Ron-Robert Zieler (2nd r.) and Erik Durm (2nd l.) are two World Cup winners to feature in Bundesliga 2's opening fixture between promoted Kaiserslautern and Hannover. - © DFL
Ron-Robert Zieler (2nd r.) and Erik Durm (2nd l.) are two World Cup winners to feature in Bundesliga 2's opening fixture between promoted Kaiserslautern and Hannover. - © DFL
2. Bundesliga

Big names kick off 2022/23 Bundesliga 2 season as Kaiserslautern host Hannover


The 2022/23 Bundesliga 2 season kicks off on Friday night with a mouth-watering fixture that includes big names, lofty ambitions and a special atmosphere as Kaiserslautern welcome Hannover to the Fritz-Walter-Stadion.

There’s a reason fans continue to flock to games in Germany’s second division – and we get an immediate example of that on Friday in the season’s official opening game.

The hosts are four-time national champions and also the only promoted team to ever win the Bundesliga title. Could the Red Devils repeat the feat one tier down after they ended their four-year stay in the 3. Liga with a play-off victory over Dynamo Dresden?

It's a remarkable turnaround for a fallen giant that was even at risk of slipping further down the pyramid the previous campaign. Lucky for fans and German football aficionados, Kaiserslautern are back on the rise and it’s their storied home, the Betzenberg, that gets to play host to this year’s curtain raiser.

Watch: Welcome back, Kaiserslautern!

“Getting the opening game an incredible appreciation for Kaiserslautern and its fans,” said Lautern head coach Dirk Schuster, who only took over for the play-off matches last season, ahead of Friday’s action.

The Red Devils are joined in the spotlight by Hannover, another one-time top-flight regular going into this season with ambitious targets. After last term’s rebuild and consolidation, Die Roten have made clear that they now intend to push for promotion – a goal backed up by the signing of coach Stefan Leitl, who guided Greuther Fürth to the Bundesliga a year ago.

“Stefan showed at Greuther Fürth that he can develop a team and a playing system step by step,” said sporting director Marcus Mann of the decision to bring in the 44-year-old veteran of 119 Bundesliga 2 fixtures.

Stefan Leitl (in green) takes over at Hannover after leaving Greuther Fürth, who he steered to top-flight promotion just over a year ago. - IMAGO/Michael Taeger/Jan Huebner/IMAGO/Jan Huebner

However, it isn’t just on the bench where Hannover have looked to make improvements. They have brought in Bundesliga experience across the field with the signings of Havard Nielsen, Louis Schaub and Fabian Kunze. And in goal they have former Germany international and 2014 FIFA World Cup winner Ron-Robert Zieler, who Leitl has backed by naming him club captain.

“Ron-Robert is an experienced leader who didn’t just win over with his performances last season but also possesses a wealth of experience,” the new head coach said of his skipper.

But Kaiserslautern also boast a top-quality goalkeeper after the promoted side secured the signature of Andreas Luthe, fresh from guiding Union Berlin to a historic fifth place and also representing the club in Europe.

Managing director Thomas Hengen described the 35-year-old as “a seasoned professional who will help our team in the coming Bundesliga 2 season and ensure stability.”

As big as Luthe’s arrival is for the Red Devils, the signing of Erik Durm was a real signal of intent from the club. Born in nearby Pirmasens, the versatile defender, who spent six years on the books at Borussia Dortmund, is himself a 2014 World Cup winner and arrives a UEFA Europa League champion with Eintracht Frankfurt.

Hannover’s Ron-Robert Zieler (3rd r.) and Kaiserslautern’s Erik Durm (c.) were part of the Germany squad that won the World Cup in 2014. - Martin Rose/Getty Images

The 30-year-old’s addition should provide the team with the experience they need at this higher level, and coach Schuster believes his side is now well equipped for the step up: “If we play to our maximum, we can be an awkward opponent for everyone and make our mark in Bundesliga 2.”

His opposite number Leitl is also “aware of what’s coming our way” but is confident his new team can assert themselves against the promoted Red Devils: “We also come into this with confidence. My boys have to take that confidence from pre-season and also back it up. We’re of the great belief that we can get something in Kaiserslautern.”

It may just be the first of 306 fixtures over a long campaign, but it’s one to whet the appetite with giants attempting to rise again and World Cup winners leading the way eight years and two days since their crowning glory together in Brazil. Let the action begin!