MSV Duisburg make the trip to Würzburg and the almost sold-out flyeralarm Arena on Friday night, in what should be a superb play-off encounter.
A place in the 2016-17 2. Bundesliga shake-up is at stake, and both teams are desperate to be there come the latter summer months.
Würzburg hoping to make it back-to-back promotions
12 years ago, Würzburg were celebrating their promotion from the 7th tier of German football, the Bezirksliga Unterfranken. Four further promotions, and one relegation have followed since to leave them on the cusp of the second division. Only once have the team managed this before, after winning the Bayernliga, back in 1977. They are desperate to make it back to the 2. Bundesliga again and seal a second successive promotion.
Captain Amir Shapourzadeh will be key to their chances on Friday. Their midfield maestro has eight goals to his name this season, the same as Elia Soriano, and will be hoping to guide the club to another play-off win. 1. FC Saarbrücken were defeated two-nil on aggregate to bring the Kickers back to the 3. Liga, and whose to say they can't go on and do something similar? With a 12-game unbeaten run on the go, they will be full of confidence of ending a near 40-year absence from the 2. Bundesliga
Duisburg desperate to beat the drop
Würzburg are full of confidence, of that there is no doubt, but Duisburg will be raring to go themselves. They looked dead and buried before 13 points from a possible 18 saved their skins, including a stunning win on the final day over RB Leipzig. Giorgi Chanturia showed his quality on Sunday past and will be required to do that all over again to ensure that the Zebras don't make an immediate return to the third tier.
The decision to replace Gino Lettieri with Iliya Gruev has proved to be an inspired one, with the recent run showing what can be done with solid defensive work. The defence will need to put in a similar showing if Duisburg are to maintain their 2. Bundesliga status, and they have conceded just five goals in their previous five games. Marcel Lenz, a MSV fan through and through, kept Leipzig out in the last game and doing so again with Würzburg on Friday would mean a lot to him.
Würzburg come into the play-off fresh and fit, with no injury worries or players absent through suspension.
Duisburg are far from at full strength and have both Michael Ratajczak and Victor Obinna injured for the game. Martin Dausch, Pierre De Wit, Baris Özbek and Andreas Weigel are suffering from more long-term injury worries and will also miss out. The big hope for Duisburg will be to get the former duo fit and ready for the second leg.
Würzburger Kickers: (4-2-3-1) Wulnikowski; Nothnagel, Weil, Schoppenhauer, Kurzweg; Taffertshofer, Fennell; Daghfous, Karsanidis, Shapourzadeh; Soriano.
MSV Duisburg: (4-4-2) Lenz; Bohl, Meißner, Bajic, Poggenberg; Chanturia, Holland, Hajri, Wolze; Onuegbu, Iljutcenko.