We’re approaching the business end of the 2018/19 season and the race for top-flight status is hotting up in Bundesliga 2. Cologne are in pole position for an immediate return to the Bundesliga, but the chase is on behind them with Hamburg, Union Berlin, Paderborn, Heidenheim, Holstein Kiel and St. Pauli all separated by six points with six games remaining.
With two automatic promotion places up for grabs, plus third-place’s play-off showdown with the Bundesliga’s third-bottom side, there is plenty to play for.
bundesliga.com takes a closer look at the runners and riders vying for a place in the top flight next season.
Goal difference: +39
Three-time German champions Cologne are on course for an immediate return to the big time after finishing bottom of the Bundesliga in 2017/18. Having taken over as coach last summer, Markus Anfang has led the Billy Goats’ free-scoring revolution that sees Cologne in pole position with six games to go. Five wins and a draw in their last six means Cologne show little intent to relent their momentum and, currently seven points clear ahead of their top-two showdown with Hamburg, are on course for a fourth Bundesliga 2 trophy and a 47th Bundesliga campaign next season.
Simon Terodde is eyeing an instant return to the Bundesliga with Cologne. – imago
Star man: Simon Terodde
The 31-year-old – signed from VfB Stuttgart in January last season – has been in devastating form for Cologne, registering the most productive goalscoring campaign of his career. A total of 28 goals in 27 games have followed, including no fewer than three league hat-tricks. Alongside Jhon Cordoba (16 goals), Terodde has helped Cologne amass a whopping 74 league goals. “From my point of view, it’s extremely important that the weight of the goalscoring be spread over several shoulders,” Terodde told bundesliga.com. And those are some broad accumulative shoulders, indeed.
Goal difference: +8
Like Cologne, HSV are looking to bounce back to the Bundesliga at the first attempt after their first-ever relegation last season. They are currently in position to do just that, lying in second place with half a dozen games to go and a crucial trip to Cologne coming up on Matchday 29. Not only that, they have a DFB Cup semi-final against RB Leipzig to whet the appetite further. Improvement is needed, though, with HSV having picked up just one point from their last three matches. Trips to third-place Union Berlin (MD31) and fourth-place Paderborn (MD33) await, too, in what will be one of the trickiest run-ins of any of the teams bidding for promotion.
HSV captain Aaron Hunt (r.) has five league goals to his name this season. – imago
Star man: Aaron Hunt
Having missed those winless previous three matches with a hamstring injury, the HSV captain and all his vast experience are needed back in the side, and sharpish. HSV have lost just twice with Hunt leading the side, compared to five defeats, two draws and two wins in the nine league games without their skipper this season. His importance hasn’t been lost on coach Hannes Wolf: “We need him on the pitch, his absence has affected us. Hopefully he will be able to help the team again with his composure on the ball and smart passing play.”
Goal difference: +17
A 17-match unbeaten start to the season has seen the Berliners occupy third for the majority of the campaign thus far. Another five-match streak without tasting defeat was ended by Heidenheim on Matchday 26 which has sparked a three-game winless run that is Berlin’s most fruitless spell of the season. Coach Urs Fischer has put his side’s recent struggles down to a lack of goals, saying; “I think if I take the last three games, we’ve had enough goalscoring chances. I don’t think it’s mainly that we don’t create chances – maybe we have a mental block.”
Sebastian Andersson has two goals in four appearances for Sweden. – Imago
Star man: Sebastian Andersson
With goals at a premium in Berlin, the Swede could be just the man to fire Berlin into the Bundesliga next term. Capped four times by his country, Andersson is the club’s top-scorer this season with 11 goals. And those goals have already proven vital to the cause, with the Unioners unbeaten in each of the nine league games when Andersson has scored (W7, D2). Their final five games are favourable, with their hosting of HSV the only time Berlin take on any of the current top-six.
Goal difference: +24
Having been relegated in the only Bundesliga campaign in their history back in 2015, Paderborn were instantly relegated to the third division the following campaign. An 18th-placed finish meant they narrowly avoided a third consecutive relegation, this time to the Regionalliga, before bouncing back with promotion to the second-tier last season. Paderborn’s remarkable re-emergence from the brink would be complete with promotion back to the Bundesliga and, with just one point separating them from third spot’s playoff place, they’re more than in with a shout of doing just that. It would be the stuff of footballing fairy tales.
Paderborn are yet to lose a game in which Philipp Klement has scored. – Imago
Star man: Philipp Klement
The former Germany U20 international has 15 goals to his name from attacking midfield and, like Andersson in Berlin, is yet to taste defeat in any game in which he has found the back of the net. Three wins and a draw in their last four have Steffen Baumgart’s men heading into the final stretch of the season in fine form and with fixtures against Holstein Kiel, Heidenheim and Hamburg to come, it is vital impetus at a crucial time. Klement scored in each of those last four outings and should he continue in this form, Paderborn could well have their fairy tale promotion.
Goal difference: +11
Having lost out to Wolfsburg in last season’s relegation play-off, Kiel are hoping to go one better this time out and secure Bundesliga status for the first time in the club’s history. Only four points back from Berlin, The Storks are firmly in contention for a shot at redemption. Three defeats in their last five has not been ideal form for Tim Walter’s men, but with four of their final games coming against teams in the current bottom six, Holstein have a real opportunity to turn their fortunes around and move into the league’s promotion places.
Janni Serra joined Holstein Kiel from Borussia Dortmund in the summer. – Imago
Star man: Janni Serra
On the books of Borussia Dortmund last season, the 21-year-old has hit the ground running since making the move to the Holstein-Stadion in the summer. The club’s top-scorer with 10 Bundesliga 2 goals, Serra sat out the 2-1 win over St. Pauli last time out but will be expected to return and lead the line for the third-highest scorers in the league. “Janni Serra is a great striker, who is technically fine and is also very good at combining and finishing,” said Walter of his young forward, clearly enjoying greater first-team chances at Holstein. “Everyone is young and here in Kiel they have the opportunity to take the next step in their careers.”
Five years on from their first promotion to Bundesliga 2 in their history, Heidenheim have made headlines this season thanks to a journey to the DFB Cup quarter-finals that saw them narrowly beaten by Bayern Munich in a 5-4 thriller at the Allianz Arena. In his 12th year in charge, coach Frank Schmidt has rightly earned plaudits for his side’s achievements but with just two wins in their last eight, Heidenheim need to find form, and quickly, should they go on to earn a first promotion to the Bundesliga.
Robert Glatzer scored a stunning hat-trick in Heidenheim’s 5-4 DFB Cup defeat at Bayern Munich. – Imago
Star man: Robert Glatzel
Since returning from injury, the 25-year-old forward has five goals in 11 league appearances. A solid return but not quite as prolific as the seven goals in nine games he managed prior to being injured. However, Glatzel’s stunning hat-trick against Bayern showed the Munich-native is one for the big occasions, something that should bode well for Heidenheim over these crunch final weeks of the season. “You don’t even remember that they’re world champions you’re playing against,” said Glatzel after that breakout Bayern performance. Should Glatzel replicate that kind of form over the next five matches, Heidenheim could well produce one of the finest seasons in Bundesliga 2 history.
Goal difference: -3
Five games without a win have left St. Pauli pondering what could have been but four points back from third and six off city rivals HSV in second means they are far from out of the running. The Kiezkickers already have more points than the entirety of last season (43) as they search for a third Bundesliga tilt in their history and first promotion since finishing second in 2009-10. The men from Hamburg face none of the five teams above them in their final six matchdays, with only Heidenheim serving as opposition with promotion still on their agenda.
Alexander Meier has added both experience and goals to the St. Pauli team. – Imago
Star man: Alexander Meier
“We’re getting a forward with loads of experience. Alex embodies a type of striker we didn’t have in the squad,” said then coach Markus Kauczinski when signing Meier to a six-month deal in January. St. Pauli were in need of a proven goalscorer with Henk Veerman out with a ruptured ligament and the man Eintracht Frankfurt fans call the Fussballgott has proven to be an inspired signing. Six goals in 10 league matches have followed and St. Pauli will be looking to draw on every ounce of the 36-year-old’s 18-year professional career if they are to get promoted.