Jonas Hector is looking to guide Cologne to calmer waters this term, after a nail-biting end to the last campaign. - © Christof Koepsel/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images
Jonas Hector is looking to guide Cologne to calmer waters this term, after a nail-biting end to the last campaign. - © Christof Koepsel/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images
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Cologne: 2021/22 season preview

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Jonas Hector and Cologne are looking to avoid relegation drama in 2021/22 after surviving via the play-offs last term, and a number of returning players could boost their hopes of doing so.

Last season

Cologne lost their first three games of the campaign, against Hoffenheim, Arminia Bielefeld and Borussia Mönchengladbach, setting the tone for a trying year. Although they subsequently managed draws with Eintracht Frankfurt and VfB Stuttgart before earning their first win away to Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 9, a lack of firepower up front hindered their efforts to gain any momentum; the Billy Goats failed to find the net in 12 different games overall.

With the club in the bottom two by mid-April, head coach Markus Gisdol was replaced by veteran tactician Friedhelm Funkel, who was drafted in to steer the side clear of relegation in their final six games. He oversaw three wins – including an impressive scalp over RB Leipzig – to climb out of the automatic drop zone on the final day, but after losing the first leg of the relegation play-off 1-0 at home to Holstein Kiel, the outlook was bleak again. They stormed back in the reverse fixture though, romping to a 5-1 triumph to reserve their place in the Bundesliga for 2021/22.

Watch: Highlights of Cologne's play-off win over Kiel

New arrivals

The return of Mark Uth to his hometown club was the biggest news of the summer, the striker coming back after a disappointing spell at relegated Schalke last term. Only two teams scored fewer goals than the Billy Goats’ 34 in 2020/21, so if new coach Steffen Baumgart can get Uth firing alongside fellow returnee Anthony Modeste – back from a loan of his own at Saint-Etienne – or a fit-again Sebastian Andersson, it could well be a season to remember.

Baumgart has plenty of work to do on the training pitch after several key players departed, however, including Sebastiaan Bornauw, Ismail Jakobs, Elvis Rexhbecaj and Dominick Drexler, but it is hoped that 23-year-old Dejan Ljubicic can hit the ground running in defensive midfield after his free transfer from Rapid Vienna.

How might Cologne line up?

Cologne could once again have some firepower up front with Mark Uth joining Sebastian Andersson and Ondrej Duda. - /

What to expect

Cologne is a city that lives and breathes football and the passionate fans crave success – but they are also acutely aware that this season is likely to be a battle once again. The Billy Goats finished 16th last term, 14th the time before that and were relegated as the bottom club in 2017/18; realistically then, simply avoiding the drop is the primary target.

However, if they can put some good results together they could spring a surprise or two. After all, this is a side that also finished fifth in 2016/17 and qualified for Europe. And Baumgart's men did defeat Julian Nagelsmann's Bayern side 3-2 in a pre-season friendly, offering further cause for optimism at the Cathedral City club.

Watch: Highlights of Cologne's pre-season victory over Bayern

Opening fixtures

DFB Cup: Carl Zeiss Jena 1-1 Cologne (Cologne won 4-2 on penalties)
Cologne vs. Hertha Berlin (Sunday, 15 August)
Bayern Munich vs. Cologne (Sunday, 22 August)
Cologne vs. Bochum (Saturday, 28 August)
Freiburg vs. Cologne (Saturday, 11 September)
Cologne vs. RB Leipzig (Saturday, 18 September)
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Cologne (Saturday, 25 September)

Click here to download all of Cologne's Bundesliga fixtures to your calendar