Summary

  • Köln looking to go top for first time in twenty years on Friday night.
  • Finished ninth last season, their highest since 1991/92.
  • The club has won two Bundesliga titles, in 1964 and 1978.

1. FC Köln are on the rise again. On Friday, the club with the Carnival spirit could go top of the Bundesliga for the first time in 20 years. On Matchday 3 in 1996, they took top spot by beating SC Freiburg – the very same team they entertain on Matchday 3 in 2016 (kick-off 20:30CEST/18:30GMT).

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It has been many years since the glory days of FC Köln. Not all of the 50,000 or so fans who pack into the RheinEnergieSTADION on a regular basis will remember the club's last Bundesliga title, in 1978, or their heart-breaking defeat to Real Madrid in the 1986 UEFA Cup final.

But a lack of recent success has done nothing to dampen local enthusiasm – and on Friday, the Köln faithful could see their beloved Billy Goats leap to the top of the Bundesliga for the first time in twenty years.

Yes, it would probably only be for 24 hours, and yes, it would likely have little bearing on the season as a whole, and yes, to do so, Köln would need to beat Freiburg for the first time since 2011. And yet it would still be a significant moment for the two-time German champions, who appear to have found some stability under Peter Stöger.

Köln have gone from strength to strength since Peter Stöger took over in 2013. © gettyimages / Stuart Franklin

The former Austrian international has only been in charge since 2013, yet he goes into the weekend as the third-longest serving coach in the Bundesliga. After guiding Köln back to the top flight in 2014, he led them to 12th in 2015 and ninth last season – their best finish in 24 years – prompting the club to extend his contract until 2020.

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Köln has long prided itself on the unstinting support of its fans, even throughout the yo-yo 2000s. The old Müngersdorfer Stadium was renovated ahead of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, becoming the RheinEnergieSTADION, today considered one of the most atmospheric grounds in Germany. Reflecting the Carnival culture for which their city is renowned, the Köln supporters are proud, passionate and boisterous – and you can guarantee they'll be making plenty of noise on Friday.

Köln boasts official club membership of over 70,000 fans. © DFL DEUTSCHE FUSSBALL LIGA / Simon Hofmann

Freiburg will not be easy to beat. The newly-promoted side stunned Borussia Mönchengladbach last time out, and have won their last three Bundesliga meetings with Köln. Nevertheless, Peter Stöger and his men will feel they have a date with history – and even if it is just for 24 hours, they have every intention of taking top spot. For old times' sake.

Andy Smith

Watch: click the video below to enjoy an exclusive your of the RheinEnergieSTADION