Dusseldorf and Paderborn face off in relegation six-pointer


Football fans across the globe, starved of elite action for so long, can enjoy a classic relegation six-pointer on Saturday as Fortuna Düsseldorf host SC Paderborn 07.

The unusual circumstances put sport into context, but the potential significance of the fixture at the wrong end of the Bundesliga table can’t be downplayed.

Including the players, coaches, team officials and media, only around 300 people will be allowed into the 54,000 capacity Merkur Spiel-Arena on Saturday.

All fixtures for the remainder of the season will be played ‘behind closed doors’ – in German, this is called a ‘geisterspiel’, or ‘ghost game’.

Clubs have also been quarantined in hotels this week and will observe strict hygiene protocols at the stadium, whilst managers will be allowed to make five substitutions (at three opportunities, to reduce time-wasting) due to the lack of ‘pre-season’ ahead of the restart.

Where they stand

A win for Düsseldorf, three unbeaten before the break, would bunch up the bottom half of the Bundesliga table and move Fortuna within a point of Mainz (ahead of their game at Köln on Sunday) and safety.

Home victory would, meanwhile, all but relegate their 18th place opponents, even with eight games still to play.

It would be a sixth defeat in seven (one draw) for Paderborn either side of the shutdown and leave them nine points adrift of the relegation play-off place, that is currently occupied by Düsseldorf.

A win for the visitors, though, would see them at least temporarily jump above Werder Bremen into 17th and move within three points of their hosts in 16th.

Paderborn joined the Bundesliga this season after back-to-back promotions and are currently rooted to the foot of the table, but did beat Düsseldorf 2-0 back in October.

They’ve also won more points away from home (nine in 12 games) than at home (seven in 13 games) this season and won’t have to face a hostile crowd, so will fancy their chances of breathing new life into their fight for survival.

Team news

Düsseldorf will be without American international goalkeeper Zack Steffen, who suffered another knee ligament injury in training last month, so Florian Kastenmeier will pick up where he left off and continue to deputise between the sticks.

Captain Oliver Fink also misses out after breaking the quarantine and leaving the team hotel on Monday to be with his wife and new-born baby.

Rouwen Hennings (left) (credit: bundesliga.com)

Top scorer Rouwen Hennings (11 in 24) is available to lead the line upfront, but the 32-year-old had failed to score in eight games between Christmas and the coronavirus hitting.

Paderborn, though, will be without their five-goal top scorer Streli Mamba, who has been ruled out for the rest of the season due to a knee injury.

They’ll instead be looking to Dennis Srbeny, a January addition from Norwich with three goals in his last four games, to spearhead their attack.

Luca Kilian, the first Bundesliga player to test positive for Covid-19, is no longer ill, but the 20-year-old centre back is still likely to miss Paderborn’s return to action due to a thigh injury.


Uwe Rösler has emphasised the unprecedented nature of the situation, in the build-up to the Bundesliga’s return.

He said: “I don’t know how we come out of this, how match fit we are, how long we can sustain, what is the mental state of everyone and how much we can focus on football.

“Of course, there are a lot of nerves and questions to be answered but I think it has helped that this week we could train full contact.

“When we are on the football pitch, we are back to normal. Everything off the football pitch, when we step back over that white line, the world is still very strange for us.”

Rösler revealed more on the strict social distancing rules German clubs a facing as the Bundesliga prepares to restart: “Every three or four days we get another 30 to 40 pages of new developments, new information about the virus.

“At the moment, we can fly, but we need a plane with at least 100 seats. When we travel by bus, we need at least two buses, maybe three buses.

“In the dressing room the restrictions are crazy. I have to take a lot of distance to the players. The Players have to change in three dressing rooms.”

Steffen Baumgart (credit: sport.de)

Paderborn boss Steffen Baumgart, meanwhile, sees an opportunity for a much-needed victory and wants his players to “step on the gas from the start”.

He said: “In my opinion, the boys are in a very good mood. Mentally, we prepare the team so that it is about a goal.

“We should all be happy that it [the Bundesliga]starts again, but because of the changed circumstances it will be a new experience. We have to get as many points as possible and start quickly.”

Baumgart was also honest about the significance of Saturday’s game for his side: “We know our situation, which we are responsible for.

“I don’t want to downplay the meaning at all. If we win, there are three points… If we lose, we would be nine points behind. Then it would be difficult.”

He also made light of wearing a mask as a coronavirus precaution: “I am prepared for it and will put on a mask. But since I can take it off when I have instructions, and I speak or whistle for 90 minutes, I won’t need it.”


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