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Opinion

Cologne impressing, but hampered by mid-table mentality

They are off to a fabulous start, sitting in fourth place after six matches, but Cologne still have a lingering mid-table vibe. DW's Davis Van Opdorp thinks they may come back down to earth sooner rather than later.

Cologne put their unbeaten run to the test when they faced Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena on Saturday. While they did not come away victorious - something they have not done since 2009 - they did become the first club to take points away from the defending champions this season.

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DW's Davis Van Opdorp

A 1-1 draw in the Allianz Arena is the kind of result that can turn doubters into believers. The draw extended their undefeated run from the start of the season to six games, a feat they last achieved in 1987-88. That Cologne team went on to finish third in the Bundesliga.

Do the overachieving Billy Goats have that kind of potential this season? Cologne legend Lukas Podolski thinks so, comparing his team's success to last year's Cinderella champion in England's Premier League when he tweeted "1. FC Leicester City" this week.  But for all their success, Cologne still appear like a pedestrian mid-table team, one that could disappoint their fans at some point this season.

No spine from Stöger

Left-back Konstantin Rausch had to come off with an injury in the second half of Cologne's game against Leipzig on Matchday 5. Though the injury was unfortunate for a player who had put in a solid 84-minute shift, the opportunity was there for Cologne coach Peter Stöger to go for all three points. His team was level at 1-1, a German international defender was already on the field in Jonas Hector and he had two young midfielders, Milos Jojic and Salih Özcan, on the bench to take Hector's place.

Stöger instead made two like-for-like substitutions, left back Filip Mladenovic replacing the injured Rausch and forward Shrou Guirassy replacing Cologne's top goal scorer Anthony Modeste.

One cannot fault Stöger for making such a call, especially after an unexpected injury. This kind of conservative decision making is what makes Stöger the coach that he is and is a mindset that has helped Cologne experience an extended run in the first division after their relegation in 2012 - but the match was still there to be won against a faltering Bayern.

Stöger was a lot more aggressive being a goal behind against Bayern, bringing on Simon Zoller in the second half as an attacking substitution for Rausch. His gamble almost paid off too, Zoller curling a shot just wide after an open-field break. But the Billy Goats still lacked the composure to knock out a reeling Bayern, missing a very rare opportunity to punish the defending champions after a tough Champions League loss. Stöger's side has to dare to do the impossible if they want to achieve it, but they still have the self-belief of a perennial mid-table club. 

True tests still to come

An unbeaten run is impressive for any club, but there is an asterisk against Cologne's. All but two of their opponents this season are in the bottom half of the table so far this season. Wolfsburg and Schalke, two teams in which Cologne got impressive-looking away results, look far from their best. Arguably their season highlight against Bayern only came about after the Bavarians lost a taxing game in Madrid three days before.

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Köln were impressive against Bayern, but how long will their run last?

Fortunately for them, two of their next three Bundesliga games are at home against Ingolstadt and Hamburg, two teams currently in the drop zone. Sandwiched between those easier fixtures is a trip to Berlin to play high-flying Hertha, a match that could truly expose them. That is one of several challenging away fixtures to come before Christmas, by which time they could be back to the mid-table team they look like they are.