The German Bundesliga starts on August 5, and heinnews is providing extensive coverage in the buildup to the 2011-12 season with a club preview each day. Today on the bill is Nuremberg.

Nuremberg were one of the surprise sides of the 2010-11 Bundesliga season, finishing sixth in the league – just one spot from international play but 11 points behind Mainz.

After 26 matches, Nuremberg were just one point behind Mainz in sixth place but then Dieter Hecking’s team came up with just one victory in their last eight games to fall out of contention for European action.

Nuremberg, however, were impressed with what Hecking has done since replacing Michael Oenning in December 2009 – twice staving off relegation before finishing sixth in 2010-11 – and extended his contract until 2014.

Hecking has worked hard to build Nuremberg with young players. Last season, 10 players 23 years or younger made their league debut – a new Bundesliga record. But the coach faces a big challenge this season after losing a number of top players from last season.

Gone are captain and defensive boss Andreas Wolf, attacking midfielder Marek Mintal, forward Julian Schieber and playmakers Ilkay Gundogan and Mehmet Ekici, who left for Borussia Dortmund and Werder Bremen, respectively.

The departures of Gundogan and Ekici will be the hardest to replace for Hecking, who will hope that some of the creativity in the midfield can be provided by Robert Mak, Markus Feulner or Daniel Didavi.

Didavi arrives just like Schieber last season on a one-year loan from Stuttgart and Hecking hopes Didavi is just as successful this season as Schieber was in 2010-11.

Up front, top scorer Christian Eigler is back while Albert Bunjaku returns from a long injury break. And Nuremberg brought in 21-year-old Alexander Esswein, who scored 17 goals last season for third division side Dynamo Dresden.

Defensively, Nuremberg should be strong with the returnees Javier Pinola, Timothy Chandler, Philipp Wohlscheid, Juri Judt and Per Nilsson. And they added Swiss U21 international Timm Klose.

And Nuremberg have one of the top keepers in the league in new captain Raphael Schäfer, who extended his contract in the off-season and has said he hopes to end his career with the club.

If Hecking can in fact replace the Gundogan-Ekici departures, Nuremberg could compete for a spot in Europe. If not, the season may be long for Hecking’s bunch.

“We want to continue the way we are moving. The goal is to continue the successful time in the Bundesliga and establish the club in the first division,” said Hecking.

 

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