Game Preview: 1. FC Köln at Eintracht Frankfurt

1. FC Köln vs. Eintracht Frankfurt
Commerzbank Arena, Frankfurt
Saturday, September 12, 2015
12:30 p.m. EST

Upon returning from the international break, the 1. FC Köln will take the spotlight when they battle Eintracht Frankfurt in the Saturday late match.

Here is Planet Effzeh’s methodical breakdown of how the two clubs stack-up.

Goalkeeper

Timo Horn has yet to keep a clean sheet, whereas last year by this time he’d already posted three. Even so, he’s given up just one goal in each match so far and nothing more, which has been a significant contributor to the seven-point season start.

Somewhat as was the case in match day one against VfB Stuttgart, Horn faced a lot of shots last time out, but Hamburger SV didn’t really test him with most of their shots.

Eintracht’s new keeper Lukas Hradecky is coming off a similar match day three experience. VfB Stuttgart kept sending shots his direction, but few of them called for much of an effort from Kevin Trapp’s Finnish (by way of Slovakia) replacement.

Before arriving to Germany for this season, the 25-year-old Hradecky had cut his teeth in the Finnish and Danish leagues. His play there may well have earned him a shot at playing in one of the premier leagues in the world, but he’s still a newcomer to this level.

Timo may be younger, but he’s already made a name for himself having proven he belongs at such a level.

Advantage: 1. FC Köln

Defense

Dominic Maroh is finally returning from injury, which will likely provide little more than bench depth for Peter Stöger on Saturday. Frederik Sørensen and Dominique Heintz have handled their business as the central-defense tandem well enough for nobody to feel rushed to get Maroh back into a starter’s role.

"I'll be bahck!" Sørensen to terminate Meier's hot streak v Effzeh?

“Ahll be bahck!” Sørensen to help terminate Meier’s hot streak v Effzeh?

Of course, Sven Schipplock, Martin Harnik, Daniel Ginczek, or even Bas Dost are not quite as frightening as is “Köln Terror” Alexander Meier, who may, like Maroh, again be available for his side after a lengthy injury. The new guys are well aware of the challenge and seem ready to welcome it. You can hardly blame Sørensen for feeling a bit confident in his abilities to handle Meier after the job he did frustrating Dost all afternoon on match day two.

Out on the wings, it’s Jonas Hector returning from his most-triumphant German national team trip yet on the left, and probably Pawel Olkowski who returns from a slightly less-triumphant run with Poland over the break and will be looking to reassert himself as a major factor in the effzeh effort after a lackluster start to the season.

The middle of Frankfurt’s defensive row will likely be covered  by some combination of Carlos Zambrano, Marco Russ, and David Abraham. Zambrano hurt his ribs while in service to Peru over the break and may miss the match, which leaves Russ and Abraham, both of whom have been solid for Armin Veh this season. Zambrano’s reputation for physical play nearly gives Frankfurt an additional player in defense, as many players shy away from his area whenever possible to avoid taking a shot from him. Köln forwards won’t miss his presence if Zambrano doesn’t play.

It’s almost a shame that right back Timothy Chandler tore a miniscus in his right knee (and of course it IS a shame that he’s hurt at all, but . . .), as he struggled to deal with the speed of Filip Kostic along his flank. Aleksandar Ignjovski, who came on for Chandler at halftime, immediately proved his defensive mettle. I liked the prospect of Leonardo Bittencourt versus Chandler more than I like him versus Ignjovski.

On the other side, Bastian Oczipka still has the pedigree that lets you know he’s a guy who can handle his business on the defensive end and hurt you coming forward, but he also has issues with consistency in one-on-one defending and ball security. He was solid against Stuttgart before the break, though, even if he’s no Jonas Hector.

There are actually a lot of similarities between the early performances of the two defensive rows, but Veh’s squad is a bit nicked-up, forcing him to juggle personnel, while Stöger will have the confidence of using the same quartet he has used three times prior to good success.

Slight Advantage: 1. FC Köln

Midfield

The question before the game will be whether Stöger goes again with two holding-mids in a 4-4-2 or he goes back to the 4-1-4-1 with which he started the season. The midfield was unquestionably better in the draw with Wolfsburg than it was in either victory. The home-opener against the Wolves saw Stöger revert from the 4-1-4-1 he’d used in summertime tests and the win at Stuttgart in which the hosts enjoyed the better of possession and shots.

But then the 4-4-2 midfield looked against the HSV about the way the 4-1-4-1 midfield looked against Stuttgart, so who knows?

One thing on which you can likely bank is that however many sixes Stöger uses, Matthias Lehmann will be among them. Additionally, you can probably expect Bittencourt on the left and Marcel Risse on the right, as those players seem to have a firm grip on those positions, at least until Stöger moves Risse to right back to cover for Olkowski.

After that, don’t be surprised to see Milos Jojic given another shot in the middle as a reward for his contributions as a sub against the HSV, but with all the midfielders available, there’s no telling who of Jojic, Kevin Vogt, Yannick Gerhardt, and even Yuya Osako and Simon Zoller will get the starting nods.

If Russ has to pull duty in the central defense for a second consecutive week to cover for Zambrano, Veh will have to decide whether he wants to continue with Stefan Reinartz and Makato Hasebe as the double-six in his 4-4-2. Reinartz has been fine, if not spectacular, but Hasebe has been a liability. There is a chance of rolling Hasebe to right back, where he wandered a bit against Stuttgart and looked less awful, while Ignjovski played more central and looked fantastic, but there is also Johannes Flum looking to get his first action of the season as an option.

On the wings you have the very young and talented Marc Stendera, who has just the one game back from injury and was fairly pedestrian on the left against Stuttgart, and the less young Stefan Aigner who provides more effort than actual threat.

The problem with being semi-dismissive of Frankfurt’s wing play is that once you’ve seen them rolling, you know they can be a deadly force. They simply haven’t been that yet this season. Can we bank on it going another week?

Advantage: Push!

Attack

If it’s just one attacker, it’s likely to be Anthony Modeste, and that’s a fine single attacker to have for such things. Yes, both his goals have come from the spot, but he’s been getting some excellent shots on target, getting everyone excited for when they eventually start finding pay dirt.

Because Zoller looked less dangerous as a striker, even though he is a striker, it’d be somewhat surprising to see him paired again with Modeste up front. Same goes for Osako, but because he’s coming back from injury and has been playing primarily in the midfield.

Finne? Nah. Left behind again.

We can start talking about Eintracht by simply noting that Alex Meier is healthy and has scored seven goals in twelve matches against Köln.

If that’s not enough to give you the sweats, Frankfurt can also send Haris Seferovic, who’s simply deadly, and newcomer Luc Castaignos who has looked good thus far for SGE.

Whichever strikers Veh sends into the fray, he’ll have to feel good about it.

Advantage:  Eintracht Frankfurt

Coach

I’m not going to say much other than Peter Stöger or the guy who quit Eintract at the end of 2013-14 season to return to VfB Stuttgart, bailed on Stuttgart when he couldn’t make them not awful just a few weeks into last season, and now returns to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Yeah, Veh has won a Bundesliga title. Fine.

Veh not only won a title, but did it leading VfB Stuttgart, one of the few non-Bayern clubs to outplay the Rekordmeister despite being grossly outspent by the Rekordspender.

And while I completely respect him for that accomplishment, I still can’t help but paint him with the same “quitter” brush I use for Holger Stanislawski. At least Stani had the decency to not just run to another club, instead taking time away from the game and showing that maybe he recognized his head and heart was simply not in it anymore.

I’ll still take our guy.

Advantage:  1. FC Köln

Form

Not sure how much momentum can be continued through a 14-day gap between Bundesliga games, but Köln is feeling good about the seven points it has, whether HSV fans liked Denis Aytekin’s penalty call or not.

But that’s about results, which are not always indicative of form.

 

Fans unilaterally expected better overall performances than what the team provided against Stuttgart and Hamburg, but that was based on thrilling summer test matches that promised an increase in offensive play. Some of that promise was fulfilled in the Wolfsburg match, but the Stuttgart and Hamburg matches were both closer to defensive grinds than the gorgeous free-flowing football many expected.

Keeping in mind that the attacking efforts were unlikely to ever just replace organized-defense-first and instead were intended to be an expansion of what Köln does, the team has been effective. We’re seeing opposition manage loads of shots and possession, but very few quality moments.

There’s something to be said for that.

Frankfurt is coming off their first win of the season, holding a possession advantage on the way to a 1:4 victory. The four goals came off five credited shots and an own goal. The game was otherwise played mostly in the midfield, with Stuttgart taking more shots, but unable to convert them, just like they had against Köln.

Neither club had displayed a full 90 minutes of the type of game they expect to be able to execute this season, but both will enter Saturday with enough confidence from having found some successes already this year.

Slight Advantage:  1. FC Köln

Health

With Maroh and Osako returning, 1. FC Köln will be missing only Mergim Mavraj.

Frankfurt appears to be getting Alex Meier back, but will be without Timothy Chandler and will also likely go without Carlos Zambrano. Talented youngster Sonny Kittel continues to be gone with a cruciate ligament injury, not to return until at least early November, and fellow 19-year-old left-wing Joel Gerezgiher is out with a strained abdomen.

Strong Advantage:  1. FC Köln

Intangibles

You generally hear travelling 1. FC Köln fans over the home fans on most broadcasts of effzeh away games, but a visit to Frankfurt is one of the times when you’ll hear the “COME ON EFFZEH!” only in spots.

Commerzbank Arena enjoys a terrific atmosphere thanks to the strong and vehement fans base there. Perhaps much of the credit for Frankfurt earning 32 of their season total 43 points last year at home can be credited to their comfort level there.

While our effzeh grabbed 19 points from 17 road matches last year, the fifth best away record in the league, the club returned to Köln from last year’s match day seven visit to Frankfurt empty-handed, even after Jonas Hector equalized in the 65th minute with this beauty.

A Kevin Wimmer own goal was the culprit in keeping all three points in Frankfurt on that day.

Now, it’s also worth noting that that Wimmer-powered victory was Eintracht’s only win against the effzeh in the last nine meetings between the two clubs.

Even so, I can’t help but thing that the “intangibles” stack up against our guys, especially that whole Alex Meier thing . . .

Strong Advantage:  Eintracht Frankfurt

Prediction

There were eleven goals scored between the two fixtures between these two last season. Add to that a bit of more-open play by the effzeh, Frankfurt’s injury concerns on their own back end, and Alexander Meier Fußballgott‘s needing to make up for missing the first three weeks of the goal-scoring race, it would seem like all signs point to a football-festival treat for Saturday’s late match.

Which is precisely why I will go the opposite way.

       1. FC Köln                 1
Eintracht Frankfurt    1

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