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Sports

Karlsruhe

Alexander Iashvili pulls a face at the ball during a game

Iashvili feels the pressure as progress looks tough for Karlsruhe

Karlsruhe were last season's pleasant surprise -- and that was due in large measure to their coach. Edmund Becker had the newly promoted club playing well-organized, attacking soccer, and his charges easily secured their position in the first division, upsetting a number of bigger opponents along the way.

But as any number of coaches and fans could tell you, a team's second season in the top flight is often more difficult than its first. To make matters worse, Karlsruhe lost two of their mainstays, playmaker Tomas Hajnal and defender Mario Eggimann, in the off-season. They take with them not only the goals and assists they contributed to the southern German club, but also, perhaps more importantly, team spirit and cohesion.

Antonio da Silva is Hajnal's replacement, and Karlsruhe's fate could depend on his living up to expectations. But coaches and fans shouldn't expect too many goals -- he's only scored 11 in 113. Moreover, no one will be taking Karlsruhe too lightly this season so the club will probably be happy just to survive.

Major arrivals: Antonio da Silva, Stefano Celozzi

Major departures: Tamas Hajnal, Mario Eggimann