INGOLSTADT will attempt to bounce back from throwing away a two-goal lead on the opening day of the 2012/13 2. Bundesliga season as they travel to St Pauli this weekend. Both teams have made significant changes to their squads over the summer, meaning that the scouts from either club will have had their work cut out preparing dossiers for their respective team’s coaches this weekend. Only four of the players who started in St Pauli’s final game of the 2011/12 season featured in last Friday’s 0-0 draw at Aue, for instance.
It was a familiar face, though, who fired Ingolstadt into a 2-0 lead against Energie Cottbus last weekend, as club stalwart Stefan Leitl’s brace gave his side what appeared to be an insurmountable cushion going into the final ten minutes. However, Boubacar Sanogo pounced twice in the closing stages to earn a point for Cottbus, amid some questionable defending from the home side.
Coach Tomas Oral also only started with just four of the players who began the final game of the 2011/12 season last Friday, with the Bavarian side spending the summer bringing in a number of exciting players. Ingolstadt won just two games away from home last season, so it will be hoped that these new recruits can transform the club’s fortunes on the road, starting at the Millerntor-Stadion this Saturday afternoon.
Whereas Ingolstadt eventually got themselves out of relegation trouble after a season-long battle to finish 12th, St Pauli were fighting at the other end of the table. Agonisingly, André Schubert’s side missed out on the chance to face 1. Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin in a relegation/promotion play-off by virtue of having a goal difference that was marginally poorer than Fortuna Düsseldorf’s. Despite being one of the favourites to go up this season, St Pauli have spent nine of the last ten years outside of 1. Bundesliga. Ingolstadt, on the other hand, have never even been in the top-flight, but many second-division fans and pundits alike expect the Bavarian minnows to secure a highest-ever league position this time round.
The thinking behind this stems from Ingolstadt’s improved showing towards the end of last season (losing just two of their last 17 games, a run that began with a 1-0 win over St Pauli), plus the calibre of player the club has been able to recruit over the summer. Christian Eigler, for example, has been brought in from Nuremberg to partner Caiuby up front – the Brazilian having been secured on a permanent deal from Wolfsburg. To bolster the midfield, tricky Austrian winger Ümit Korkmaz has joined from Eintracht Frankfurt. With Christoph Knasmüllner also on the club’s books, Oral has two potentially very good midfielders whom he must try to keep on the right path in order to make the most of their undoubted talent.
Young talent has also been hoovered up from teams relegated to the third division in Pascal Groß (a recent Germany U18 international recruited from Karlsruhe), and Alper Uludağ (a Turkey U21 player signed from Aachen). To that list of already impressive recruits, you can add experienced centre-back Andre Mijatović (signed from Hertha BSC), and promising Germany U19 right-back Danny da Costa (signed on loan from Leverkusen). The latter is a player many German football fans will remember for being involved in particularly ill-matched duel against Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribéry last season, and the sooner he can put in some good performances at Ingolstadt to rebuild his confidence and convince the Leverkusen coaching staff he has what it takes to cut it at the highest level, the better.
On the departures front, the only players of note who left Ingolstadt this summer – Adam Nemec to Union Berlin, Manuel Hartmann to Holstein Kiel, Edson Buddle to Los Angeles Galaxy and Moïse Bambara to FSV Frankfurt – won’t be greatly missed.
Meanwhile, St Pauli have brought in Florian Mohr and Sören Gonther (both defenders, both from last season’s over-achievers Paderborn), Carlos Zambrano (a centre-back who has been at the club for the last few seasons on loan from Schalke), Daniel Ginczek (a young, burly striker signed on loan from Borussia Dortmund), Lennart Thy (a 20-year-old striker brought in from Werder Bremen to partner the evergreen Marius Ebbers, and a player who impressed on his debut at Aue), Florian Kringe (an experienced midfielder brought in from Borussia Dortmund), Akaki Gogia (a tricky Georgian winger who has signed on loan from Wolfsburg), and Robin Himmelmann (a reserve goalkeeper signed from Schalke).
Leaving the club over the summer were notable players including Fabio Morena (Sandhausen), Deniz Naki and Charles Takyi (both released, despite significant involvement last season), Carsten Rothenbach (Bochum), Max Kruse (Freiburg), Moritz Volz (1860 Munich), and Rouwen Hennings (Karlsruhe). A healthy mix of attackers and defenders, this squad spring clean was both inevitable and necessary, and gives St Pauli and coach Schubert – now in his second season, despite speculation a few months back that he would be fired for failing to get the Hamburg-based club promoted – a fresh-looking selection of players, and a break from the past.
A fan of the 4-2-3-1 system (although a 4-4-2 may become the mandatory formation if Ebbers and Thy continue to play well together), there doesn’t seem to be anything ostensibly wrong with Schubert’s tactics, or the strength of the St Pauli squad: Pauli have bolstered a defence that didn’t concede many goals last season, and now have better competition up front, even if losing Kruse is a blow. However, the team will have to improve their attitude to games in the second tier, as they failed to show up from the start of the match or faltered at the finish too many times last season, resulting in this second consecutive campaign in 2. Bundesliga.
Fitness-wise, Schubert is only expected to be without one player on Saturday, the injured Gonther. His opposite number, who is likely to play a 4-4-2 at the Millerntor-Stadion, is just as untroubled injury-wise, and is probably only going to be without two players: Andreas Buchner, and Malte Metzelder.
St Pauli versus Ingolstadt kicks off at 2.30pm (UK time) this Saturday, and can be watched, live, on Bet365.com.