SV Darmstadt 98 Season Preview: Can the fairytale continue for Die Lilien?

The 33-year wait is over for Darmstadt

The 33-year wait is over for Darmstadt

SV Darmstadt 98 have defied the odds over the last few seasons and surprisingly find themselves back in Germany’s top flight after spending thirty-three years in the lower divisions.

Factfile

Name: SV Darmstadt 98
Nickname: Die Lilien
Founded: 1898
Ground: Merck-Stadion am Böllenfalltor
Head Coach: Dirk Schuster
Captain: Aytaç Sulu
League Position Last Season: 2nd Place (2. Bundesliga)
DFB Pokal Finish Last Season: 1st Round (Defeated by VfL Wolfsburg)

Die Lilien’s story in recent years has been an incredible one and you could argue it deserve’s to have it’s movie. On their way to Germany’s fourth tier Darmstadt’s future looked very bleak. With a huge slice of luck they stayed up and that season rather than fight relegation they deservedly earned third spot and knocked out Arminia Bielefeld in a play-off match to earn promotion into the 2. Bundesliga.

Going into the 2. Bundesliga many weren’t expecting Darmstadt to produce many surprises, especially as they had a large amount of players still at the club from the 3. Liga. Darmstadt along with fellow promoted sides RB Leipzig and 1. FC Heidenheim produced brilliantly display’s are were near the top for large parts of the Hinrunde.

Predictions were that Darmstadt would find themselves dropping off in the Rückrunde, however that was far from the case and in the 70th minute against St. Pauli, Tobias Kempe scored a fantastic free-kick to send Darmstadt into the Bundesliga after confirming second place.

Celebrations were wild in Darmstadt!

Celebrations were wild in Darmstadt!

Summer signings

Sadly with success it brings much more attention on your club and that attention has seen three key players snapped up by other club’s.Hanno Behrens was the first leave as he signed for 2 .Bundesliga side 1. FC Nürnberg, Behrens ended up being the club’s third top goalscorer last season with five goals, his best ever career tally. Nigerian Leon Balogun had a fantastic first season with Darmstadt and proved to be a very good purchase at right back, after contributing heavily throughout the season and grabbing four goals, Mainz quickly snapped him up.

Lastly the third key player to leave was arguably the worst one to let go, Romain Brégerie created a brilliant partnership at centre back with captain Aytac Sulu, not only was he solid defensively he proved to a great asset going forward. Brégerie scored six goals last season and finished the club’s second top goalscorer, he also managed two assists. Not only was it disappointing to see because of the role these player’s played in getting Darmstadt up, but also that they all left on free transfers.

Other departures have seen Timon Fröhlich, Janik Bachmann andSerkan Firat all released, Marius Sauß joined Oberliga side U.S.I Lupo-Martini, Ronny König made a move to 3.Liga side Chemnitzer FC and lastly Maurice Exslager returned to Köln after his loan spell which ended goalless.

Plenty for Darmstadt to replace especially their squad depth which will be vital for the season ahead. Coming up from the U19’s team this season are Jan Finger, Ali Kazimi, Nick Volk and Noel Wembacher, all may not have a key role to play this season, however they will learn plenty from the Bundesliga experience, travelling to the ground’s, experiencing the atmosphere and just simply watching the matches first hand. Jan Rosenthal has rejoined permanently after last season’s loan spell, as has Fabian Hollandwho was a key player in a strong back line which was the joint best in the 2. Bundesliga last season.

Darmstadt will need to continue on from last season’s defensive heroics and they’ve brought in plenty of Bundesliga experience which should help that. Luca Caldirola has joined on loan from Werder Bremen, the centre back struggled for game time last season after a good first season in Germany, he’ll hope to prove he still has some worth.

Konstantin Rausch has 175 Bundesliga appearances to his name and provides plenty of ability down the left side, be it from left back or left midfield. Other experience and versatility comes from thirty-one year olds in the shape of Júnior Díaz and Peter Niemeyer, who joined from Mainz and Hertha BSC respectively.

Darmstadt weren’t amongst the highest scorers in the 2. Bundesliga last season and they’ll need to come up with a few more if they’re to avoid an instant return. Dirk Schuster has strengthened well and two signing’s that could have a vital part to play this season areMario Vrančić from Paderborn and Sandro Wagner from Hertha BSC. Both have lots of Bundesliga experience and can be a handful on their day, Schuster as got the best out of this squad and the new signing’s shouldn’t be much different.

Freekick hero Kempe has a big part to play this season.

Freekick hero Kempe has a big part to play this season.

Key Men

There’s three players that were vital to Darmstadt’s success last season and they will need to step up once again if Die Lilien are to have success this time around. Dominik Stroh-Engel was incredible in Darmstadt’s 3.Liga success scoring twenty-seven league goals, last season he adapted well and finished as the club’s top scorer again with nine league goals, the question now is can he do it in the top tier?

The other two key men can be found getting white paint on their boots out wide and from there both Marcel Heller and Tobias Kempe created six assists each, the latter scoring three goals and while the former managed four goals, the fourth being that previously mentioned winner against St. Pauli to send them up.

Their wing play and assists were vital last season and they’ll have to attack with the same pace and work just as hard if their to reap the rewards again.

The first game of the season see’s Darmstadt start the campaign at the Merck-Stadion am Böllenfalltor as they host Hannover 96. The place will have a tremendous atmosphere throughout and the will certainly play an effect in their aim to start the season off with a bang.

The first away trip of the season see’s Darmstadt getting the hard task of visiting Schalke 04. Other important fixtures see Bayern Munichcome to town in the middle of September, before hosting nearbyMainz at the start of October and the away trip to Eintracht Frankfurt at the start of December.

The last game of the season see’s Die Lilien host Borussia Mönchengladbach, they’ll hope by then their fate will be sealed and they’ll be hoping it’s the same as Köln’s fate last season rather than Paderborn’s. Another miracle need’s be on the cards in the eye’s of many and it’s hard to disagree, they’ve added experience however they’ll probably fall short. Fans of the club will certainly hope Schuster can work his magic once again.

Article for VAVEL Bundesliga.

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