Billy Goats to hit the skids again
Holstein Kiel v Köln
Saturday 29 May, 17:00
Live on BT Sport
The Rovers returned with all three points last night, and they brought us an odds-against winner. Sligo’s 2-1 success against Finn Harps had a few scary moments for us towards the end, but we’ll take it.
We’ll head to Germany, and although I didn’t anticipate Holstein Kiel’s success in Wednesday’s first leg of the Bundesliga relegation playoff, I was so impressed with their performance that I believe they can complete the job and win promotion.
Kiel won 1-0 on Wednesday at the RheinEnergieStadion, as sub Simon Lorenz headed home the winner just 20 seconds after coming on. The Storks carried a threat on the counter-attack, and nearly went further in front when centre-forward Janni Serra crashed a header against the crossbar.
Köln played skipper Jonas Hector out of position in attack, and while that strategy worked against RB Leipzig (the captain scored twice in a 2-1 win), it’s not a long-term solution. It’s hoped that Swede Sebastian Andersson can defy the effects of a knee injury and make an impact at the Holstein Stadion. Sporting director Horst Heldt has to carry the can for bringing in strikers like Tolu Arokodare and Emmanuel Dennis, neither of whom have been able to convince either Markus Gisdol or his coaching successor Friedhelm Funkel.
Veteran Funkel has hundreds of games under his belt, but he failed to find a tactical answer in the first leg, and there is a concern here that he won’t find the solution this time either. Funkel took Fortuna Düsseldorf down last season, and he also lost his only previous playoff with Bochum against Borussia Mönchengladbach. That may seem irrelevant (it was a long time ago and Bochum were underdogs), but it means that Funkel doesn’t have a positive experience of this kind of occasion to draw upon.
Kiel welcome back influential midfielders Jonas Meffert and Alexander Mühling from suspension, and both should start. Mühling’s return is a particular boost, as he got 12 goals in the regular season.
Köln are 1.981/1 favourites here, and I don’t think they should be. They lost five of their last seven Bundesliga away games of the season, and also crashed out of the DFB Cup at second-tier side Jahn Regensburg.
This is Kiel’s time to shine, so I’ll lay the visitors.