The 2. Bundesliga season continues this week with Fortuna Düsseldorf and FC Ingolstadt helping to get the action under way at the Esprit-Arena on Friday evening. The last time the sides met was a league game back in February, Fortuna winning 3-1.
The hosts have had a mixed start to the season, beating Bochum 2-0 with a commanding performance in their first game, before drawing away at Paderborn thanks to a sloppy performance. However, Düsseldorf then redeemed themselves by knocking KSV Hessen Kassel out of the DFB-Pokal last weekend. Despite that glut of goals, you wonder if coach Norbert Meier’s biggest problem last season, the lack of a goal-scorer, has now been resolved. Might Australian international Max Kruse, purchased from Melbourne Jets for €50,000, or Ken Ilsø, snapped up after scoring seven goals in a 14-game loan spell at the back end of last season, be the men to fire Fortuna into the top flight for the first time since 1997?
Helpfully, the strikers now have a superb player in the middle of the park to keep them provided with service; Oliver Fink being key to Meier’s plans now more than ever. Although the big name likes of Thomas Hitzlsperger, Andreas Hinkel and the Danish international Daniel Jensen have all recently been linked with the club, none would fit into the financial framework of Fortuna, and can be ruled out as feasible transfers. Nevertheless, long-term injury victims Kai Schwertfeger and Jules Schwadorf aren’t far from a return, giving Meier – who played in the Bundesliga winning Werder Bremen side of 1988 alongside his opposite number in this game, Benno Möhlmann – enough experience and options to overcome any disappointment about the lack of a European international signing up.
Ingolstadt, on the other hand, have had an iffy start to the new campaign, losing 2-0 to St Pauli and drawing 0-0 with Aue in the league, before finally finding the net in last weekend’s 4-1 hammering of fifth-tier side FC Oberneuland in the cup. Ingolstadt struggled last season (despite grabbing the headlines when they took Freddy Adu on trial), barely avoiding relegation, and it would be no surprise if they face a similar scrap for survival this season. Nevertheless, they’ve made a few shrewd free transfer signings, and this week, even splashed a club record €500,000 on a young Tunisian international, Ahmed Akaïchi.
The biggest boost personnel-wise for coach Möhlmann, however, is the fact that the talismanic, Munich-born Stefan Leitl has remained with the Bavarian club – the midfielder led both the scoring and assists charts for Ingolstadt last season, and will play just as important a role for the club this season as the likes of Edson Buddle continue to adapt to the European game. The American now not only has added competition up front from the aforementioned Akaïchi, but also Moritz Hartmann, who has made a decent start leading Möhlmann’s line in the early stages of the 2011/12 campaign.
Fortuna Düsseldorf-FC Ingolstadt kicks off at 5pm in the UK, and can be watched on the Bet 365 website.