FC Köln will travel to Hoffenheim on Friday evening and The Billy Goats will be looking to build upon their impressive start to the season.
Köln’s start to the season has been in stark contrast to their first seven matches of the previous Bundesliga campaign. At the same stage last term, The Billy Goats only had three points to their name and had yet to win a league fixture. In fact, the entire 2020/21 campaign was disappointing, and it culminated in a relegation play-off with Holstein Kiel. Despite losing the first leg 1-0, Köln thumped Holstein Kiel 5-1 in the second leg to preserve their place in the German top flight.
In truth, it has been a rollercoaster four years for the two-time German champions. The 2017/18 campaign was a dismal one, which saw Köln finish rock bottom with only 22 points after winning just five league games. However, the following campaign saw The Billy Goats bounce straight back by winning the 2. Bundesliga title and since their return to the Bundesliga, Köln have finished in in 14th and 16th place.
Many Köln fans may have entered the current campaign fearful and perhaps expecting yet another relegation scrap, but under the watchful eye of Steffen Baumgart – who was appointed head coach in the summer – Köln have enjoyed an excellent start to the campaign.
Three wins and three draws have seen Köln flirt with the upper echelons of the Bundesliga table and their only defeat of the season came against Bayern Munich in an encounter where they ran the German champions close before falling to a 3-2 scoreline.
Baumgart has utilised a 4-1-3-2 formation and it has led to his side scoring in every game this season, although they have also conceded in every encounter. Forward Anthony Modeste has led the line in an exemplary fashion by scoring four goals this term, while the defensive midfielder Ellyes Skhiri has netted on three occasions – two of those came in Köln’s last match against Greuther Fürth.
After such a confident start to the campaign, the question for Köln now is, what can they achieve this season?
With the likes of RB Leipzig, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Eintracht Frankfurt experiencing slow starts to their campaigns, there will be a whole host of teams, who may feel they can claim a European place this season. The last time Köln participated in a European competition was in the 2017/18 campaign when they finished 3rd in their Europa League group.
A European place may not be the expectation for Köln this season, but if they can guarantee safety early in the campaign and stay in touch with the European positions, then The Billy Goats could try and achieve something special.
If they are to continue their impressive form, then their defensive record will need to improve. Köln have conceded in every game this season and, as a result, are yet to keep a clean sheet and Baumgart must find a solution without compromising Köln’s superb attacking play.
Their form at the RheinEnergieStadion has been phenomenal with the four home league games yielding 10 points – only Borussia Dortmund have collected more on home turf. They have not lost at home, but they are yet to win away this term after drawing twice and losing once on their travels this season.
If Baumgart can tighten up the defence and The Billy Goats start to pick up wins on the road then whose to say that Köln cannot achieve European football this season.