Holstein Kiel face two games that could be the most historic for the club based in the city of Kiel, in northern Germany.
They unfortunately missed out on the top two on the last day of the season, and finished third, which means they now face the team that finished in 16th position in the Bundesliga.
That team is FC Köln who managed to escape automatic relegation on the final day of their season. Holstein Kiel will have to win over two legs against a side who have won the Bundesliga twice and DFB Pokal on four occasions in their history.
Kiel’s Modern History
Kiel started the 21st century in the Regionalliga Nord, which at the time was the third tier of German football. They spent numerous seasons in the same division until the 2006-07 season when they finished 15th, which meant they were relegated to the four tier, the Oberliga Nord.
They won the title in the 07/08 season and with a league restructure in 2008, it meant that they still played fourth tier football in the Regionalliga Nord, which had been moved from the third tier of German football to the fourth.
They won the league again in the 08/09 season, which led to them playing in the 3. Liga, the new third tier of German football. The next season sadly ended in relegation and Kiel spent the next few seasons in the Regionalliga Nord.
They won the league in 2013, to gain promotion back to the 3. Liga. In 2017, they won promotion to 2. Bundesliga. In their first season they achieved a third-place finish to enter the play-offs where they faced Vfl Wolfsburg who had finished 16th in the Bundesliga. Holstein Kiel lost the away leg 3-1 and in the return leg they lost 1-0. They finished 6th in 2019 and 11th in 2020.
The 2020/21 Season
This season has been a successful one for Holstein Kiel. They had a wonderful cup run in the DFB Pokal. They managed to oust Bayer Munich in the second round. They equalised in the 95th minute to draw the game in regular time, 2-2. No goals in extra-time meant that the tie went to penalties, with Holstein Kiel winning 6-5 on penalties. The second division side progressed all the way to the semi-finals, where they were beaten 5-0 by Borussia Dortmund.
In the league they won 18 games, with 11 of those victories coming at home at the Holstein-Stadion. They were top of the league at Christmas, two points clear of Hamburg in second and four points ahead of Greuther Furth in third. In their 13 games up until Christmas they only lost one game.
They had a successful January picking up seven points from a possible twelve. February saw nine points from twelve.
Unfortunately for Holstein Kiel there was a Covid outbreak in the squad in March, which led to four matches being postponed. Due to the Covid outbreak Holstein Kiel only played one game in March, which led to the side having to play ten league games from the 3rd April to the end of the season on 23rd May.
The four league games in April only yielded four points, but the start of May was positive with four consecutive wins, though two losses to end the season and results elsewhere going against them meant they had to settle for the play-off place.
The Secrets Behind their Success
Holstein Kiel strength this season has been their exceptional defensive record. They have conceded the fewest goals in the league with only 35 goals against them and they have the most clean sheets with 13 of their games ending without the Holstein Kiel goalkeeper having to pick the ball out of his net.
The reason behind their defensive record seems to be that they manage to restrict the opposition from shooting. They have conceded the fewest shots on target with only 112 shots heading towards their goal. The next best in the league is Nürnberg and Düsseldorf with 127 shots on target against, which shows how exemplary Holstein Kiel have been to protect their goal.
Defender and Captain Hauke Wahl and midfielder Jonas Meffert have played every league game for the club this season, showing how important they are to the side. Wahl has accumulated the most interceptions than any of his teammates, while Meffert has won the most tackles in the team.
With the ball, Holstein Kiel have demonstrated their quality. They averaged 54.6% possession throughout the season, which is the third highest in the league. The reason for their dominance with the ball is that they have excellent passing accuracy with the best passing accuracy in the league at 81.5%. Wahl and Meffert have been crucial to their dominance with the ball. Both players are in the top ten for passing accuracy in 2. Bundesliga and Wahl averages the third highest passes per game in the league.
For goals they have relied on three individuals who have reached double figures for league goals. Janni Serra is the top scorer for Holstein Kiel in the league with 13 goals, while Alexander Mühling has bagged 12 and Fin Bartels has netted 11 times.
The creativity in the squad has been displayed across the team, with twelve players picking up at least one assist. The stand outs are Fabian Reese who has created 6 goals, Fin Bartels and Lee Jae-Sung who have laid on 5 goals each for their teammates.
Head Coach Ole Werner will lead his side to face FC Köln over two legs to try and better the result they achieved against Vfl Wolfsburg back in 2017. The first leg will take place on Wednesday 26th May at the RheinEnergieStadion, the home of FC Köln, with the second leg taking place on Saturday 29th May at the Holstein-Stadion. A play-off win will see Holstein Kiel play in the Bundesliga for the first time in the history.