Despite losing their first three games, Darmstadt end 2021 in second place, breathing down the neck of league leaders St. Pauli, and on course for a return to the top flight.
bundesliga.com takes a closer look at how Darmstadt have entered the promotion fray from Bundesliga 2…
The story so far
Whoever thought it could not get much worse after back-to-back defeats to Jahn Regensburg and Karlsruher had not accounted for elimination from the DFB Cup in the first round at the hands of third-tier outfit 1860 Munich. Torsten Lieberknecht's men well and truly rolled their sleeves up after that disappointment, though, and a crushing 6-1 win over Ingolstadt set a much more positive tone. They hit Sandhausen for six on Matchday 9 and got their revenge over Regensburg with a 2-0 win in Bavaria, which cemented their second place at the end of 2021, five points clear of third-placed Hamburg.
Only Hamburg have conceded fewer than Darmstadt’s 20 goals so far this season, a fact that is largely down to the strength of Marcel Schuhen’s performances between the posts. The custodian has only shipped 15 across his 16 appearances, whilst keeping seven clean sheets. As such, Die Lilien are well in the hunt for promotion and a return to the top flight.
Best game so far
Darmstadt showed neither fear nor intimidation in front of over 50,000 fans at the Veltins Arena with a 4-2 win over Schalke flexing their promotion-seeking muscles in impressive style. Philipp Tietz struck twice after a Luca Pfeiffer own goal had given the hosts the lead, and Benjamin Goller sealed a win which took Darmstadt above the Royal Blues into fourth.
Watch: Schalke 2-4 Darmstadt - highlights
One to watch
This should really be 'ones to watch'. Forwards Luca Pfeiffer and Phillip Tietz have formed a formidable attack, which is well on its way to firing Darmstadt back into the top flight. Never in the history of Bundesliga 2 had two players from the same team hit double figures after just 15 matchdays (when Pfeiffer had 12 and Tietz 11). In fact, their combined 24 goals is already only four short of the best ever single-season haul of two players from the same team - Darmstadt's Horst Neumann (20) and Peter Cestonaro (8) in 1980/81. Neumann was the league's top scorer that season, and Darmstadt were promoted. Could lightning strike twice in 2022?
The view from inside the camp
"We wanted to spread the goals around a bit and it wasn't necessarily planned that [Tietz and Pfeiffer] would play together, but this idea just developed with the coach. Of course we're delighted they're both playing so well together. We knew they had the quality and we're really pleased to see how well it's working, and let's hope they can keep it up. Torsten's blended the team really well with the changes he's made and we're delighted he's our coach." – general manager Carsten Wehlmann
The second half of the season has already started in Bundesliga 2, with Darmstadt gaining revenge for their opening day defeat to Regensburg, but the campaign will restart in earnest when Karlsruher come to town on Matchday 19, and Hamburg will be the next to pay Darmstadt a visit three weeks later. The Lilies will hope at least to maintain the five-point gap between the two teams going into that fixture, and any advantage at all over third place would be a bonus for when they host Schalke and face St. Pauli in consecutive weeks in April.
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