bundesliga.com previews how the latest entrant to Germany’s top flight will fare in the big time…
Regular viewers of Bundesliga 2 last season will be fully aware of Albanian international Alban Meha's reputation as a stylish midfielder with a particular talent for free-kicks. The 28-year-old scored 12 goals in 23 league games in 2013/14, including six from set plays - the most in Germany's top two tiers. Injury may force him to miss the first month of the season, but when he does take his Bundesliga bow, opponents would be best advised not to give away any needless free-kicks within shooting range.
Striker Elias Kachunga will feel his career has come full circle as he prepares for 2014/15. A Borussia Mönchengladbach player since 2005, he made just two appearances for the club before loan spells at VfL Osnabrück and Hertha Berlin. It was at Paderborn that he finally settled, however, arriving on loan last summer. Six goals and nine assists in 33 games attest to the key role he played in promotion, and after signing on permanently, he could well be leading the attack this term.
In a nation full of talented, young and innovative coaches, Andre Breitenreiter is a man whose star has risen higher than most. After a playing career that included stints at Hamburger SV and Hannover 96, he moved into coaching with fourth-tier side TSV Havelse in 2011, winning the Lower Saxony Cup. In 2013 he then convinced Paderborn of his credentials, and how the move has paid off, the 40-year-old masterminding the club’s first-ever promotion to the Promised Land of the Bundesliga.
Paderborn seemed to defy all odds by finishing in an automatic promotion spot in 2013/14. Languishing down in ninth by the winter break, they sensationally doubled their tally of wins from six to 12 in the second half of the campaign and out-scored every other team in the league with 33 goals, holding off the challenges of seasoned Bundesliga 2 campaigners Greuther Fürth and 1. FC Kaiserslautern and soaring to a second-place finish.
As a newly promoted side competing in the Bundesliga for the first time, Paderborn’s remit will be survival first and foremost. The ’s 15,000 capacity is the smallest in the division and the club has the fewest members of any top-flight side with just 1,907. Nevertheless, in terms of belief, Breitenreiter’s men can stand up to any of the other 17 teams, precisely because of their status as the “biggest underdogs in the league’s history” according to the coach himself.
Breitenreiter favoured playing with two strikers both home and away last season in either a 4-4-1-1 or a 4-4-2 formation, with Kachunga and Mahir Saglik (pictured) usually performing those roles. This season, a more defensive approach may be adopted on the road, but it would hardly be surprising if at home, the coach retained his preference for the two-man attack which facilitated the attacking football that served them so well last term.
If Paderborn's summer schedule is anything to go by, they could be in for a rollercoaster year in the Bundesliga. Reading much into a 26-1 win over minnows Oesterholz-Kohlstädt would be unwise, but narrow 2-1 defeats against European competitors Athletic Bilbao and Maccabi Haifa FC suggest SCP aren't going to go down without a fight. Breitenreiter's troops ended pre-season with a 3-1 win over Everton FC, but kicked off their competitve campaign with defeat in the DFB Cup against RB Leipzig.