With the 2022/23 Bundesliga 2 season just around the corner, bundesliga.com takes a look at how the teams are shaping up for the new campaign. First up are relegated Arminia Bielefeld and Greuther Fürth, as well as last term's promotion contenders Hamburg, Darmstadt, St. Pauli and Heidenheim.
The 2021/22 campaign proved to be that tricky second album for Bielefeld as they suffered relegation two years on from promotion from the second division. It took them 11 seasons to get back into the top flight after they most recently fell through the trap door - including three campaigns in the third division - and Bielefeld will be hoping that it doesn't take quite as long to return to the Bundesliga this time around.
Watch: Outgoing goalkeeper Stefan Ortega's top 5 saves for Bielefeld
They have, however, seen goalkeeper Stefan Ortega (Manchester City), defensive chief Amos Pieper (Werder Bremen) and standout wide-man Patrick Wimmer (Wolfsburg) all depart the club this summer. It means new coach Uli Forte has a rebuild on his hands and the team have strengthened with the signings of Oliver Hüsing from Heidenheim and Silvan Sidler of FC Luzern. No wonder then that managing director, Samir Arabi, said the name of the game this term is to "build a new foundation in Bundesliga 2 in order to stabilise and further develop our team."
The Cloverleaves also suffered the drop in 2021/22, with just three wins and 18 points seeing them finish 10 points adrift of Bielefeld and 15 off the safety of 15th place. It was a pretty chastening year for Greuther and they now return to the second division as, still, the most experienced Bundesliga 2 team in history thanks to their 1,126 game record at this level. They have lost coach Stefan Leitl, who made the jump to Hannover, and have brought in Swiss tactician Marc Schneider in his place.
"The values of the club, the approach - realistic, but ambitious - and the requirements at Fürth appeal to me immensely," said the new coach after his unveiling. Schneider will need to be realistic having seen Leitl take Havard Nielsen with him to Hannover, while both Jamie Leweling and Paul Seguin have signed for Union Berlin, but there have been some exciting incomings. Ragnar Ache has joined on loan from UEFA Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt, while highly-talented duo Armindo Sieb and Sidney Raebiger have signed on from Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig, respectively. They will have USA international Julian Green to point the way once again, having played an important role in their 2020/21 promotion-winning effort.
German football's dinosaur club have a fifth campaign in the second tier ahead of them after narrowly missing out on promotion again last time out. A dramatic victory on the final day sent HSV into the promotion/relegation playoff but, after winning the first-leg 1-0 in the capital, they succumbed to Hertha Berlin - and Hamburg legend Felix Magath - as the Old Lady of Germany sealed a 2-0 victory in Hamburg.
Faride Alidou is a notable departure this summer as Eintracht came calling, while Ransford Königsdörffer (Dynamo Dresden) and Filip Bilbija (Ingolstadt) are two exciting young additions that have joined from relegated teams. Laszlo Benes brings real quality and experience with him from Borussia Mönchengladbach and surely strengthens the midfield, while Robert Glatzel will again be tasked with scoring the goals. Tim Walter remains as head coach and will be highly motivated to go one better this term and end Hamburg's top-flight exile.
Darmstadt were one of the division's surprise packages in 2021/22, as they launched a promotion bid that went the distance but narrowly pulled up short. They were only denied a showdown with Hertha in the playoffs on goal difference as coach Torsten Lieberknecht built a team that played attractive and, crucially, successful football.
The departures of top scorer Luca Pfeiffer - who returned to Midtjylland after scoring 17 times last term - and Tim Skarke to Union Berlin feel like significant losses, but the club have recruited themselves and also kept hold of Pfeiffer's partner-in-crime Phillip Tietz. Young Danish winger Magnus Warming is a particularly exciting new addition, and he means business, saying on his arrival: "My intention is to take the next steps here and assert myself in one of the best second divisions in the world."
Last season was a case of what might have been for the Kult Klub of German football. Pauli were leading the way at the winter break, but imploded over the back end of the season, winning just one of their final seven games of the campaign as they slumped into fifth place. Timo Schultz now has to pick his side up again and try to last the course as Pauli look to return to the top flight for the first time since relegation at the end of the Bundesliga's 2010/11 edition.
They will have to make do without last year's top scorer Guido Burgstaller and new Freiburg man Daniel-Kofi Kyereh, but David Otto (Hoffenheim) and Johannes Eggestein (Royal Antwerp) have been recruited in attack. David Nemeth (Mainz) and Carlo Boukhalfa (Freiburg) are also new faces at the Millerntor Stadion in pre-season and will surely improve an already talented squad.
Heidenheim have become the perennial nearly men of the second division in recent years, with their stretch in the league now entering a ninth season after claiming a fourth top-six finish in six years last time out. They should again be competing for places at the pointy end of the table and everlasting coach Frank Schmidt - now going into his 16th season at the helm and with 550 games under his belt at the club - has made some shrewd-looking signings in order to do so.
Adrian Beck (Ulm) has been plucked from the fourth rung of the German footballing ladder, while Berlin-born USA U20 international Lennard Maloney joins from Borussia Dortmund. Jan-Niklas Beste, who was on loan at Jahn Regensburg last year and is snared from Werder Bremen, is another former Dortmund academy product that joins the ranks and head of sport, Robert Strauss, believes the club have on their hands a "highly talented young player and a strong finisher."
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