After picking up just two points from their first eight games, 2. Bundesliga side MSV Duisburg have replaced head coach Iliya Gruev with Torsten Lieberknecht.
It is a first appointment for Lieberknecht since leaving Eintracht Braunschweig in May, following their surprise relegation to the 3. Liga.
48-year-old Gruev leaves the Zebras after nearly three years, during which time he won the 3. Liga title with the club. Assistant coach Yontcho Arsov has also parted company with the club.
Decision made with ‘a heavy heart’
Gruev arrive at Duisburg as the replacement for Gino Lettieri in late 2015, with the club in a similarly precarious situation. Despite a brave battle against the drop, they eventually went down at that end of that season in a play-off against Würzburger Kickers, but bounced straight back the following season as 3. Liga champions.
Last season looked to have re-establish the club in the second tier, as they finished in a credible eight place, albeit just eight points off both the promotions and relegation play-off places. Despite a confident mood before the start of the season, they have picked up just two draws so far, with Gruev’s last game a 3-1 defeat to SSV Jahn Regensburg.
Club President Ingo Wald admitted that it “hurt” to let go of both Greuv and Arsov and that the decision had been made with “a heavy heart.” However sporting director Ivo Grlic admitted that the club needed to “urgently put in place the necessary impetus” to avoid relegation. Gruev himself described his time with the club as “more than a job,” and they would “always remain close to my heart.”
First job away from Braunschweig
Lieberknecht had spent fifteen years with Braunschweig, including four as a player and a ten-year spell in charge, but was powerless to stop his side declining from a third-place finish in 2017 to finishing second bottom last season, seeing them relegated to the third tier. As coach he had led them from the Regionalliga Nord into the Bundeslgia, where they lasted just one season in 2013-14.
Duisburg have not announced the length of his contract, although it will be valid for all three professional divisions. He will be assisted, as he was for his entire spell at Braunschweig, by Darius Scholtysik.
He will be formally unveiled by the club in a press conference on Tuesday and his first game in charge will see his new bottom-of-the-league face current leaders 1. FC Köln a week on Monday.
Quotes via MSV Duisburg.