Ironically before the duel against relegation competitor Karlsruher SC, 1. FC Nürnberg is struggling with the aftermath of the recent defeat and defensive problems – the club had just got back on track in terms of play and results.

Hanno Behrens is an intelligent man. As the captain of a football team, he is also ideal in that he delivers actionable statements to the press after frustrating games, such as the 1: 2 lost against Darmstadt, which was largely influenced by the referee, without cursing. On Sunday, however, the eloquent midfielder shook his head again and again in disbelief before he made the prediction that the upcoming game in Karlsruhe would be “very, very important.”

That’s the way it is. After the FCN seemed to have got the corner last time and had only suffered one defeat in six games since mid-December, the damper is also out of time insofar as neutral observers could understand the feeling of bitterness that struck the Nuremberg players after the strange referee performance. The referee Patrick Altdem refused Club a penalty on Sunday, but instead whistled one for Darmstadt and two club players were sent off. When Darmstadt’s Marvin Mehlem tried to speak for his opponent Fabian Nürnberger after the game, the referee is said to have refused to open the door. “Fabian wants to help him up and is sent off for this,” commented FCN trainer Jens Keller. According to his own statements, “he is no longer able to interpret the rules correctly.”

However, the starting position before the away game against sixteenth place Karlsruher SC, which has 24 points and could pull the club (15th) down to relegation rank in a win, is completely clear. After a seemingly endless series of win-less games going back to November, KSC coach Alois Schwartz had to go out, now succeeding Christian Eichner in Sandhausen was the first victory, which also ensured self-confidence because it was completely deserved by a dominant and consistent style of play.
Otherwise, the Nuremberg team, who was also trained by Schwartz from June to March in the 2016/2017 season, may be familiar with the way a team presents itself to which it imposes its signature. Schwartz, who was also unlucky in Nürnberg because important players had to be sold due to financial reasons, could have built up something in Karlsruhe over two and a half years, but trusted a team that was too slow and too old and that he ordered long and wide balls. That was enough for the promotion from the third to the second league. In the second league, however, the KSC became aware of the rudimentary offensive concept and the lack of it tactical flexibility to doom. Successor Eichner then pushed the field players as the first official act 15 meters forward and should also swear his team against the club in a more offensive, courageous way of playing.

He receives a Nuremberg team, whose worries are stupidly especially in the defensive area, at least both central defenders could fail. Asger Sörensen is definitely missing a red card, colleague Konstantinos Mavropanos, who played recently, hobbled against Darmstadt after a quarter of an hour and suffered a severe pelvic bruise. The Greek could not make the trip to Karlsruhe. Lukas Mühl, who introduced himself to the team productively with two fair but resolute tackles on Sunday, should therefore be used in the center-back position anyway. Anyone who replaces the suspended six-man Fabian Nürnberger is open, Johannes Geis is available again.

So much for the details before the 24th matchday, which, under other circumstances, could be a little more than a very exciting relegation duel. After all, the club had found its way back to the game against Darmstadt in a playful and technical way, and some external observers were already wondering whether the team that had started so disastrously in the season might not be at least half as good as that Club officials had believed before the season when, with very little money, they put together a squad that should be competitive in the top third of the table. And despite all the anger about the referee and his own fussiness when scoring the goal last Sunday, at least one positive conclusion remained: what the club is currently playing looks like planned team sport at least.

Andreas Knolle