2. Bundesliga Season Preview Part Two: Nine more teams dreaming of big things

This Friday, the 2. Bundesliga returns for another season of twists and turns, with the rest of the league looking to shoot down ex-Bundesliga giants Hamburger SV and 1. FC Köln, as well as avoid the dreaded drop to the 3. Liga.

You can read part one of our season preview here, but in part two, we take a look at the remaining nine sides – SV Darmstadt 98, SV Sandhausen, FC St. Pauli, 1. FC Heidenheim, Dynamo Dresden, SpVgg Greuther Fürth, Erzgebirge Aue, 1. FC Magdeburg and SC Paderborn 07.

SV Darmstadt 98

Last season: 10th

Manager: Dirk Schuster

Pre-season friendlies: TSV Altheim (21-0 W), SKG Stockstadt (10-0 W), FC Hanau 93 (9-0 W), SV Oberachern (5-2 W), SV Linx (4-0 W), Huddersfield Town (1-1 D), Roda JC (4-1 W)

Opening game: Home to Paderborn (5 August)

Transfers in: Sebastian Hertner (Aue), Marcel Franke (Norwich City, loan), Marcel Heller (FC Augsburg), Serdar Dursun (Fürth)

Transfers out: Niklas Kern (VfR Wormatia Worms), Jan Rosenthal (retired), Markus Steinhöfer (released), Peter Niemeyer (retired), Kevin Großkreutz (KFC Uerdingen), Leo Petri (VfB Ginsheim), Joël Mall (Pafos FC), Silas Zehnder (SV Vikotria Aschaffenburg, loan)

Four wins in their first six games promised a strong challenge for an immediate return to the Bundesliga last season, but they wouldn’t win again until after Christmas as Torsten Frings and an uneven team of youngsters, journeymen and washed-up stars did not prove adept to a challenge at the wrong end of the 2. Bundesliga table. Schuster returned, and despite a tenth-placed finish, they only moved out of the bottom two in the penultimate weekend of the season.

Schuster helped bring back the defensive solidity that had taken them into the top flight, and kept them there, in his first spell in charge, and as the fourth best side in the Rückrunde, with little need for a further overhaul, they stand in good stead for the new campaign.

Dursun’s arrival just before the start of the season helps to ease a dearth of strikers, especially with Felix Platte injured, but their strengths still lie elsewhere. Daniel Heuer Fernandes was one of the most impressive goalkeepers in the league last season, Aytac Sulu continues to marshal the defence, whilst Tobias Kempe and the returning Heller reunite to provide a strong presence in the midfield. A push for promotion would be unexpected, but that was also the case in 2015-16, and the similarities between the two sides are there for all to see.

SV Sandhausen

Last season: 11th

Manager: Kenan Kocak

Pre-season friendlies: ASC Neuenheim (6-0 W), ASV/DJK Eppelheim (0-9 W), SV Oderachern (6-0 W), FC Metz (1-0 W), Middlesbrough (1-0 L), 1860 Munich (2-1 L), VfB Stuttgart (1-1 D)

Opening game: Away at Fürth (4 August)

Transfers In: Felix Müller (Würzburger Kickers), Kevin Behrens (1. FC Saarbrücken), Emanuel Taffertshofer (Würzburg), Fabian Schleusener (SC Freiburg, loan), Niklas Lomb (Bayer Leverkusen, loan), Alexander Rossipal (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim II), Mohamed Gouaida (Hamburg II), Florian Hansch (Chemnitzer FC), Aleksandr Zhirov (Enisey Krasnoyarsk), Jesper Verlaat (Werder Bremen II), Karim Guédé (Freiburg)

Transfers Out: Sahin Aygünes (released), José Pierre Vunguidica (Saarbrücken), Richard Sukuta-Pasu (MSV Duisburg), Damian Roßback (Karlsruher SC), Mirco Born (SV Meppen, loan), Ali Ibrahimaj (Uerdingen), Robert Herrmann (Aue), Manuel Stiefler (Karlsruhe), Julian-Maurice Derstroff (SSV Jahn Regensburg)

Despite being one of the smallest teams in the league, Sandhausen continue to defy expectations, as they came within a place of equalling their best-ever league position from a season earlier, despite relegation fears later in the campaign. The mastermind of the past two campaigns, Kocak, remains one of the highest-rated coaches in the league, and they have done well to keep a hold on him.

This summer has seen them continue their policy bringing in players from the lower leagues, although they have supplemented those with the loan signings of Schleusener, following a successful spell with Karlsruhe last year and Lomb. The former will help to revitalise their attack, whilst Behrens and Guédé will also challenge Andrew Wooten after his injury-hit campaign last time out.

Many will jump to the easy conclusion that they will be one of the strugglers, and if enough of their rivals get their act together than that could happen, but as long as Kocak remains around, only a fool would dismiss their chances altogether. A first-ever top half finish will be the aim, but they will have to avoid the dip of the second half of last season if they are to attain that.

FC St. Pauli

Last season: 12th

Manager: Markus Kauczinski

Pre-season friendlies: Hameln-Pyrmonter Allstars (10-1 W), Eutin 08 (4-0 W), SC Weiche Flensburg 08 (6-1 W), Brøndby IF (3-0 L), FC Pinzgau Saalfelden (8-0 W), FC Liefering (3-0 W), Karlsruhe (4-1 L), Stoke City (2-0 W)

Opening game: Away at Magdeburg (5 August)

Transfers in: Marvin Knoll (Regensburg), Mats Møller Dæhli (Freiburg)

Transfers out: Lasse Sobiech (Köln), Maurice Litka (Uerdingen, loan), Choi Kyoung-rok (Karlsruhe), Jöel Keller (Flensburg), Marvin Ducksch (Fortuna Düsseldorf)

As with most of the league last season, St. Pauli were constantly threating over relegation. They sacked Olaf Janßen after a 5-0 defeat to Bielefeld, and his replacement Markus Kauczinski didn’t have a huge impact. They lost four of their last six games, but the two wins in amongst those were enough to keep them up.

A lack of firepower was a big problem last season, with both Aziz Bouhaddouz and Sami Allagui misfiring. The worry this year is they haven’t bolstered their attack in the transfer market, whilst they were never any real prospect of convincing Ducksch to stay after his loan spell at Holstein Kiel. Allagui has shown some promising signs in pre-season though, with 11 goals in eight games.

If Kauczinski can get the likes of Cenk Sahin, Wadlemar Sobota, Christopher Buchtmann and Møller Dæhli (now a St. Pauli player outright) to fire like they did the season before last, St. Pauli could be challenging at the right end of the table this time, with the presence of city rivals HSV motivation in itself. If not, they could be in danger of sleepwalking their way to a relegation scrap.

1. FC Heidenheim

Last season: 13th

Manager: Frank Schmidt

Pre-season friendlies: Sportfreunde Fleinheim (16-1 W), SCR Altach (1-1 D), TV Neuler (7-0 W), FSV Reimlingen (18-0 W), SV Nersingen (21-0 W), LASK Linz (4-0 W), SV Wallern (2-0 W), FC Krylia Sovetov Samara (0-0 D), Hellas Verona (0-0, lost on penalties)

Opening game: Home to Arminia Bielefeld (5 August)

Transfers in: Robert Andrich (SV Wehen Wiesbaden), Patrick Schmidt (Saarbrücken), Patrick Mainka (Borussia Dortmund II), Niklas Dorsch (Bayern Munich)

Transfers out: John Verhoek (Duisburg), Marcel Titsch Rivero (released), Ibrahim Hajtic (Würzburg), Kevin Kraus (1. FC Kaiserslautern), Dave Gnaase (Würzburg), Ronny Philp (1. FC Schweinfurt), Dominik Widemann (SpVgg Unterhaching)

Another of the league’s smaller teams, last season would have been a disappointing one for the long-serving Frank Schmidt, as they battled to keep the heads above water at the wrong end of the table, a season after finishing sixth. Like Sandhausen though, stability has been their strength. Schmidt will reach 11 years in the job in September, whilst skipper Marc Schnatterer, club legend and 2. Bundesliga icon, has now served for a decade.

They had one of the leakiest defences last season, yet with only the additional of Mainka in that position, signs in pre-season have been promising. Aside the routs against local teams, they remained unbeaten against Austrian Bundesliga sides Altach and LASK, whilst Verona, recently relegated from Serie A, only beat them on penalties.

Up front, they may miss the presence of Verhoek, however they will hope that Patrick Schmidt can replicate his Regionalliga Südwest scoring record, and if not they still have existing options to lead their attack. Last season will have been a warning for them as they look forward to the new campaign, and they know they must improve if they are to continue their stay in the league.

Dynamo Dresden

Last season: 14th

Manager: Uwe Neuhaus

Pre-season friendlies: BSG Stahl Riesa (8-0 W), BSG Wismut Gera (6-1 W), Chemnitz (1-0 W), FSV Zwickau (3-2 W), Huddersfield (0-0 D), Kaiserslautern (2-1 L), Aston Villa (2-1 L)

Opening game: Home to Duisburg (6 August)

Transfers in: Jannis Nikolaou (Würzburg), Dario Đumić (FC Utrecht, loan), Patrick Ebert (FC Ingolstadt 04), Brian Hamalainen (SV Zulte Waregem), Tim Boss (Fortuna Köln), Baris Atik (Hoffenheim), Inus Wahlqvist (IFK Norrköping)

Transfers out: Niklas Hauptmann (Köln), Manuel Konrad (Uerdingen), Fabian Müller (Chemnitz), Marc Wachs (Wiesbaden), Andreas Lambertz (Düsseldorf II), Peniel Mlapa (VVV-Venlo, loan)

A loss of several key players last summer lowered expectations after Dresden finished fifth the season before, and they wound up fifth-bottom in the end, spending most of the season in the lower half of the table. Neuhaus survived talks over his future following that disappointing campaign, with the pressure on him to improve things this time around.

Whilst several regulars from recent seasons have departed, it will be the loss of Hauptmann that will be most keenly felt, even if it was always likely he would move to a bigger club in the end. Their signings have not been particularly impressive, however right-back Wahlqvist comes from Swedish club Norrköpking, a proven breeding ground for 2. Bundesliga talent in recent seasons.

They will have to improve their home form this campaign – they won just five times at the DDV-Stadion last year. If the 28,000 or so regulars can inspire their team once more then they should be alright, but in a league where no-one is safe, a slow start would leave the axe hanging over the head of Neuhaus and relegation would be a real possibility.

SpVgg Greuther Fürth

Last season: 15th

Manager: Damir Burić

Pre-season friendlies: TSV Aubstadt (4-1 W), FSV Stadeln (5-0 W), ASV Zirndorf (8-0 W), ASV Vach (5-0 W), Würzburg (2-1 W), Eintracht Braunschweig (1-0 L), Liefering (2-0 L), Eintracht Frankfurt (0-0 D)

Opening game: Home to Sandhausen (4 August)

Transfers in: Mario Maloca (Lechia Gdansk), Tobias Mohr (Alemannia Aachen), Maximilian Sauer (Braunschweig), Daniel Keita-Ruel (Fortuna Köln), Julian Green (Stuttgart), Leon Schaffran (Hertha BSC II), David Atanga (Red Bull Salzburg, loan), Elias Abouchabaka (RB Leipzig, loan)

Transfers out: Sercan Sararer (unattached), Jürgen Gjasula (unattached), Mathis Bolly (unattached), Dominik Schad (Kaiserslautern), Khaled Narey (Hamburg), Ádám Pintér (MTK Budapest), Balázs Megyeri (Atromitos Athen), Tolcay Ciğerci (unattached), Stephen Sama (Heracles Almelo), Dursun (Darmstadt)

A disastrous start to last season set the tone of the campaign for the Shamrocks, losing nine of their first 13 games as they spent much of the season in the relegation zone. János Radoki was sacked early on and his replacement Burić only slowly turned things around. Their form was much stronger in the second half of the campaign, and was enough to ensure their failure to win any of the last six games didn’t cost them dear.

They have spent the summer refreshing the squad, getting rid of the deadwood, committing Maloca and Green to permanent deals, and bringing in new faces at both ends of the pitch. Sauer is amongst the faces brought in to bolster the defence, whilst they will hope that Keita-Ruel and loanees Atanga and Abouchabaka can bolster a misfiring attack.

Given their struggles last season though, few are expecting them to compete at the right end of the table, and before the season starts they still appear obvious candidates for possible relegation. Their pre-season results have been mixed, despite a decent draw with Frankfurt, but if Burić has drilled his ideas home to his squad over the summer, they can still make a success of the season.

Erzgebirge Aue

Last season: 16th (won play-off)

Manager: Daniel Meyer

Pre-season friendlies: FSV Limbach-Oberfrohna (17-0 W), SV Wildenstein (25-0 W), VfB Auerbach (2-0 W), SV Tanne Thalheim (13-0 W), VfB Grünhain-Beierfeld (23-0 W), Hallescher FC (3-2 W), FK Mladá Boleslav (3-3 D), Samara (5-0 W), FSV Budissa Bautzen (2-0 W), Auerbach (1-1 D), Schalke 04 (1-0 W)

Opening game: Away at 1. FC Union Berlin (5 August)

Transfers in: Jan Hochscheidt (Braunschweig), Steve Breitkreuz (Braunschweig), Tom Baumgart (Chemnitz), Luke Hemmerich (Schalke), Filip Kusić (Köln II), Herrmann (Sandhausen), Emmanuel Iyoha (Düsseldorf, loan), Maximilian Pronichev (Hertha, loan)

Transfers out: Vincent Michl (released), Tommy Käßelmodel (retired), Moise Ngwisani (Borussia Mönchengladbach II), Cebio Soukou (FC Hansa Rostock), Nicky Adler (1. FC Lokomotive Leipzig), Mirnes Pepić (Rostock), Hertner (Darmstadt), Pascal Köpke (Hertha)

In early Spring, Aue were looking doomed, and it looked increasingly inevitable that young coach Hannes Drews, plucked from obscurity like now-Schalke coach Domenico Tedesco, would soon be given the boot. The Violas stuck by their man though, and he ultimately guided them to a play-off victory over Karlsruhe to maintain their 2. Bundesliga status.

Drews left for personal reasons though, and now Meyer has the difficult task of trying to avoid yet another season of 2. Bundesliga struggle. Hochscheidt and Breitkreuz have returned from relegated Braunschweig, but they have lost last season’s top scorer Köpke, who has joined Hertha. Meyer’s background is in youth coaching which could help in getting goals out of loan signings Iyoha and Pronichev, but he will also need the likes of Dimitrij Nazarov and Mario Kvesic to fire too.

They have the tools to survive, however they are perennial strugglers in the league and they are understandably amongst the favourites to go down once more. Despite having the experienced Martin Männel to marshal them, they are leaky and the back whilst their flare players can struggle when things get tough. A successful fight against the drop could be the best they can hope for once more.

1. FC Magdeburg

Last season: 1st (3. Liga)

Manager: Jens Härtel

Pre-season friendlies: Brandenburger SC Süd (6-0 W), FSV Optik Rathenow (0-0 D), Eintracht Norderstedt (2-1 W), TV Askania Bernburg (5-0 W), VfB Lübeck (2-2 D), Energie Cottbus (3-1 W), Germania Halberstadt (5-0 W), Swansea City (0-0, won on penalties), Genoa (2-0 W), SSV Markranstädt (9-0 W), Paderborn (3-0 L)

Opening game: Home to St. Pauli (5 August)

Transfers in: Rico Preißinger (VfR Aalen), Manfred Osei Kwadwo (Kaiserslautern), Joel Abu Hanna (Kaiserslautern), Tobias Müller (Halle), Jasmin Fejzic (Braunschweig), Marius Bütler (SV Rödinghausen), Aleksandar Ignjovski (Freiburg), Mërgim Berisha (Salzburg)

Transfers out: Jan Glinker (FSV Wacker Nordhausen), Felix Schiller (VfL Osnabrück), Tobias Schwede (Paderborn), Andreas Ludwig (released), Gerrit Müller (released), Julius Düker (Paderborn), Andre Hainault (Kaisersalutern), Lukas Cichos (Rot-Weiß Erfurt), Leon Heynke (Halberstadt)

It is incredible to think that for the former East German giants and one-time Cup Winners’ Cup winners, this is a first-ever campaign in the 2. Bundesliga. After years in the doldrums, three strong 3. Liga campaigns under Härtel eventually led to winning the third-tier title last season. They bring with them a passionate set of supporters, many of whom will be too young to remember the glory days and now hoping to see some success.

Losing both Schwede and Düker to fellow new boys Paderborn was a blow, but by and large they retain the squad that has brought them up, including Philip Türpitz, named the best player in the 3. Liga last season thanks to 17 goals and eight assists, whilst Marcel Costly is one to watch as well. They have signed a fair bit of 2. Bundesliga pedigree too, including goalkeeper Fejzic, Ignjovski, Osei Kwadwo and Abu Hanna.

There have been some strong pre-season results, but also a 3-0 defeat to Paderborn. They have been tipped as the more likely of the two promoted sides to matching the success of Kiel, Regensburg and Duisburg last season, who all managed to finish in the top half of the table. That is certainly possible, although the comparative lack of experience at this level is a concern.

SC Paderborn 07

Last season: 2nd (3. Liga)

Manager: Steffen Baumgart

Pre-season friendlies: FSV Bad Wünnenberg (6-0 W), Delbrücker SC (9-0 W), KSV Hessen Kassel (4-3 W), SC Verl (1-1 D), Norwich (3-2 L), AS Monaco (3-2 W), Magdeburg (3-0 W)

Opening game: Away at Darmstadt (5 August)

Transfers in: Sebastian Vasiliadis (Aalen), Klaus Gjasula (Halle), Schwede (Magdeburg), Düker (Magdeburg), Uwe Hünemeier (Brighton & Hove Albion), Leon Brüggemeier (Hertha II), Luca Pfeiffer (Stuttgarter Kickers), Mohamed Dräger (Freiburg), Marlon Ritter (Düsseldorf), Bernard Tekpetey (Schalke)

Transfers out: Marc Vucinovic (released), Christian Bickel (Zwickau), Pascal Itter (Chemnitz), Ron Schallenberg (Verl), Pfeiffer (Osnabrück), Darryl Geurts (Erfurt), Till Brinkmann (Halberstadt), Timo Mauer (Chemnitz), Aykut Soyak (FC Viktoria 1889 Berlin)

Paderborn have been on one hell of a rollercoaster in the past few years. Relegated from the Bundesliga after just a season in 2015, they dropped straight through the 2. Bundesliga and were relegated from the 3. Liga, until 1860 Munich’s failure to get a licence redeemed them. Incredibly, Baumgart’s side exceeded all expectations last season, leading the way in the 3. Liga for the majority of the campaign, cruising to promotion but just pipped to the title by Magdeburg.

Like last season’s promotion rivals, they will have been encouraged by the success of the promoted sides last season, but it remains to be seen if they can convert their third-tier form to challenge for a second, even more incredible rise into the Bundesliga.

Despite plenty of outgoings over the summer, few were key players for Baumgart, whilst amongst the new arrivals are Hünemeier, brought back to East Westphalia from the Premier League, and promising youngster Tekpetey, as well as the two newcomers from Magdeburg. If they can remain tight at the back and productive up front, with Sven Michel coming close to matching his 19 goals from last season, they should hold their own in the league, but anything more than that is a pipe dream, for now.