A new 2. Bundesliga season starts tonight in Hamburg with a meeting of the league’s two biggest clubs, HSV and Schalke 04.
What odds these two would meet on the much anticipated opening day? Given that Schalke hosted Hamburg in the season opener in 2021/22, the fixtures maybe aren’t as random as the DFL would probably tell you.
Whenever clubs this size meet outside the top flight, it’s often said that it should be happening in the Bundesliga instead – ignoring the sporting reality. This time it’s probably more true than before. Without Mario Vuskovic’s (quite possibly wrongful) suspension, HSV would surely have gone up last season. And though Schalke finished 17th in last year’s Bundesliga, they spent most of the Rückrunde as one of the league’s best and most exciting teams.
Although it’s great to have a game like this to kick off what should be a great season of 2. Liga, it may also prove to be a bit of a shame that this matchup takes place on Matchdays 1 and 18, rather than later in the season where it might have more immediate consequence.
In some ways, neither team is quite ready for such an important game. Schalke only secured a replacement for sponsor MeinAuto yesterday and centre-back Moritz Jenz the day before. Hamburg haven’t spent much of their reported budget, and have only really upgraded one of their weak points from last season.
Still, this time it feels bigger than it was two years ago. That time, Bremen were also in the league, and both Schalke and Hamburg were at the start of a rebuild. This time, these two are the unquestionable favourites for promotion. They aren’t just the two biggest names in the league, but in theory the two best prepared for a title challenge. Hamburg missed out very narrowly last year, kept hold of all their stars, and have added one of the league’s most exciting players in Immanuel Pherai. Where last time they had Dimitrios Grammozis, Schalke have Thomas Reis instead, who won the title in his only full season as a 2. Liga coach.
The game will be shown live on free national TV in Germany. Because there’s no other major men’s football to compete with, and because of the two teams involved, it may actually be one of the most-watched games on German TV all season. It should be a great advert for what should be a great season of 2. Bundesliga football.
You can watch for free on ran.de if you are in Germany or have a VPN.