel have been dynamite going forward taking on average 14.5 shots per game; which is 4th best in 2. Bundesliga. Die Stòrche has 53 goals so far this season which is by far the best in the division with on loan striker Marvin Ducksch at hand for 14 whilst Dominick Drexler has found the back of the net 11 times and provided seven. Drexler was apart of the youth set-up at Bayer Leverkusen with Anfang and continues to be an important of the Holstein Kiel set-up.

I firmly believe Kiel are in a very good situation to make it a second consecutive promotion, they have some winnable games for the run home and if they are able to maintain their strong attacking out post, then there is no reason that we see Die Störche in the top flight for the first time.

On the outside looking in …

Jahn Regensburg

Remaining Fixtures

vs Erzgebirge Aue

@ Kaiserslautern

@ Greuther Fürth

vs St. Pauli

@ MSV Duisburg

vs Darmstadt

@ VfL Bochum

The biggest surprise coming out of the 2. Bundesliga has been the emergence of Jahn Regensburg. After ousting 1860 Munich in the relegation play-off’s, many didn’t give Regensburg a chance after manager Heiko Herrlich left for Bayer Leverkusen. But this hasn’t been the case with new manager Achim Beierlorzer climbing Die Jahnelf up to a more than surprising 4th heading out of the international break.

A major key of Jahn Regensburg’s success has been the sides home form. From 14 encounters at the Continental Arena, Die Jahnelf have taken 27 points out of a possible 42. Only table leading Fortuna Düsseldorf (30) has been better at home this season. One player I’ve been impressed with is secondary striker Joshua Mees who is currently only on loan from Hoffenheim. Five goals and one assist in his first full season in 2. Bundesliga, at 21; Mees is a player that Regensburg and with rumours he wants to stay around past this season.

Can Die Jahnelf poach Mees away from Hoffenheim at the seasons end?

Regensburg have a reasonable schedule to end the season, the glimmering question surrounding them is whether they can translate their strong home form on the road?

Arminia Bielefeld

Remaining Fixtures

vs Holstein Kiel

@ Ingolstadt

vs Erzgebirge Aue

@ Eintracht Braunschweig

vs Kaiserslautern

@ St. Pauli

vs Sandhausen

This time last season Arminia Bielefeld where sitting in 16th place with seven wins to their name as they prepared for a tight relegation play-off. Fast-forward 12 months and Bielefeld are now in the fight for promotion. But what has changed from then and now to see Die Arminen that has Bielefeld in the hunt.

Well…

Bielefeld are getting strong goalkeeping this season as they brought in Stefan Ortega from 1860 Munich. Ortega has made a massive difference between the sticks and he is statistically the best keeper in 2. Bundesliga. In 27 appearances, we have seen Ortega make 93 saves and finish with eight clean sheets. Without Ortega’s heroics throughout the season, perhaps we don’t see Bielefeld in this position.

For manager Jeff Saibene, he knows how important this stretch of games are for Bielefeld with the favoured Holstein Kiel and Ingolstadt, the remaining five are against sides outside the top half of the standings. If Die Arminen can take points from the opening two matches, Bielefeld are a real chance of at least making the play-off placing’s.

FC Ingolstadt

Remaining Fixtures

@ Heidenheim

vs Arminia Bielefeld

vs Nürnberg

@ Fortuna Düsseldorf

vs Holstein Kiel

@ Eintracht Braunschweig

vs Kaiserslautern

It took Ingolstadt quite sometime to adjust to life back in 2. Bundesliga as they would lose their opening three matches to Union Berlin, Sandhausen and Jahn Regensberg. Maik Walpurgis was ousted as manager with Ingolstadt II manager Stefan Leitl. Under Leitl, Ingolstadt stormed up the table from the foot to as high as 4th in the standings which included strong wins against the top two sides Nürnberg and Fortuna Düsseldorf.

Die Schanzer have one of the best squads in the second tier but as they sit in 6th at the moment, it has been an extremely disappointing season as the club’s expectation was to return to the Bundesliga. Ingolstadt have missed the likes of Mathew Leckie (Hertha Berlin), Pascal Groß (Brighton & Hove Albion) and Florian Haderjgonaj (Huddersfield Town) and haven’t adequately replaced their key players. Stefan Kutschke has struggled his electric form for Dynamo Dresden last season where he had 16 goals and four assists, so far this season he has just the five goals to his name.

Sonny Kittel has been a shinning light for Ingolstadt this, starved of opportunity at Eintracht Frankfurt but since Ingolstadt’s demise, the 25-year-old Gießen native leads all comers for Die Schanzer with nine goals and 11 assists. Without his input Ingolstadt wouldn’t be in this position.

Ingolstadt have a plenty of winnable games coming up but as we have seen throughout 2. Bundesliga, can Die Schanzer return to the promise land?

This 2. Bundesliga has been incredibly unpredictable and making a prediction is near impossible. With plenty of battles atop and down in the relegation zone. One thing is for certain, the real winners are the fans who are treated to a high quality of football. We will have to wait and see what happens.

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Matthew is currently partaking in a Bachelor of Management (Marketing) at the University of South Australia and has been a RealSport’s writer since December of 2016 He predominately devotes his fandom to German football where he’s a passionate Schalke 04 supporter, and competes as a goalkeeper for the Rostrevor Old Collegians Soccer Club in Adelaide’s Collegiate Soccer League. Follow @MattKaragich

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