Promotion candidates Düsseldorf first up in 2. Liga curtain raiser
Fortuna Düsseldorf open the season at the Volksparkstadion with the first 2. Bundesliga game of the 2020/21 season.
The one positive of the first-round cup exit in Dresden on Monday night is the quick turnaround, as the Rothosen have to pick themselves up and dust themselves down, ready to make amends in the first league game of the season against much-fancied Fortuna Düsseldorf at the Volksparkstadion in Friday’s early kick-off (6:30pm CET). Uwe Rösler’s side offer a much different challenge to that of Dynamo Dresden in the first round of the DFB Pokal, with a team packed with first and second division experience and one that will expect to be in with a shout of automatic promotion come May 2021. For Daniel Thioune the focus is on matching the opponent’s hunger and energy levels, something the Rothosen failed to achieve on Monday, and implement the match plan better than in Saxony.
Focus on the visitors
Friedhelm Funkel is one of the most respected managers in German football, and after a five-year absence guided the team from North-Rhine Westphalia back to the big time, securing the 2. Bundesliga trophy in May of 2018. After an impressive first season back in the Bundesliga, Funkel was unceremoniously dumped in January 2020 in favour of Uwe Rösler with Fortuna mired in a relegation battle, something the former Wigan and Brentford manager was unable to turn around before or after the restart of football due to the coronavirus pandemic. The team from the city famous for its carnival and quaint old town drinking quarter were eventually relegated automatically on the last day of the Bundesliga season after an away loss to Union Berlin, and are now tipped to bounce straight back up by many 2. Liga observers.
Düsseldorf have lost a number of key performers over the summer, namely centre-back Kaan Ayhan and club legend Kevin Stöger, whilst left-back Niko Gießelmann joined Union Berlin on a free transfer. Left-back Florian Hertherz, who was crowned 2. Bundesliga champion with Arminia Bielefeld in June, and central midfielder Edgar Prib, joining on a free from Hannover 96, add much-needed experience, whilst forward Emmanuel Iyoha impressed on loan at Holstein Kiel last season, not least when scoring in part of the crazy 3-3 draw between HSV and the Storks in June. Most importantly, Fortuna have kept hold of forward Rouwen Hennings, who has proven his exceptional eye for goal for both Karlsruhe and Düsseldorf in the second tier. Former HSV striker Hennings, along with midfield trio Morales, Sobottka and Prib ensures there is experience running down the spine of the team, something that few fellow promotion candidates can rely on. A 1-0 win in the cup away to 3. Liga side FC Ingolstadt on Saturday will have done Fortuna’s confidence no damage heading into the first league outing of the campaign.
Leistner unavailable and Gyamerah questionable for HSV
The cup defeat in Dresden also saw unsavoury scenes after the final whistle, as Toni Leistner was insulted in a very personal manner by a Dresden fan, leading to a confrontation between the two. Daniel Thioune confirmed at Thursday’s press conference that the Rothosen were assuming that the central defender would be suspended for Friday’s season opener, pending a decision by the DFB. Leistner’s position could be covered by new defensive all-rounder Moritz Heyer who joined on Thursday and can play either centre-back or in central midfield.
Bakery Jatta continues to miss out due to his adductor problems, whilst Thioune was continuing to be cautious about Jan Gyamerah. “During my time here, Jan hasn’t played one game. Due to Toni [Leistner] missing out, it’s likely he’ll be in the squad, but we would prefer him to play a full game, whether that be a friendly on an under-21 game, before we throw him back into the fray properly.” Stephan Ambrosius was another question mark for Thioune, as the manager wanted to assess how the 21-year-old fared with the final training session on Thursday evening before making a decision. One thing was certain, with Thioune excited about his first competitive home game: “I’m really looking forward to my first game in charge of HSV at the Volksparkstadion in front of fans. Whilst it's only a thousand fans, hopefully it's a sign of things to come, and we’ll be allowed more for our next home game against Aue.”
Düsseldorf were relegated for the 6th time in the club's history in June. This was partly down to drawing too many games with Rösler in charge, 9 from 15, and only winning two.
Rouwen Hennings enjoyed his most fruitful Bundesliga campaign in 2019/20, scoring 15 times, 42% of Düsseldorf's goal, with no other Fortuna player passing six goals for the season. No Fortuna player had scored as many Bundesliga goals in a season since Thomas Allofs in 1990/91.
This is the first meeting between the two sides in the 2. Bundesliga and Uwe Rösler's first game in charge of a 2. Bundesliga team.
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