Our next opponents: Coronavirus clips FC Köln wings

Derby in a double-fixture week. FC Köln visit the BayArena on Wednesday night, 17 June (kick-off: 20.30 CET) for the Rhineland clash behind closed doors. The club from Cologne are one of those teams that could well be particularly disturbed by this stage. Why? The lowdown on the Goats.


Of course, nobody really likes games without fans. But anyone who supports FC Köln, must by now have built up a stronger aversion to this necessary but unpopular measure. As the previously impressive team from Cologne have dropped off in front of empty stands. FC Köln won all of their last three games in front of crowds – and that with an impressive goal difference of 10 to 1. But the first game behind closed doors in the history of the Bundesliga just before the suspension saw Köln lose 2-1 at Borussia Mönchengladbach and, since the restart, the team coached by Markus Gisdol have clocked up three draws and three defeats. Köln also lost out to Union Berlin on Saturday in a 2-1 reverse – but they could feel slightly happy. Due to the defeat of the Rhineland arrivals from Düsseldorf, the Goats have a seven-point lead over the play-off spot with three games to play so that top-flight survival appears almost certain. That certainly wasn't the case when the two sides met earlier in the season in December with Köln bottom of the table. But the 2-0 win started an impressive run that brought victory in 8 out of 10 games. Then came the coronavirus pandemic…


Jointly responsible for the revival under Markus Gisdol was his courage to place his confidence in home-grown talent. Noah Katterbach (19), Ismail Jakobs (20) and Jan Thielmann (18) have all appeared in the starting eleven and have definitely improved the squad. Now all three may not be available against the Werkself. The lightning fast striker Jakobs is very unlikely to pay due to muscular problems. Thielmann, who was supposed to replace him against Union, suffered a groin injury in the warm-up and is also doubtful as his Katterbach, who has problems with his ankle. Although there are hopes that the latter may well be fit in time for the derby.

There could also be a remarkable comeback against Bayer 04: Winger Christian Clemens was back in the FC Köln squad for the first time in 415 days against Union Berlin. He suffered a torn cruciate in April 2019 in the second division game against Darmstadt 98 and has since then faced a long period on the sidelines. The 28-year-old did not play on Saturday but given the double fixture week, the absence of Jakobs and possibly Thielmann plus the five possible substitutions, he could well return on Wednesday.


If Katterbach is unavailable against the Werkself then that would be a significant setback. Köln have very thin cover in the position of right back – and captain Jonas Hector is exclusively played in midfield under Gisdol. The team have not kept a clean sheet in eight games and, since the restart, they have let in 14 goals in six games – the highest number in the Bundesliga. The defence appears particularly susceptible to crosses – and that in spite of central defenders who are good in the air like Sebastiaan Bornauw and Rafael Czichos. An indication that opposition teams have recently been given too much space on the wings.


As already indicated: The future looks bright for this FC Köln squad – and there's hard work being invested in that. Gisdol banks on the trio of Katterbach, Jakobs and Thielmann. Other youngsters are already in the starting blocks: During the suspension due to coronavirus, the club awarded U19 players Robert Voloder (19) and Tim Lemperle (18) senior contracts. Both players have already been on the bench in the Bundesliga with Lemperle the most recent against Union. And the next step in the direction of structural change is to follow: The club is planning to extend the facilities in Geißbockheim where both the first team and the youth teams train. A decision on that is due to be made by local government authorities in the near future.


Top-flight survival could definitely be secured after the derby. If FC Köln pick up as many points against the Werkself as Bremen do against FC Bayern and Düsseldorf at Leipzig then safety is mathematically certain. On the other hand, the slight chance of qualifying for the Europa League would also have gone. That would mean the last two matchdays would be dead rubbers for Köln. If that had been suggested to supporters before the first game against Bayer 04 then they would probably have consented without further thought.

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