Dani Schahin (r.) celebrates scoring on Matchday 1 as Fortuna downed Augsburg 2-0
Dani Schahin (r.) celebrates scoring on Matchday 1 as Fortuna downed Augsburg 2-0

As if they'd never left

Munich - After a 15-year absence, Fortuna Düsseldorf have returned to the Bundesliga apparently determined to make up for lost time. Norbert Meier's men have so far gleaned four points from their opening two games and while there is a very long way to go yet, the promoted outfit have certainly raised a few eyebrows since their return to the top tier.

Unexpectedly strong

They undid a notoriously resilient Augsburg side on Matchday 1 to take all three points, before following up on that impressive result with a goalless draw at home to local rivals - and Europa League participants - Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Such a positive start to the 2012/13 campaign cannot have been anticipated by many, especially given their fairly dismal run-in last season. Düsseldorf led the Bundesliga 2 standings by three points at the halfway stage, but a post-Christmas slump saw them limp towards the finish line as the ninth best side of the calendar year, earning just over half of their pre-winter break points total (21 to 41).

They finished third by the skin of their teeth and eventually won promotion after an intense two-legged play-off against Hertha BSC Berlin. To make matters worse, Maximilian Beister and Sascha Rösler - who between them scored 24 goals and supplied almost as many assists last term - left the club. Of the three newcomers, it was Fortuna who were generally viewed as the most likely to make an immediate return to the second division.

Tight at the back

So where did it all go right? Part of the answer lies in a smart recruitment policy. Meier kept the spine of his side unchanged with tried and trusted players such as Jens Langeneke and Tobias Levels in defence, as well as Adam Bodzek and Oliver Fink in the holding roles in midfield. Into the mix he brought experienced Bundesliga campaigners such as Axel Bellinghausen, Andriy Voronin and Nando Rafael.

Working on the premise that a solitary point is better than none at all, Meier has clearly been drilling defensive strategy during training. In their opening two games, Düsseldorf have sat deep and reduced their opponents' space, while looking to break forward with rapid counter-attacks. The policy has paid dividends so far, as they are the only side yet to concede a goal.

Enough variation?

Teams are likely to become wise to their tactics sooner rather than later and develop ways to break the defensive wall down. The loss of the unpredictable Beister is a huge blow and it remains to be seen whether they have enough firepower up front. Both goals so far were outstanding individual efforts by , but they have otherwise struggled creatively. Yet if they can harness the energy of the 51,500-strong home crowd every other week - as they did during last season's lengthy unbeaten streak at the Esprit Arena - then Fortuna Düsseldorf could well be celebrating once more come May.

Jon Stockitt