Our next opponents: Set-piece kings with injury crisis

Go through or get knocked out. In the second round of the DFB Cup, the Werkself play second division Karlsruher SC on Wednesday, 27 October (kick-off: 18.30 CEST) for a place in the last 16. The visitors from Baden could present Bayer 04 with a very tricky challenge.


For the first time this season there was a wake-up call for Karlsruher SC. "We definitely deserved to lose today and it was definitely a day to forget," said key player and goalscorer Marvin Wanitzek following a 3-1 defeat at Fortuna Düsseldorf on Saturday. KSC, who had previously only lost to the top teams FC St. Pauli and FC Nürnberg this term, were clearly the inferior side at Düsseldorf and the defeat took them down to eighth place. It could be a lot worse given their their not-too-distant past. Before the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, KSC were heading for the third division. Until Christian Eichner took charge of the team. With the former KSC player at the helm, the club stayed up and the following season ended in a respectable sixth place in the table. No wonder the club extended the contract with the coach to 2025 this month. "With the help of my coaching team, I'd like to carry on making KSC a solid second division team again," said Eichner. But first things first: a possible surprise at the BayArena. Karlsruhe reached the second round of the DFB Cup with a convincing 4-1 victory over Regional League SF Lotte.


KSC are currently struggling with several long-term injuries – including three torn cruciates. The reserve keeper Paul Löhr and new signing Leon Jensen suffered the serious knee injury in the pre-season and in September it struck the automatic first choice Sebastian Jung. As the right-back will probably be out of action until early next year, Karlsruhe reacted by signing the out of contract Ricardo van Rhijn – a player who has won eight international caps for the Netherlands and used to be a first choice at Ajax. Van Rhijn made a brief appearance at Düsseldorf and in the coming weeks he will probably compete with Marco Thiede for the place vacated by the injury to Jung.

There is also a vacant position in central defence as KSC have also been hit by another long-term absence: Robin Bormuth had to undergo an ankle operation and is out of action for the team from Baden. His place has recently been taken by the 36-year-old Daniel Gordon, who plays alongside Christoph Kobald, but 19-year-old youngster Felix Irorere could be in with a shout over the longer term.


Last season, Eichner and KSC gained the reputation as set-piece kings in Bundesliga 2. Assistant coach Zlatan Bajramovic is seen as a hard worker who likes to come up with new ideas. But he also has the right players for the job. In Philip Heise and Marvin Wanitzek, KSC have two players who are capable of putting dangerous balls into the opposition box from set-pieces and Wanitzek is also a renowned free-kick specialist. And there are several players who can get on the end of them. Central defender Daniel Gordon, holding midfielder Tim Breithaupt and centre forward Philipp Hofmann are all over six foot tall and difficult to defend against in the air. Hofmann has been a target for Bundesliga clubs for several years given his ability to score. He has already netted five goals in eleven second division matches this term and is therefore on track to clock up double figures for the third second division season in succession.


A number of weak points have appeared in the usually so strong KSC defence in recent weeks – no doubt due to the absence of Jung and Bormuth. Last season, Karlsruhe had the third-best defence in the second division and they only conceded one goal in the first four matches in this campaign. However, the team from Baden have not kept a clean sheet since with the last one two months ago – and Karlsruhe again had problems in defence at Düsseldorf. "Our defending today was a catastrophe," said midfielder Wanitzek without mincing his words. "We didn't really make any challenges properly and were always second to the ball."


Under their successful coach Eichner, KSC are on course to become an above-average second division team after several difficult years. They may still be one or two years away from challenging for promotion but Karlsruhe can present a threat to most Bundesliga teams – particularly as players like Kobald, Wanitzek and Hofmann definitely have first division quality. Therefore, the Werkself can expect to face a tough challenge.

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