It's been a difficult return to the Bundesliga for Greuther Fürth with the club at the foot of the table.
bundesliga.com reviews their campaign to see what positives can be taken into the new year...
The story so far
Fürth were promoted to the Bundesliga after a strong campaign in Bundesliga 2 in which they were very difficult to beat. David Raum and Anton Stach had played key roles in their ascendancy but in the summer the former signed for Hoffenheim and the latter moved to Mainz. The Clover Leaves began their return to the league after an eight-year absence with a disappointing 5-1 loss at VfB Stuttgart, but optimism returned a week later, with the first point on the board following a 1-1 home draw with Arminia Bielefeld.
From there, Stefan Leitl's side struggled. A record run of 12 straight defeats culminated with a 6-3 home defeat to Hoffenheim and a 7-1 thrashing at Bayer Leverkusen. Fürth's luck finally changed on Matchday 15, with a 1-0 victory over Union Berlin securing an elusive first win and first clean sheet of the season. They ended 2021 with a home draw against Augsburg and still cut adrift at the bottom of the Bundesliga table.
With Bundesliga experience playing for Borussia Mönchengladbach and Eintracht Frankfurt, club captain Branimir Hrgota was the main source of goals for his team - scoring four times in 16 starts. The Swede has played as a centre-forward and on the wing - also providing three assists to showcase how resourceful he can be in the final third. Two of those assists were in the thrilling game against Hoffenheim, where he also found the net from the penalty spot. Three of Hrgota's four Bundesliga goals have come from penalties, in fact, and he has comfortably converted on each opportunity presented.
Best game so far
Fürth reacted to the bruising defeat against Leverkusen with their strongest performance of the season at home to Union. Defensively organised on the night - and assisted by the heroics of Sascha Burchert to keep Union's strikers at bay - the hosts found themselves in an unfamiliar position to sneak a first victory of the season. Norwegian striker Havard Nielsen saw his deflected effort wrong-foot the goalkeeper - giving his side an early second-half lead. Despite Union's best efforts, Fürth were able to hold on and create joyous scenes at Sportpark Ronhof.
Watch: See how Fürth beat Union
One to watch
Timothy Tillman bolsters Fürth's attacking options from midfield with his progressive passing and intensive forward runs. His equalising goal against Hoffenheim was exemplary, with the former Bayern Munich youth player starting and finishing a lovely move. Comfortably settled back into the club where he spent most of his junior career, Tillman has the technical ability to provide more shots and key passes in and around the box.
The view from inside the camp
"At some point, maybe the football gods will change it for us as well." – Fürth forward Branimir Hrgota
VfB Stuttgart (h) - Matchday 18
Arminia Bielefeld (a) - Matchday 19
Wolfsburg (a) - Matchday 21
It may be a tall order, but if Fürth can begin 2022 with wins over fellow strugglers Stuttgart and Bielefeld they will have given themselves a glimmer of hope of maintaining their Bundesliga status. It's not impossible, however unlikely it may seem.