The pre-season preparation is over and it is time to kick things off on another exciting season of 2.Bundesliga football action. There is no shortage of big teams vying to get back to the top tier and the upcoming season promises to be as fascinating as ever. Strap yourselves in as we look ahead to the opening weekend of the 2023/24 season.
Hamburger SV v Schalke
Whether by chance or design, the fixture computer has provided a real doozy of a matchup for the season’s opener on Friday as the two biggest names in the division go head to head. Hamburg host Schalke at the Volksparkstadion with both sides amongst the favourites to clinch the title in 34 games time. HSV are beginning their sixth season in the second tier and are looking to finally make the jump from season-long contenders to actual promotion-worthy material.
Last season saw them finish third and then be defeated in the play-off against VfB Stuttgart. Tim Walter has been promised the funds to splash on his squad, but ahead of the opening night, he has a defensive headache on his hands with four key players (and both captains) out of contention.
Schalke made an immediate return to the 2.Bundesliga after finishing as champions in 2022, but Thomas Reis will take heart from the fact that in last season’s Rückrunde, the Königsblauen were amongst the top half of the Bundesliga’s best performing sides. A good start against one of their biggest rivals for promotion would sent out a real message of intent.
There have been some good signings in Timo Baumgartl, Paul Seguin, Bryan Lasme, Ron Schallenberg and Marvin Pieringer, but the key will be how quickly the new players settle in.
Kaiserslautern v St. Pauli
Both clubs had a more than respectable season last time out and will be looking to improve this season. A ninth place finish after being promoted from the 3.Liga was a solid campaign from the Red Devils and they have kept their squad intact. Ragnar Ache has been signed from Eintracht Frankfurt after being on loan at Greuther Fürth last season and he will provide a decent back-up to the goals that Terrence Boyd provided last season.
St. Pauli’s Rückrunde performance was nothing short of immense as new coach Fabian Hürzeler turned the Kiezkicker from a side battling relegation to a side seemingly incapable of losing. Their ultimate fifth place finish saw them fall short, but the potential is there to have another good season. Leart Paqarada’s departure leaves a hole, but once again St. Pauli will be looking to be the top dogs in Hamburg.
Hannover v SV Elversberg
Last season’s 3.Liga champions open their account in the 2.Bundesliga with a trip to Hannover and as always for a newly promoted side, a good start is always the immediate goal. They began last season by beating Bayer Leverkusen in the first round of the DFB Pokal and in their one and only previous meeting with Hannover they also won in the DFB Pokal (5-4 on penalties in 2010 when their opponents were in the Bundesliga). Coach Horst Steffen will begin the season with the rump of the side that triumphed last season in the third tier.
Hannover’s tenth place finish last season saw them end up in the bottom half of the table, which is far from where their ambitions lie. The arrival of Marcel Halstenberg from RB Leipzig will add quality to their defensive unit, but question marks remain as to whether the squad has the quality to launch a genuine tilt at promotion.
VfL Osnabrück v Karlsruhe
Osnabrück finished just four points behind champions Elversberg in the 3.Liga last season and built a lot of their success on a solid defence. They have only conceded one goal in their pre-season matches so are looking to continue their miserliness in the second tier. Ten new players have been signed , so the first task will be to get the squad acclimatised and playing the football coach Tobias Schweinsteiger requires.
KSC finished a respectable seventh last season and have added Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Lars Stindl to their ranks this season. Dzenis Burnic has also been added while Robin Bormuth from Paderborn will add defensive options. Another top ten finish would be seen as a success for the club from the Wildpark Stadion.
SV Wehen Wiesbaden v Magdeburg
Wiesbaden comfortably came through their play-off with Arminia Bielefeld last season after finishing fourth in the table, but after the euphoria of promotion comes the reality of trying to stay in the league. Trainer Markus Kauczinski doesn’t have a lot of 2.Liga experience in his squad, but he will be optimistic having seen his side keep Belgian first division sides St. Truiden and Fortuna Sittard goalless in recent friendlies.
Magdeburg finished 11th last season, but beat Hamburg and drew with Heidenheim in the final weeks of the season showing that on their day, they are a match for anyone. Christian Titz has enjoyed a problem-free pre-season and the there is a feeling of real optimism at the club.
Fortuna Düsseldorf v Hertha Berlin
Fallen giants Hertha Berlin start life back in the 2.Bundesliga with a trip to Düsseldorf and Pal Dardai will be all too aware of how difficult HSV have found it to get back to the top flight. The Alte Dame will start the season amongst the favourites on paper, but they have to start producing the performances that were so lacking last season. There will be money to spend, but past experience has shown that simply throwing money at a problem isn’t necessarily the correct course of action. Dardai will be looking to promote youth this season and make an instant return to the Bundesliga.
Fortuna’s fourth place finish was impressive, but they were a full eight points behind third place Hamburg at the end of the campaign. The squad is well established and last season will have given them a lot of confidence going into this new season. The only concern might be the lack of an out-and-out goalscorer with Dawid Kownacki’s departure to Werder Bremen.
Greuther Fürth v Paderborn
Fürth dallied a little too long near the bottom end of the table last season, but ultimately secured their place with time to spare. Paderborn were promotion contenders for the majority of the season. A recent 4-4 friendly draw against Liverpool will have given the Kleeblätter a real boost, but they face a stiff test this weekend with the arrival of Paderborn.
Hansa Rostock v Nürnberg
Both sides had a season last year fighting at the bottom end of the table and for Nürnberg in particular things were looking rather precarious for a time. Der Klub have brought in Spaniard Cristian Fiel as their new head coach and will be looking for a fresh start. He will be looking to iron out the numerous problems of last season, while injecting a new brand of attacking football. Hansa remain a little too reliant on Kai Pröger, but have been looking fairly stable defensively in their pre-season matches.
Eintracht Braunschweig v Holstein Kiel
Braunschweig survived their first season back in the 2.Bundesliga by the skin of their teeth, but at least they survived. Ideally they would see an improvement this season, but have lost key man Immanuel Pherai to HSV. Anthony Ujah remains their focal point in attack and the regularity of his goals will be key this season. Kiel finished a respectable eighth last season, but have lost Fabian Reese to Hertha Berlin. They were defensively fragile last season with 61 goals conceded, but the arrival of Carl Johansson should help improve this aspect