The 18th and final spot in Germany’s top-flight for next season will be decided on Saturday as Holstein Kiel hosts Köln at the Holstein-Stadion in the second leg of the 2020/21 Bundesliga relegation play-off.
Kiel take a 1-0 lead into this contest following Wednesday’s first leg. A tense affair throughout, the lone goal of the game came via Simon Lorenz, who headed home near the hour mark to put his side in front. Köln came very close to equalizing on the day, but they were just unable to find the back of the net, which sets up a potentially tantalizing return fixture.
It was a much better result for Kiel, of course. They could not have asked for a lot more from the match, as they grabbed a goal on the road while securing a clean sheet as well. At home for the second leg, Die Störche will fancy their chances of getting the job done, which would put them in the Bundesliga for the first time in their history.
Köln, meanwhile, have a lot of work to do. They know that they need to score to have any chance of staying up, but they can’t send too many players forward and leave themselves vulnerable at the back. It’ll certainly be tough, but it’s still not quite mission impossible for Die Geißböcke.
Kiel will be without Ahmet Arslan and Stefan Thesker due to injuries, while Johannes van den Bergh is suspended for the game due to yellow card accumulation after he was booked in the first leg.
Elvis Rexhbeçaj is the only concern for Köln, as it’s unclear whether or not the midfielder will be able to feature.
Holstein Kiel: Gelios, Neumann, Wahl, Lorenz, Komenda, Jae-sung, Meffert, Mühling, Bartels, Serra, Porath
Köln: Horn, Schmitz, Bornauw, Czichos, Katterbach, Skhiri, Hector, Wolf, Duda, Jakobs, Andersson
Ones to watch
Kiel know that all they need to do in order to secure their status in the Bundesliga for next season is to keep a clean sheet. If they are to do that, then Hauke Wahl will likely have put on another strong defensive showing.
Graduating from Die Störche’s academy back in 2013, the centre-back left the club a few years later to join Paderborn. He then bounced around Germany for a bit, as he went to Ingolstadt the following season before spending six months on loan at Heidenheim.
Things just never really worked out, though, and Wahl eventually returned to Kiel in 2018. That move has revitalized his career, and he’s become a key part of the team that is now pushing for promotion.
The defender was solid in the first leg, helping Die Störche keep Köln at bay for most of the contest. Wahl will have to do more of the same for his side this Saturday, which might be an even tougher task considering the added pressure of the occasion. However, if he can help get them into the top-flight, then it would be an excellent way to repay Kiel for everything they’ve done for him.
This season has been a somewhat cursed one for Sebastian Andersson, but all of his earlier struggles would not really matter if he’s the man that ultimately saves Köln.
Joining the club from Union Berlin last summer, his competitive debut was a dream one, as the striker both scored and assisted on opening weekend versus Hoffenheim. That was not a sign of things to come, though, as he only grabbed one goal in the following seven games.
Then came the knee problems. Andersson only missed one match at first, but the injury eventually kept him on the sidelines for three months. Die Geißböcke suffered in his absence, and even when he came back he was relatively ineffective, scoring just once to end the Bundesliga campaign.
The aforementioned knee issue meant that the Swede was forced to come off the bench in the first leg, but there’s reason to believe that he’ll be able to start this Saturday. Even though he’s not in the best form, he might still have an important impact on proceedings.
Andersson is an old-school kind of forward, as he just seems to know how to be at the right place at the right time. He’s also a clinical finisher, which could be key in a game of potentially few chances.
Whether or not he’s able to turn things around remains to be seen, but an attacking masterclass from Andersson to keep his side up would be a fairytale way to end his nightmarish season.
Last time out
The last meeting between these two sides took place on Wednesday in the aforementioned first leg at the RheinEnergieStadion.
The first half wasn’t too eventful, but Köln did have a major chance right before the break when a loose ball in the area fell to Ondrej Duda. He couldn’t convert, though, instead hitting a first-time shot wide of goal.
Kiel finally broke the deadlock near the hour mark, although the goal did come against the run of play. A corner hit towards the far post was headed back across the area, and substitute Simon Lorenz, who had just come on moments earlier, was able to rise highest and head home to give his team the lead.
Köln should’ve equalized moments later, as Ellyes Skhiri was played into space, but his attempt flew straight at the goalkeeper.
They came even closer to grabbing a vital goal with about 10 minutes to go. A free-kick attempt seemed destined for the bottom corner, but Kiel defender Phil Neumann managed to get back and block the ball before it crossed the goal line. His heroics would not end there, as he then denied another shot when the rebound fell to a Köln player.
Things were a bit more comfortable for Kiel afterwards, and they were able to hold on to secure an advantage going into the second leg.
How to watch
The contest will air on BT Sport 2 at 17:00 BST in the UK, while those in the United States will be able to see the game on ESPN+ at 12:00 p.m. EST.