Preview:FC Energie Cottbus – FC Bayern Munich
And now for sport. That’s not just a well-known sketch from the good old RTL Saturday night or a podcast from the Süddeutsche Zeitung. It might also be the motto at Säbener Straße right now. Niko Kovač and FC Bayern will start their second season together on Monday and there will be a lot of changes, which may not be obvious based on the events in the transfer market or the restructuring of the coaching staff.
It would have been helpful to have a few more transfers when preparing for these changes. But it is what it is, and Kovač must once again work with what he has available and make compromises. This situation is certainly not optimal for him. But the quality of the 17 existing field players and even the possible additions from the youth team is sufficient to at least start the season successfully.
In Cottbus, FC Bayern will now play its second competitive match of the new season. In contrast to the Supercup defeat in Dortmund, almost all players will be available to the coaching team again. The only exceptions are Lucas Hernández, for whom a starting eleven mission would be too early, and Javi Martínez, who has received a blow to the knee and is therefore out for an indefinite period.
Even with the supposedly best starting eleven, FC Bayern should not underestimate the situation. Their opponent, Energie Cottbus, is in full swing and has already played three games this season. Last year they were relegated from the 3rd league, but this year the Lausitz team expect to be strong again.
This former Bundesliga club was a long time ago regularly represented among the best 20-25 teams in Germany. Meanwhile Cottbus is an elevator team at the border to amateur football. In 2009 they retired from the Oberhaus and five years later also disappeared from the 2nd Bundesliga. In the first third league year they only reached the 7th place, one year later they went down to the regional league, where they stayed until 2018.
However, the happiness that the promotion sparked in the 2017/18 season did not last too long. Cottbus was relegated by a draw on the last matchday by rival Eintracht Braunschweig because of a goal difference. Recently Energie has had some success, particularly in the national cup. In Brandenburg they have been dominating the cup: Since 2015 they have won the competition four times, and even three times in a row since 2017.
When battles with the Bavarians were still normal …
This is important for the club because it ensures regular participation in the DFB Cup. There they failed four times in the first round, but most of the time it was very close. They lost against Hamburg (2014), Stuttgart (2017) and Freiburg (2018) on penalties. Only Mainz (2015) could defeat Cottbus with relative ease at 3-0.
In 2013, Energie reached the second round with a 1-0 victory over 1 FC Magdeburg. There they lost against Hoffenheim only in extra time (0:3). In the 2010/11 season, the club even reached the semi-finals. The club were very surprising against Freiburg (2:1), Hoffenheim (1:0) and away at VfL Wolfsburg (3:1). They narrowly missed the final at MSV Duisburg (1:2). Somewhat exaggeratedly one could thus call Cottbus a cup team, which can bring up a special energy in the knockout rounds.
Nevertheless many fans in the Lausitz like to remember other times. Times in which matches with FC Bayern Munich were not as special as in this season, but the regularity. There have been 12 duels between these two teams – all in the Bundesliga. The first of them in the year 2000 Cottbus even managed to win (1:0). They only managed the feat again in 2008, when they defeated the record champion 2-0. The remaining ten games were won by the Munich team.
Since then Cottbus never really got going again outside the cup. Continuity was only possible in the coaching position. Claus-Dieter Wollitz has occupied the position since 2016, someone who was able to provide spectacular offensive football in Lausitz between 2009 and 2011. His problem during his first term in office: the defense. 49 goals were scored in the 2009/10 season and 52 a season later.
In the two regional league years from 2016 to 2018, Wollitz seemed to get this problem under control (26 and 14 goals against), but at the much higher level of the 3rd league, 58 goals were conceded last year.
In the current regional league season, too, Energie has already conceded nine goals with ten goals of their own. In the coach’s defence, Ibrahim Hajtic and Robert Müller, two important central defenders, are out of action and Wollitz currently have only 15 players. However, the squad’s problems in Munich are likely to be pure luxury in relative terms.
Nevertheless, the coach has not really managed to give the team the necessary balance. At the end of April, Wollitz analysed the situation as follows:
We have […] good phases in play. […] You can’t just lose the duels. […] After the match, people always ask why the team is down there because it plays such good football. It’s not only football in this league. You need other physical conditions. You have to defend with ball foresighted, and we don’t do that enough.Claus-Dieter Wollitz at the press conference after the 1:2 defeat against VfL Osnabrück on 27 April 2019
If you look at the past season and the initial phase of this year’s season, you can easily agree with this conclusion. “In order to achieve your goals, you need quality – and quality has its price,” the coach is also quoted by rbb. The financial aspect is a decisive factor in Cottbus not being able to make it to the top. The distance to the competition has become too great.
In 2016, with the private initiative WIR, there was already an attempt to attract members and sponsors. The continuity, which Energie has in the coaching position, is lacking in the squad due to the sporting roller coaster rides and the manageable financial means.
There were 13 additions this season alone. A total of five of them are 18- and 19-year-old players from their own U19s. The others came from the region by loan, free of charge or for very little money. These days Cottbus does not have more to offer.
On the departures side, FC Energie lost an entire squad: 22 players left the club. On transfermarkt.de, the total market value of this is estimated at around 4 million euros. 16 of them, however, changed free of charge. Only Leon Schneider (225.000 €) and Avdo Spahic (100.000 €) brought in some money.
It is the fate of a club that has been turned over in the last decade. But in Cottbus one is not only a victim, as Wollitz would like to sell this again and again. Where failure is, there are usually also homemade reasons.
If they want to take the step back into established professional football in the future, they will have to work better in all other areas in addition to better finances. Cottbus still has a good standing, at least in Brandenburg. There are three Bundesliga clubs, Union Berlin, Hertha and RB Leipzig, which make life difficult for them. But there might be a big chance for FC Energie in the youth sector.
Nils Petersen is the most famous example from the recent past – but that was also a few years ago. The training of good talents and their resale could be part of the necessary upswing. Although Cottbus is now dependent on young players anyway, there is room for improvement in the training of talent. The club does not manage to establish itself as a springboard for higher leagues in such a way that one profits from it.
And the coach himself should also perhaps ask himself why he still hasn’t found the balance between offense and defense. The constant upheaval and the lack of individual quality make it difficult for him, but even under these premises it is his task to get the most out of his team. In the end he has not always succeeded.
In the same way he and the club have not always succeeded in positioning themselves clearly against racism. It wasn’t until 2018 that Wollitz began to scold the media in order to protect his employer and its fans. He played down the incidents with words like “unrest” and “fan riots”.
What had happened? In Babelsberg, April 2017, there were not only riots and unrest, but also a scandal: Nazi slogans and Hitler’s greetings did not only come from a minority in the Cottbus fan bloc, no, a large number of Cottbuss fans who travelled with them were drawn to it.
Not only Wollitz, but the entire club was at first more concerned with sweeping the events under the rug than with positioning itself through clear statements. The truth is, however, that many energy fans organize themselves much more actively against Nazis than their association did. A page on Facebook with around 1,500 subscribers now exemplifies what the club missed for a long time. As is so often the case, it is therefore important to avoid any lump-sum payments to Energie Cottbus. But the club itself has not done enough to counter the Nazi image.
FC Energie Cottbus will have a lot of work to do in the next few years if they want to build on their successful past. This applies to what is happening on the pitch and almost all the processes that take place off it. Because Cottbus is once again almost at zero. For Wollitz and his team, which is once again in the process of being rebuilt, the task has become more difficult than easier.
But at least the reigning Landespokalsieger on Monday evening for perhaps for the last time in this season will once again be on the big stage and the chance to showcase themselves as well as possible. And you should celebrate the festivals as they fall: Now there is a big highlight for the region, the fans and the whole club. The work on the deeper problems will follow.
Cottbus knows K.O.-games. And even if Wollitz is anxious not to become too dreamy, he will know in his deepest heart that there is a very small mini chance. For FC Bayern, it will again be important not to let themselves be pulled down to the sporting level of the home team.
The narrow victories against Drochtersen/Assel (1:0) and Rödinghausen (2:1) last year should suffice as a warning. Coach Wollitz has the talent to prepare his players emotionally perfect for a special moment. Accordingly it can be expected that Cottbus will run their souls out in front of approximately 20,000 spectators. It is the task of the record champion to put an end to this in absolute domination as quickly as possible. However, this will not be easy.