Cologne-Augsburg preview

Augsburg travel to Jekyll & Hyde club Cologne tomorrow afternoon knowing that a win will lift them out of the relegation zone. Last season’s 2. Bundesliga runners-up are in something resembling a purple patch at the moment, having lost just one of their last six fixtures. That solitary loss came on their October 1 trip to Borussia Dortmund (4-0), but in the past nine days, Augsburg have held Bremen to a 1-1 draw in the league, and knocked Leipzig out of the DFB-Pokal on Tuesday (1-0). Cologne, meanwhile, have lost three of their last four games, including a 5-0 hammering at the hands of Borussia Dortmund last weekend, and a 2-1 loss to Hoffenheim in the cup on Wednesday. While Ståle Solbakken’s side sit four places and five points above tomorrow’s visitors to the 50,000-seater RheinEnergieStadion, Cologne are far and away the most inconsistent team in the top-flight. Their home record might be decent-ish (seven points from a possible 15), and Augsburg have only won once on their travels; but, the Bavarian side can be difficult to break down, and Cologne will need Lukas Podolski on top form to achieve just that. Augsburg coach Jos Luhukay could also do with his main man, Sascha Mölders, rediscovering his form in front of goal; and, what better time to do so than tomorrow, with Cologne’s relatively unfamiliar back-four still getting used to one another.

Luhukay, who worked as the assistant coach at Cologne between 2002 and 2005, is confident his current side have what it takes to defeat Cologne tomorrow afternoon. “We want to end up with our second away win,” the 48-year-old said yesterday. “We have realised in the last few weeks that we are not only just here in the Bundesliga, but can also compete and win games.” Luhukay went on to further increase the pressure on Solbakken and his players:  “The expectations are enormous in Cologne; higher than in Augsburg,” he mischievously said. The Dutch coach will have Torsten Oehrl, Paul Verhaegh and Andrew Sinkala back after injury, and Axel Bellinghausen and Simon Jentzsch should also be fit. However, Jonas de Roeck sustained an ankle injury in the midweek cup game, so is set to miss out along with Marcel de Jong and Marcel Ndjeng.

The last time these sides met was in the quarter-final stage of the DFB-Pokal in February 2010, when Augsburg defeated Cologne 2-0. However, it’s likely that not one of the players involved for tomorrow’s hosts that day will feature tomorrow, with the majority of that team having now left the club, and the likes of Pedro Geromel, Petit and – possibly, as he’s now back in training – Milivoje Novakovič ruled out through injury (Adil Chihi, Andrezinho and Kevin McKenna too). In spite of all these absences, Solbakken is confident his side have what it takes to win tomorrow, moving eight points away from the relegation zone in the process. The Norwegian said: “Apart from the Dortmund game, I can be happy with the performance of the team in the last six weeks.” Quantifying just how strong his side have been during their last two matches at home, the Cologne coach added: “Our opponents have had only four chances – we need this stability [tomorrow].”

Cologne vs Augsburg, which will be refereed by Bremen official Peter Gagelmann, kicks off at 2.30pm in the UK, and can be watched live on Bet365.com.

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