FC Koln host Holstein Kiel in the Bundesliga relegation playoff on Wednesday, with the visitors looking to gain promotion to the Bundesliga for the first time in the club’s history.
Koln, meanwhile, are aiming to avoid a sixth relegation from Germany’s top flight this century alone.
Koln have arguably become Germany’s main Yo-yo club, with the Cologne-based outfit often bouncing between the Bundesliga and 2.Bundesliga in the past two decades.
Friedhelm Funkel’s side dramatically avoided being automatically condemned to Germany’s second tier via Sebastiaan Bornauw’s 86th-minute winner against already-relegated Schalke 04 on Saturday, with Werder Bremen taking their place in 17th position as a result.
In truth, Koln have improved under the experienced 67-year-old’s tutelage, picking up 10 points from his five matches in charge after things went very stale towards the end of Markus Gisdol’s reign.
Regardless of whether they prove victorious over two legs against Holstein Kiel and survive, though, Funkel will replaced by current SC Paderborn boss Steffen Baumgart for the beginning of the next campaign.
The 49-year-old will desperately be hoping that he has a top division club to take charge of in July, with Koln heading into uncharted waters for their first relegation playoff tie in the history of the club.
Holstein Kiel have never been here either, however, with this season’s DFB-Pokal semi-finalists closer than ever to competing in the Bundesliga for the first time.
The Storks did win Germany’s top flight more than a century ago back in 1912, but that was a long time before the formation of the Bundesliga in 1963. They have generally flickered between being a second and third-tier side ever since.
However, they have thrived under Ole Werner this season, with the 33-year-old guiding the club to a famous penalty shootout victory over Bayern Munich in the second round of the domestic cup before losing 5-0 to Borussia Dortmund in the semi-final.
Werner’s side looked on the verge of automatic promotion earlier in the season, too, and indeed could still have achieved that by winning either of their last two matches, but a COVID-19 outbreak stalled their progress and resulted in a congested final few weeks of the campaign.
As such, they ultimately ran out of steam in successive 3-2 defeats to Karlsruher SC and Darmstadt, with Greuther Furth pipping them to the second automatic spot as a result, but they will have a couple of more bites at the cherry against Koln over the next week.
FC Koln Bundesliga Relegation Playoffs form:
FC Koln form (all competitions):
Holstein Kiel form (all competitions):