While it has to be put into perspective, it hasn’t been the best of weeks for 1.FC Köln. Losing the Rheinderby to rivals Borussia Mönchengladbach was a blow, but then a second loss to Serbians Partizan Belgrade in the Europa Conference League in midweek has seriously damaged their chances of progression from the group.
They have also found themselves sliding down the Bundesliga table after a run of four points from four matches meaning they currently sit ninth, level on points with visitors Augsburg.
Again, a sense of perspective is needed as in previous recent seasons the Geißböcke have been struggling with relegation rather than pushing for Europe, but that is the improvement in ambitions that coach Steffen Baumgart has created.
They will want (and get) a raucous home support at the Rhein-Energie Stadion to push them on after their recent disappointments and a return to the periphery of the top six is on the cards.
Augsburg however provide a tricky opponent and the Fuggerstädter were disappointed themselves last week not to make it four wins on the spin after they were held 1-1 by VfL Wolfsburg. Keeper Rafal Gikiewicz was ruled out by injury, but his deputy Tomas Koubek played a blinder in his place.
Defence hasn’t been the concern for Augsburg so far this season, it’s been the other end of the pitch where they have only scored nine goals, Only the bottom two Stuttgart and Bochum have scored fewer, but the return from suspension of Mergim Berisha will help in this respect.
The sending off of key man Florian Kainz in the Rheinderby means that coach Baumgart has to reshuffle, but his options are limited somewhat by the injury list at the club. Sargis Adamyan could fill in for Kainz, with Linton Maina joining Steffen Tigges in attack. With Dejan Ljubicic out injured, the impressive recent substitute appearances of Denis Huseinbasic could be rewarded with a start.
Possible line-up: Schwäbe, Schmitz, Kilian, Hübers, Hector, Skhiri, Huseinbasic, Duda, Adamyan, Maina, Tigges
Both Maxi Bauer and Jeffrey Gouweeleeiw are out through suspension, so Enrico Maaßen is forced into a defensive reshuffle. He could revert to a back three. Tomas Koubek will continue to deputise for the injured Gikiewicz. There is a slight doubt over Mergim Berisha after he left training this week with an injury.
Possible line-up: Koubek, Framberger, Gumny, Winther, Iago, Rexhbecaj, Gruezo, Vargas, Demirovic, Niederlechner, Berisha
What they’re saying:
Steffen Baumgart: “In one situation or another, we sometimes lack that little bit of what you need. Our goal now has to be to win the next two games. We will do everything we can to achieve that.”
Enrico Maaßen: “We want to bring the style of football that we have shown in the last few weeks onto the pitch in Cologne. We’re in really good shape and it’s our big goal to take something countable with us again.
“With regard to the Bundesliga, Cologne has certainly rested a few players internationally in order to keep the necessary freshness. A cauldron will await us, but we have to take care of ourselves and we’re looking forward to the game. We have several options for the defensive line, but we don’t want to let our cards be looked at. A back three is also possible.”
13.10.22 Partizan Belgrade (a) 2-0 L (Conference League)
09.10.22 Borussia Mönchengladbach (a) 5-2 L (Bundesliga)
06.10.22 Partizan Belgrade (h) 0-1 L (Conference League)
01.10.22 Borussia Dortmund (h) 3-2 W (Bundesliga)
18.09.22 VfL Bochum (a) 1-1 D (Bundesliga)
08.10.22 VfL Wolfsburg (h) 1-1 D (Bundesliga)
02.10.22 Schalke (a) 2-3 W (Bundesliga)
17.09.22 Bayern Munich (h) 1-0 W (Bundesliga)
09.09.22 Werder Bremen (a) 0-1 W (Bundesliga)
04.09.22 Hertha Berlin (h) 0-2 L (Bundesliga)
The corresponding fixture at the Rhein-Energie Stadion last season occurred on matchday 15 and brought a 2-0 win for the away side. It was Köln’s first home defeat of the season, but second half goals from Andre Hahn and Niklas Dorsch saw Augsburg leave with all three points.
Players to watch:
Steffen Baumgart has a real reputation for spotting players and improving them and Denis Huseinbasic could be his next success story. The 21-year-old arrived from Offenbach in the summer for just €50,000, but the all-round midfielder has impressed in cameo substitute appearances and Baumgart looks set to give him his chance in the absence of Ljubicic.
Goals have been hard to come by for Augsburg this season, so Mergim Berisha is going to be key of that is to change. He scored against Bayern in the famous win earlier this season, before a sending off kept him out. More firepower is needed and the summer signing from Turkey could be the one to provide it.