Borussia Dortmund will travel to 1. FC Köln on Saturday. We interviewed effzeh.com editor Arne about the hosts ahead of the match.
FC Köln are in their third season since promotion to the Bundesliga and are looking at their best since the start of the millennium. In general, what are the reasons for that?
First and foremost a gradual development. Since 2014, FC Köln were able to establish themselves as a serious middle-class Bundesliga team. At the beginning of Peter Stöger’s spell in Bundesliga, defensive solidity was the major asset of the team. Since then, the Austrian manager has been able to implement interesting solutions for counter-attacking football. Most recently, FC Köln were also able to dominate matches against inferior opponents – we haven’t had that in almost 25 years!
Cologne are sitting in sixth place going into Matchday 14, what are the strengths and weaknesses of that team?
The biggest strength of the team has to be its mentality. FC Köln is not a team that offers spectacular football every week, they rather show a pragmatic approach on the pitch. However, the group cohesion and the way the team identifies with the city are extraordinary. Seven players from the first team squad that have been used in this season were born in Cologne. This allows them to go the extra mile for the club they’ve grown up in. Another strength is, as mentioned above, the good shape of the team throughout most parts of the game which makes it difficult for opponents to get goal-scoring chances.
Recently, they’ve found it difficult to get a good start into games, however. So far, I don’t know whether this is a recurrent pattern or just a temporary problem. There were lots of games where there was a big difference of first and second half performances. A reason for that could be a lack of concentration or just strong opponents, I hope for the latter.
The Effzeh was struck by several injuries in recent weeks. Who is the biggest loss and can Cologne keep their form despite the absentees?
All the players that are currently injured are actually not replaceable for a team like Köln. Nevertheless, players like Thomas Kessler and Salih Özcan who came into the team did a good job so far. The biggest miss has to be former Dortmund-man Leonardo Bittencourt because he’s the best dribbler in the team who is, for a midfielder, very good at closing down opposition players.
Any middle-class Bundesliga team would struggle without five of their most important players. This is why it is completely normal that form drops a bit. For the Dortmund game, I hope that the crowd can make a difference. And games like these offer opportunities for players to step up, especially those who have not been in the spotlight before.
What kind of tactic do you expect Peter Stöger to choose in Saturday’s home match against Dortmund?
I might not be very creative here but it has to be the following: Sit deep, wait for counter attacks. He will most likely align five defenders who are keen on making life difficult for Dortmund players. Then, players like Jonas Hector and Özcan are able to find solutions in small spaces. Simon Zoller and Anthony Modeste can use their pace to get behind Dortmund’s defence and seize one of the few chances Köln will get.
A couple of words on former Dortmund players Milos Jojic and Leo Bittencourt: How have they fared thus far?
Well, everybody hoped that this season would see the breakthrough of Milos Jojic. His first year in Köln was difficult. He lacked fitness and pace, although Stöger still praises him a lot. I think that technically, he is one of the finest players Köln have. But he does obviously lack the speed you need to impose yourself in a rapid Bundesliga game.
Bittencourt is one of the most important players in the squad. His dribbling skills are extraordinary, his defending is good, too. He started scoring goals this year which made him irreplaceable, I hope that he can fully restart next year.
Scoreline prediction: 1:1
Thank you, Arne! You can follow him @arnepuyol on Twitter.