The Liga title race heats up as the last four matches approach. What seemed like a certain and uncontrollable top three was completely overthrown with the recent resurgence of 1860 München. Hansa Rostock, FC Ingolstadt and Dynamo Dresden will have a lot more to say as we head into the final race. 1860 fight and finally broke the trio.
Not so long ago, on Matchday 25, Die Löwen was seventh and 12 points off the top of the championship. Fast forward to today, after Matchday 34, only four points separate Hansa in first place and 1860 now third in the table ahead of Dresden.
A quick look at the other three contenders for further promotion: Hansa Rostock has flirted with promotion hopes over the past few years, but ultimately had to settle for two sixth places after failing at the end of each season. Now we are seeing Jens Härtel’s side gain consistency and it looks more and more likely that they will be in one of the automatically promoted teams. A late weekend winner against SV Meppen without a manager, confirming this claim.
Ingolstadt will always have the last-minute qualifying winner last season for 1. FC Nürnberg ingrained in their minds. One in five wins for Die Schanzer, a team that also needed a late winner last time around as Zwickau in the middle of the table took the lead twice at Audi SportPark. Ingolstadt was extremely close to promotion last time around and is hoping to secure it automatically this season. Die Schanzer fans will want to avoid another play off battle relegation.
Dynamo Dresden have just ended their lockdown scenario after the club fell with another Covid outbreak. Dresden were the first German team to be hit hard last year when they were forced into their last nine Bundesliga games within 30 days, which ultimately prompted their relegation to third place. After a demoralizing 3-0 defeat to Hallescher FC on their return to normal business on Saturday, head coach Markus Kauczinski has been dismissed from his post. Without manager and now out of promotion places. The German club on the east side will undoubtedly be under more pressure from the four to secure their early return to 2. Bundesliga.
Now everything is focused on 1860 München. A club which, just four years ago, was at one of its lowest levels of existence. Failed to get a 3. Liga license following relegation from the 2. Bundesliga after their owner Hasan Ismaik refused to pay the fees. 1,860 were confined to a Regionalliga roster for the 2017/18 season, nine points clear at the top and a quick promotion to 3. Liga football.
Returning to the present day and this season, we are witnessing the club’s third promotion attempt, now under the control of former 1. FC Nürnberg head coach Michael Köllner. A man who not so long ago was promoted to the Bundesliga with Der Club.
His squad were notoriously led by the 3. Liga response to Robert Lewandowski, former Augsburg striker Sasha Mölders with 21 goals in 33 appearances for Sechzig this season. Even at 36, the German doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. 22-year-old midfielder Dennis Dressel has stood out in a promising season for the young German. Living his second full season in professional football and essential to 1860’s success in midfield this year. Köllner has a team worthy of promotion, getting them across the board is the tricky part and he has four games to get there.
Conversing with 1860 München fan and creator of the 1860 München EN Twitter account (@sechzig_en), George Balakrishna. The former München resident tells us about the importance of taking this historic and traditional club back in time.
It’s been almost 20 years since we last saw 1,860 colors in the Bundesliga, firstly, how much would it mean to the fans that the correct progressions are made to allow a return to where they think the club deserves to be?
“1860 was chosen as a founding member of the Bundesliga (ahead of Bayern) and our history, our fan base and our tradition definitely feel that this is where we deserve to be. That said, 1,860 fans aren’t obsessed with winning and a return to the Bundesliga would almost certainly mean having to leave the beloved Grünwalder Stadion again, unless some serious work is done at the stadium. Promotion to the second division would be a huge step in the right direction, especially with the club going through the turmoil it has been through in recent years.
The Grünwalder Stadion the 1860 München house. The club shared with rivals Bayern München in their Allianz arena for some time before securing their return to their rightful home. As mentioned, work needs to be done on their beloved stadium if they get promoted. The 15,000-seat stadium does not meet the demands of the La Liga stadium.
When the 3.Liga license was lost and relegation to Regionalliga was confirmed in 2017, how vital was it for the club themselves to try to correct their woes and avoid dark times for the club?
“I think the saving grace has been the loyalty of the fans. If you look at the lone season spent in the Regionalliga, 1,860 fans would travel by the thousands in teams like VfR Garching and SV Schalding-Heinig and almost all home games were sold out. We took the league by storm that season and it was probably quite enjoyable despite the circumstances that brought us there! But the fans had no illusions that they didn’t want something like this to repeat. We still have the same owner (who will not be named), so the fear certainly hasn’t completely gone away.
The 3. Liga year after year becomes more and more difficult to come out. Should it be now? Would 1860 have a hard time getting back to the top if we don’t see a promotion in the near future?
“It’s a very unpredictable league and getting closer one season certainly doesn’t guarantee you’ll be there the next session – just watch Unterhaching or Duisburg, who were the top two for parts of last season and now they’re all. both either in the relegation points or just above.
“The obvious reason why the promotion ‘must’ take place now – if ever – is simple: Sascha Mölders. 36 years old and the league’s top scorer with 21 years. He recently signed a new contract until the end of next season, but you never know if age will catch up with him all of a sudden. On the other hand, we have a very talented group of young academy players, some of whom I’m sure will continue to play at a higher level – eg Semi Belkahia, Dennis Dressel, Marco Hiller. So that’s certainly not to say that if it doesn’t happen this season it won’t be for long, but you feel like everything is focused at the right time now.
There are four meetings left. How confident are the fans that the club can get promoted this year, given the circumstances? And is it disappointing that fans can’t witness it?
“Until about two weeks ago, you would have struggled to find even the most optimistic Sechziger who thought we could correct a nine point deficit in such a short time, but the teams above us have had a real wobble and now find themselves just one point behind the promotion bunk and two off 2nd, only four off 1st! We’re in very good form right now and what’s even better is that we’re playing really good football. But that can all change in the blink of an eye in football, especially when the pressure is on. Personally, I see it all coming down to the last game of the season at Ingolstadt, who are currently two points ahead of us, with a much lower goal difference. The consensus is that if we can hang on to this game with less than a three-point deficit, we support the boys to go and win there and cross the line with the goal difference (but I hope it doesn’t. is not that tight!)
Four games lie between Die Löwen and one step closer to the Bundesliga. 1. FC Kaiserslautern, Wehen Wiesbaden, the “derby” against Bayern II and their promotion rivals Ingolstadt. All eyes are on this appointment at Audi SportPark on May 22. A huge game on the schedule and from a neutral perspective could be one of the most exciting fixtures of the season. 1860 are unbeaten against these four teams this season, Köllner’s team could gain the upper hand as the race approaches.
Sechizig has had some troubled times in recent history, but we could see the return of one of the Bundesliga greats. A club littered with tradition, history and an incredible fan base begins to take revenge.