With a third of the 2015/16 season done and dusted, bundesliga.com is checking in with all 18 clubs to see where they are at after 12 matches.
Written off by many at the start of the season, plucky SV Darmstadt 98 have exceeded all expectations after 12 games of the campaign.
The story so far
While they may lack the resources of most other clubs in the league, Darmstadt possess organisation, belief and team spirit in spades, all of which have been on show in every one of their 12 games. On Matchday 1 they could, and perhaps should, have beaten Hannover 96, but the Lilies responded to those two dropped points by grinding out a draw at FC Schalke 04, holding TSG 1899 Hoffenheim and sneaking a sensational 1-0 win at UEFA Champions League participants Bayer 04 Leverkusen. The likes of Marcel Heller and skipper Aytac Sulu have been mightily impressive individually, but it is the collective effort that has given this honest, compact and extremely competitive side a fighting chance of staying in the division.
- Darmstadt’s lowest position in the table in the first 12 games of the campaign has been a highly respectable 13th.
- The Lilies are a major threat from set-pieces, having had 54 attempts at goal from a dead ball, second only to Schalke (61).
- Experienced midfielder Marcel Heller is the club’s top scorer with five goals, three of which have been the game’s opening goal.
- Konstantin Rausch has assisted more goals than any of his team-mates (three) and created more shots on goal (26).
- Rausch also scored his first goal for the club at Schalke on Matchday 2.
Although he boasted some Bundesliga experience with Eintracht Frankfurt before this season, it has been in the last few months that Marcel Heller has become a household name. The winger scored his team’s first two top-flight goals in 33 years in the 2-2 draw with Hannover and has since netted another three times, including a spectacular volley in another 2-2 draw at Borussia Dortmund. Yet perhaps more endearing than his goals and assists is his nomadic journey to the big time via spells at MSV Duisburg, SG Dynamo Dresden and Alemannia Aachen, which in many ways resembles the remarkable ascent of the club itself. At the age of 29, Heller is reaping the rewards of years of hard work, whilst also showing on a regular basis that he belongs at the top end of the game.
Most memorable quote
"Mental strength is more important than quality. We live by that rule. Everyone can see what we're capable of."
Midfielder Peter Niemeyer speaking after Darmstadt's last-minute equaliser at Dortmund on Matchday 7.
After five successful seasons at Hannover 96, in which he helped the Reds to a fourth-placed finish in 2011 and the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League in 2012, Rausch’s career stagnated between 2013 and 2015, when he made just 25 league appearances for VfB Stuttgart. The Russian-born wide-man has been given a fresh start at the Merck-Stadion am Böllenfalltor, however, and he appears to be seizing the opportunity, establishing himself as one of the first names on the team sheet and scoring away at Schalke, as well as providing three assists. His arrival has given the Lilies some much-needed top-flight nous, and with Schuster's charges such a danger from set-pieces, Rausch's wicked left foot will surely be a key weapon in Darmstadt's bid for survival.
As aforementioned, the interactive table shows that Schuster's side have never been lower than 13th, while their highest position has been ninth, achieved on Matchdays 1, 7 and 9.