1. FC Nürnberg - 2. Bundesliga 2016-17 Season Preview: Will Der Club make their return to Germany's top flight?

Is promotion on the card's for Nürnberg in the 2016/17 season or will there be more heartbreak for the Bavarian club.

1. FC Nürnberg - 2. Bundesliga 2016-17 Season Preview: Will Der Club make their return to Germany's top flight?
Image credit: VAVEL

With the Euros all wrapped up football fans now find themselves longing for the return of club football, fortunately for those that follow Germany's lower leagues the return to action isn't far away.

The 2. Bundesliga starts soon so why not settle down and read up on promotion candidates 1. FC Nürnberg, who agonisingly missed out on promotion last season.

Despite narrowly missing out on promotion Der Club can look back on last season with pride, following a disappointing return to the 2. Bundesliga two season's ago they managed to rebuild and put up a fantastic fight at the top of the table last campaign against two heavy hitters in SC Freiburg and RB Leipzig.

Nürnberg finished in third place last season behind those two sides and impressively finished twelve points ahead of fourth place.

With their play-off spot confirmed they had to battle with Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt for a place in the German top flight.

Der Club did excellently to hold the Bundesliga side to a 1-1 draw, while in the process grabbing a vital away goal. Sadly for Nürnberg it wasn't to be as Frankfurt scored the only goal in the second leg to keep themselves in the top flight.

After coming so close to a return to the Bundesliga Der Club will certainly fancy their chances of promotion in the 2016/17 campaign.

However they will find similar challenges to last season as they'll have to fight for the top spots with two more heavyweights as both Hannover 96 and VfB Stuttgart dropped down to the 2. Bundesliga. Anything lower than a top three finish will be a disappointment for the Bavarian club.

The transfer window is still young and so far Nürnberg have managed to keep their squad largely together with just a couple of changes. Coming into the club they've brought in valuable experience and quality in the shape of Tobias Kempe, who helped SV Darmstadt 98 to promotion a couple of season's ago and played a big part in Darmstadt's survival in the Bundesliga last season.

Left winger Edgar Salli arrived from French side AS Monaco on a free transfer and the only other incoming changes has seen forward Jakub Sylvestr and central midfielder Willi Evseev return to the club following loan spells away from the club. While right-back Tobias Pachonik returned from his loan spell before moving to Schalke 04 II.

Top scorer Niclas Füllkrug has left for Hannover 96.

So far their hasn't been too many leaving the club either, Zoltán Stieber has returned to Hamburg, Jürgen Mössmer and Robert Koch were both released after making just one appearance each last season. Experienced midfielder Jan Polak left the club after his contact expired and returned to the Czech Republic.

The other three players to leave the club were more of a bigger blow, Sebastian Kerk returned to his parent club Freiburg after making sixteen appearances contributing with four goals and four assists, while Danny Blum was snapped up by Eintracht Frankfurt thanks to his impressive four goals and eight assists during his thirty-four games last season.

Perhaps the most disappointing departure has seen the club's highest goalscorer last season (14 goals) Niclas Füllkrug leave for Hannover 96. The 23-year-old was a great investment and has tons of potential, he was set to be a key man this season, however he will now be one of Hannover's key player's during the upcoming campaign.

With the squad remaining largely intact Der Club have started pre-season very well, they've played five games so far and they've managed to remain unbeaten. 

TSV Kornburg provided a tough test and Nürnberg edged past them in a 3-2 win, Wacker Innsbruck were dispatched comfortably 2-0, FC Winterthur even more so as Nürnberg eased to a 5-1 victory, Der Club were then 2-0 winners over FSV Zwickau before drawing 1-1 to Chemnitzer FC on Sunday. The last friendly before the season kicks off sees Nürnberg go up against Bundesliga outfit FC Augsburg.

Key Man: Guido Burgstaller

Can Guido Burgstaller fire Nürnberg to the top?

Nürnberg were the second highest scorers in the 2. Bundesliga last season with a staggering sixty-eight goals and one of the reason's why was because of their 27-year-old attacker Guido Burgstaller. The Austrian had his best ever season achieving his highest scoring tally of thirteen league goals.

Not only is his goals vital to Nürnberg's success this season his link-up play with his teammates are just as vital and last season he managed to create seven goals, meaning out of the sixty-eight league goals Nürnebrg scored last season Burgstaller was involved in twenty of them. Defences will have to be at the top of their game next season to deny this Austrian who has a key part to play in Nürnberg's promotion challenge.

Key Man: Tobias Kempe

Tobias Kempe will look to make an impression on his new club's fans.

One other player to keep an eye out for during Nürnberg's campaign is new arrival Tobias Kempe. The winger will be looking to make an impression with his new club following a frustrating season with Bundesliga outfit Darmstadt.

Despite making thirty-one appearances in the top flight twenty-two of them were off the bench meaning a lack of impact from the winger. Nevertheless in the 2. Bundesliga Kempe is an excellent option on the wings and in Darmstadt's one year in the second tier his pace and delightful deliveries saw him score four and create six goals from the wing. Nürnberg will be hopeful he can rediscover that type of form for them this season.

New man in charge for the new season

At the end of last season Nürnberg lost René Weiler to Belgian giants RSC Anderlecht after guiding the club to a third place finish. Alois Schwartz has been appointed as Weiler's replacement and the former Sandhausen head coach isn't a bad choice for the Bavarian club after doing a fantastic job in stabilising the club in the 2.Bundesliga.

In the last three season's they've not just surprisingly avoided the drop they've done so comfortably finishing 12th for two seasons and 13th last campaign after an excellent start to the campaign.

The club seem excited about the appointment and fans of Nürnberg will hope Schwartz can drive them over the finish line and into the Bundesliga. 

Alois Schwartz switches to Nürnberg.

Andreas Bornemann spoke to the club's website about the appointment, "In the discussions we quickly found that we think in the same direction, he was immediately taken to the task here in Nuremberg. We look forward to future cooperation".

While Schwartz mentioned why he took the job, "I wanted this opportunity at Der Club because I find the job here very exciting. I look forward to this traditional club with its unique fans." Before wishing his former club luck, "I would also like to thank the SV Sandhausen for three great years and the club for the future wish all the best".

With the season just around the corner Schwartz's side look in good shape to make a promotion push next season and with a couple more players they should be making the top three.

After Füllkrug's departure the club only have three strikers in the shape of 27-year-old pair Burgstaller and Sylvestr, while the third choice will be youngster Cedric Teuchert. At least one more striker is needed to help keep the goal scoring burden off the shoulders of Burgstaller. Der club could also do with a couple more defensive options, mainly in the fullback positions. 

Der Club will definitely be one of the team's to watch next season, hopefully for all the right reason's rather than the woes of two season's ago.