With Anthony Modeste on fire, Cologne's first half of the season has struck some of the highest notes in the club's recent history, evoking memories of 2016/17, when they last qualified for Europe.
bundesliga.com looks back on a remarkable first six months in the job for new coach Steffen Baumgart…
The story so far
Baumgart's exciting, attacking brand of football took the Bundesliga by surprise in 2019/20, when he stuck to his principles with promoted Paderborn. Although they did not manage to stay up, he earned recognition for the way his team had played, and he has stuck to the same ethos in this, his second season in Germany's top flight. With a focus on attack, he needed a reliable striker to put the ball in the back of the net with regularity, and this is why he has spent so much time with Modeste, who is in some of the best form of his career. His goal and an assist helped them to a winning start against Hertha Berlin and while they were beaten by Bayern Munich on Matchday 2, the Billy Goats then put together a five-game unbeaten streak. A derby victory against Borussia Mönchengladbach and two wins to end the year bumped Cologne up to eighth, only three points outside the top four.
When Cologne last qualified for UEFA competition, Modest scored 25 goals in 34 games. With 11 to his name already, the 33-year-old French forward is rolling back the years to have Cologne fans dreaming of European football again. Aside from in the 3-2 defeat to Bayern, whenever Modeste has found the back of the net, Cologne have picked up at least a point, underlining his importance to the resurgent Billy Goats.
Watch: All of Anthony Modeste's goals so far this season
Best game so far
Winning a derby is always special, but when you beat your local rivals 4-1 in front of a packed RheinEnergieStadion, it's all the sweeter. Cologne's biggest Rhine Derby victory since 1996 will live long in the memory with two goals in as many minutes from Mark Uth and Ondrej Duda taking the Billy Goats above their rivals in the table.
Watch: Cologne 4-1 Gladbach - highlights
One to watch
A product of the club's own youth academy, Jan Thielmann hit the ground running with an assist on Matchday 1. Although illness saw him lose his place in Baumgart's starting XI, the 19-year-old has proven to be a hugely versatile substitute, filling positions across the attack and midfield, while he also debuted for Germany's U21s in November and has one goal in his first two caps at that level. "He's one for the future, and that's important to have," said Baumgart.
The view from inside the camp
"We should and are happy with the points we've got. I'm really happy with the overall situation – I see the lads are progressing and I'm really happy to be here. I'm really happy with everything here, am feeling good here and hope it stays this way for a long time to come." – Baumgart
Cologne will be keen on making it three wins on the spin when they travel to Hertha Berlin at the league's restart, and if their push for a place in Europe next season is to be taken seriously, getting three more points would be an ideal way to start. Derbies with Bayer Leverkusen and Gladbach are always highlights, although both will be tricky away days in what promises to be a riveting Rückrunde.