Our next opponents: Hopes pinned on Stöger

The start of 2020 at the BayArena is here. Bayer 04 round off Bundesliga matchday 19 on Sunday (26 January, kick-off: 18.00 CET) for the first home game in the second half of the season. The neighbours from Düsseldorf are the visitors - and Fortuna are hoping for the return of "what feels like a winter signing."


2020 started with a really important match for Fortuna Düsseldorf but it produced a bitter defeat. Fortuna lost 1-0 at home to fellow strugglers Werder Bremen with the win taking the North German side above the Düsseldorf club in a relegation spot. Fortuna did not play that badly, were brave and defended high up the pitch but were again not clinical enough and they ran out of luck at the crucial moment in the game: Reserve keeper Florian Kastenmeier was unlucky on his debut when he turned the ball into his own net from a set piece. That was the only goal of the game.

“We didn’t get our just rewards for the effort we put in,” declared the coach Friedhelm Funkel after the game. At the moment, it’s not looking good for the team next-to-bottom: Four of the last five Bundesliga matches have ended in defeat with Fortuna failing to score a single goal . Fortuna Düsseldorf are still in the DFB Cup with a Round of 16 tie away to third division FC Kaiserslautern.


Steven Skrzybski is the only player to come to Düsseldorf over the winter break. The forward is on loan from Schalke 04 to the end of the season and he played the full 90 minutes against Werder Bremen. That was the only activity in the transfer market for Fortuna. However, that might well change as there have been rumours in the media about potential signings in central midfield. Düsseldorf are counting above all on “what feels like a new signing”: Kevin Stöger (pictured above). The Austrian, one of the key players in an impressive season last term that ended with Fortuna finishing tenth in the top flight, suffered a torn cruciate on the last matchday of the 2018/19 season and subsequently missed the whole of the first half of this season. He has certainly been missed. Düsseldorf have not been able to compensate for the player’s creativity and quality.

Stöger is now back action and a lot of hope is pinned on him. He played for 45 minutes in the recent friendly against FC Basel and was immediately the key player in the Fortuna game. And he came off the bench against Bremen on 71 minutes. “The coach will have to hold me back. I’d like to play football 24 hours a day because it’s so fantastic to finally be back on the pitch,” rejoiced the returnee in a recent interview with kicker. Stöger’s game time is due to increase week-by-week so the playmaker will probably not go the full distance against Bayer 04. It is possible the little Austrian will be in the starting line-up in Leverkusen.


It remains to be seen who will be in goal for the Werkself against Fortuna. There appear to be three goalkeepers in the frame. Regular first choice Zack Steffen was sidelined late-on against Werder Bremen – and he could be out of action for a while. “We can’t say how long he’ll be out for,” said Funkel after the Bremen match. He most probably will miss the game against Bayer 04. That is a set-back for Düsseldorf as Steffen was a safe pair of hands in the first half of the season and he secured a number of points for Fortuna. The former Leverkusen player Michael Rensing is normally the reserve keeper but he is still working his way back from a shoulder injury and he only made the bench against Werder. Currently, it’s most likely that Florian Kastenmeier will again be in goal. The 22-year-old made his Bundesliga debut last weekend and he was solid at the start – until he conceded the own goal. Will he the chance to make amends against Bayer 04?


Three years in the Bundesliga was the initial target for the CEO Thomas Röttgermann. That would be incredibly helpful for Fortuna from both an economic and a structural perspective. Düsseldorf are in their second season back in the top flight – and they are having to fight hard to make it three. The outcome of the second half of the season will be enormously important for the future of the club because it is also linked to retaining Friedhelm Funkel. The contract with the 66-year-old was extended just before Christmas but only for the Bundesliga. Fortuna will have to find a new coach in the event of relegation and Funkel would most probably retire.


Fortuna Düsseldorf will probably have to fight to the end to be able to play in the top flight next season. Fortuna have often demonstrated they have the potential to stay up and Funkel is a real boon in the battle to avoid relegation. Hope has grown with the return of Stöger as he could provide a boost for the struggling forward line at Fortuna. If all goes to plan then there is a decent chance that they will stay up.


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