Of the four teams currently in the 2. Bundesliga promotion race, Holstein Kiel no doubt have it toughest after two weeks in quarantine following a spate of COVID-19 cases at the club. And after two defeats in the past four days, they are going to have to find their feet again quickly if they aren’t to lose touch with the rest of the top three.
Not only have they had to hit the ground running after nearly a month without a game, they also have the most congested schedule of all the teams in league over the next month, with two matches to make up in the next week and a cup tie against Borussia Dortmund to play.
The defeat to Bochum on Saturday was not the best way to start. Simon Zoller had scored within the first five minutes and Kiel looked very shaky at the back in the early stages. They recovered well but a mistake from Simon Lorenz against his old club to allow Zoller a second.
Ole Werner’s side, not for the first time this season, might have got lucky with a penalty award late on, but Alexander Mühling’s eighth spot-kick goal of the season was not enough to prevent the leaders from extending their lead at the top.
That left Kiel four points off the top three but they still had the two games postponed in March in hand. The first of those on Tuesday evening didn’t go to plan either though.
Tim Kleindienst got the better of Jannik Dehm and Ioannis Gelios to score for Heidenheim, again in the early stages of the match. But for more ruthlessness in front of goal, the damage could have been a lot more severe for the Storks with the hosts coming away with a 1-0 win.
Their strong point this season has been their defence – they have only conceded 25 goals in the league all season – but it has looked wobbly in the past two games. Their problems in attack – the top three have all scored more than ten more goals than them – continue to be exacterbated by Janni Serra’s latest injury.
Bochum, Hamburg and Fürth will still throw away points as we reach the finale to a gripping season, but Kiel need to start picking them up quickly if they are to put themselves amongst the mix again.
They have easier games to come. Jahn Regensburg will be going into their meeting on Saturday with 24 hours less rest following their Pokal quarter final with Werder Bremen, whilst who knows what Hannover side will turn up next week. There are then games against sides battling at the bottom of the table, but at this stage of the season they might be even more difficult.
Then again, the onslaught of matches is just what they need. Werner has said that the only way they could get their sharpness back is “through games.” Fortunately for him, they are getting plenty of those. But if they can tightened up their defence again, and get Serra back quickly, it will certainty be easier.