It would be tempting to suggest that newly promoted sides tend to struggle on their arrival in or return to the Bundesliga, but that hasn’t been the case in recent years. Since the 13-14 season, only two of the 10 new sides have gone straight back down (Eintracht Braunschweig in 2013-14 and Paderborn in 2014-15). So there’s at least reason for the 2018-19 newcomers to hope.
Fortuna won the second division last year, and have generated genuine excitement across the city by returning to the top flight. After five years of second division football though, the return to the big time comes with the fear of instant relegation (as it was in 2013). One look at the talent in Düsseldorf’s team, the experience of their head coach and the competition in the Bundesliga, and Fortuna fans have every right to believe they can stay up.
Düsseldorf haven’t spent much — around €6 million — but they’ve been smart to pick up players such as Kenan Karaman, Alfredo Morales and Diego Contento on free transfers. Takashi Usami arrives on loan as does 20-year-old talent Aymen Barkok from Eintracht Frankfurt. Striker Marvin Ducksch was the most expensive signing at just €2 million ($2.3 million). Other noteworthy players on the roster include Rouwen Hennings, Kaan Ayhan and Andre Hoffmann.
Their squad has the look of one more than capable of holding its own against fellow relegation-battlers, and they’ll be led by 64-year-old head coach Friedhelm Funkel, who has won promotion to the Bundesliga six times. However, Funkel had not done so since 2005, and there are perhaps some quiet concerns that the top flight is not where he is at his best. But this a young team — the average age of the 30-man squad is 25.4 — with a much different feel to it than last time they were here.
Verdict: With at least five or six other sides also facing a tough season, Fortuna have a good chance of staying above the relegation playoff line. They may be safe.
1. FC Nürnberg