A week is a long time in football. It has probably felt even longer for 1. FC Nürnberg since a draw at Holstein Kiel condemned them to the ‘Relegation’ to fight for their right just to stay in the 2. Bundesliga.
Jens Keller has been sacked. Michael Wiesinger and Marek Mintal have come in. Players have been put in their place. They’ve gone on a training camp. And all this before they even knew who they were going to play.
Standing in their way will be Tomas Oral’s FC Ingolstadt 04, who should be a fiercer threat than they were as they meekly crumbled at the same stage last season to Wehen Wiesbaden. They are also a few threads that tie the two Bavarian sides together to be untangled over the next 180 minutes.
Wiesinger and a happier Club
This is a second time in charge of Der Club for caretaker Wiesinger, who had previously managed them between 2012 and 2013, and more recently was in charge of the academy. Curiously enough, ten years ago, he led Ingolstadt into the very same game, seeing off Hansa Rostock 3-0 on aggregate to earn promotion. Fabian Gerber, now a Nürnberg assistant coach, was one of his players.
Wiesinger and club legend Mintal have had their work cut out over the past week, taking on a side who confidence was in the toilet under previous coach Jens Keller – who had also had a hand in Ingolstadt’s relegation last year. That is why they took the side to a mini-training camp in Bad Gögging, where the fun and confidence has been injected back into the players.
“We wanted to use the days to create a new spirit for the team,” he explained on Monday. “I found that we had good access to each other and developed a good spirit.” He knows the mentality of the team has to improve as well. “The heads have to stay on top, even if things don’t go as desired,” Wiesinger feels.
Tactically, a revamp was badly needed with Keller stubbornly standing by his beloved 4-3-3. Wiesinger has already indicated that the “free-spirit” Nikola Dovedan, who has struggled since his move from Heidenheim, will be utilised in the middle. As for the opposition, he believes Ingolstadt will have “a clear stylistic device” and a “clear plan,” and he “knows very much what’s coming.”
All the players who travelled to the training camp in Bad Gögging are fit and available. Felix Lohkemper is still out due to an injury that kept him out against Kiel. Sebastian Kerk did not travel to the camp with Wiesinger seeing him as surplus to requirements, and nor did expensive flop Iuri Medeiros, who has already returned to Portugal and is set to leave the club. Konstantinos Mavropanos should return in defence.
Oral intent on taking Nürnberg down
Ingolstadt put in a real shift against Nürnberg when the two teams met in the first round of the DFB-Pokal at the start of the season, with only a late Dovedan goal seeing Der Club through. Things have changed since then. Oral, in charge in the defeat to Wiesbaden last year, surprisingly replaced Jeff Sabiene in March.
Given how close they came on Saturday to automatic promotion, yet alone the play-off, the move has been vindicated. Their form had been faltering before Oral came in to stabilise things with his organised and defensive manner. And if not for a Sebastian Schuppan penalty in Würzburg, they would already be safely back in the 2. Bundesliga.
Die Schnazer thought they had been promoted at full-time of their 2-0 win against 1860 Munich but it seems they have quickly moved on from that disappointment. “We are humble and happy to be able to experience this situation after we have done everything we can,” Oral explained a couple of days later.
“This is the kick that I need,” he says about his anticipation for the game. “We know we are facing a difficult task, but we are not afraid of it.” He is unphased by the changes made at Nürnberg post-Keller, and even tried some mind games. “We know the guys who have now taken charge. Much of what is given does not correspond to their nature,” he said. “I can assess the squad quite well. There will be no surprise to me how they line up.”
There was good news regarding the fitness of ex-Nürnberg striker Stefan Kutschke, who is available after coming off against 1860 with a thigh injury. Dennis Eckert Ayensa, who scored the second goal on Saturday, would be an alternative if Oral doesn’t risk him from the start. Björn Paulsen should return after suspension whilst Marco Knaller will remain in goal ahead of Fabijan Buntic.
Date: Tuesday 7th July 2020.
Kick-Off: 18:15 CEST, 17:15 BST, 12:15 EDT.
Watch / Live Stream: ZDF (Germany and Austria), Bet365 (United Kingdom), DAZN (Germany), Fox Soccer Match Pass (USA).
Second Leg Date: Saturday 11th July 2020.
The key to this game will be whether Nürnburg’s longer rest or Ingolstadt’s momentum that make the difference. Whilst things could be different under the new coaching staff, Nürnberg poor home form could count against them here in a narrow defeat to die Schanzer.