Cologne occupy 11th position in the table and have not dropped below 13th place at any stage of the season, with the vast majority of the campaign spent in mid-table. Following their surprising qualification for the UEFA Europa Conference League last season, the management would have certainly settled for a quiet season.
But one event has dampened the atmosphere in recent weeks and the club are facing a major setback as a result. Due to the signing of the Slovenian youth player Jaka Cuber Potocnik and the accusation that he was incited to terminate his contract, FIFA imposed a transfer ban on the Bundesliga club for the next two transfer windows. Cologne are appealing to the International Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to overturn the ruling. Should the verdict remain in force, the club are facing the prospect of a very unpleasant 2023/24 season.
Irrespective of their problems off the pitch, Steffen Baumgart’s team still need to pick up a few points in their remaining matches to be sure of keeping their place in the division. A defeat in Hoffenheim on Saturday would see TSG leapfrog Cologne, who would then be confronted with a closer relegation battle than they would have liked. The gap to VfB Stuttgart in 16th place and FC Schalke 04 in 17th place currently stands at eight points.
But FC are missing a marksman who reliably racks up the goals – as Anthony Modeste, who has since moved to Dortmund, did last term. The defensive midfielder Ellyes Skhiri, who has found the net six times this term, is currently the most reliable goalscorer for Cologne; no other Bundesliga club’s top scorer has scored fewer goals. That said, Cologne have scored four goals across their last two games, having only managed to find the net once across their previous six outings. TSG academy product Davie Selke was supposed to solve the striker problem. The 28-year-old joined from Hertha BSC in January but has so far only scored in the 6-1 defeat away to Dortmund.
And yet Cologne’s style of play is tailor-made for a tall striker like Selke. 79% of their attacks come down the flanks, with moves through the middle only few and far between. That approach proved successful last season, with Modeste scoring half of his 20 goals with his head. This season, however, Cologne have managed just four headed goals, with only one of them coming from a centre-forward.