Why is the Darmstadt defense so good?

The Darmstadt team has internalized that they are a top team in the league. For them, a relentless defensive attitude is the basis of everything. And the most chosen three-man chain gives coach Torsten Lieberknecht the opportunity to provide three of his central defender "towers". Thus, the spaces for the opponents remain narrow and the airspace in front of their own goal remains largely closed. In addition, goalkeeper Marcel Schuhen has developed into not only an emotional, but also virtually flawless expert in his position.

With only 16 goals conceded after 21 matchdays, the "Lilies" are by far the best defence in the league. Defender Christoph Zimmermann has already passed through several stations in his career. "I always had a good relationship with my neighbours and backers. But this understanding and emotionality here are unique," says the summer newcomer.

20 league games undefeated – what's behind it?

Tight at the back and somehow always hit the front. This simple calculation does not do justice to the team, which has been undefeated in the league since mid-July. In this team, which has hardly changed in personnel after the strong previous season and is therefore enormously well-rehearsed, every player in every tactical formation knows exactly what he has to do and when. The SVD is able to generate a lot of force and pressure and can also set up a creative, fast, often highly effective attacking game.

A combination that wears almost every opponent down at some point. In addition, there is a veritable mental muscle armor, nourished by the self-confidence of their successful series. Three games already, the "Lilies" were able to turn after falling behind to a victory. Also special is how the team deals with injuries. The absences of the central players Tobias Kempe and Yannik Müller recently in Rostock (1:0) are actually bad news. They can be trusted to deal with it. "You've seen that every player with us is burning for his bets and does his job when he comes in," says attacker Phillip Tietz.

Where are the dangers still lurking in the fight for promotion?

Despite all the stability – the Darmstadt team is not a sovereign who can only beat himself. Rather, the vast majority of the 14 victories of the season have not only been won by a narrow margin (ten with only one goal advantage), but with a lot of sweat and dedication. The advantage over the second league competition is therefore not immense, and so a trend reversal can happen quickly.

The upcoming games could already decide how this season ends. This Saturday (20.30 clock in the F.A.Z. live ticker for the 2nd Bundesliga, on Sky and Sport1) the "Lilies" meet at home to the HSV, then the duels with the pursuer Heidenheim and the table fifth Kaiserslautern with the former SVD coach Dirk Schuster wait.

Does the 0:5 against HSV still play a role?

0:5 – and that in a home game. Last season, the Darmstadt team had to suffer a lot in the second half against HSV. According to statements from the "Lilien" camp, this no longer matters – especially since the direct revenge in the first leg this season was successful with a 2-1 victory in the Volksparkstadion. But of course, the memories are formative of that February afternoon at the Böllenfalltor a year ago, when HSV striker Glatzel had single-handedly made it 13-3 for the Hanseatic team after 0 minutes.

The Darmstadt team suffered a system failure on many levels – something that has not happened to them this season. And ultimately paid a high price for it in the final bill. Because only because of the – in the direct duel enormously improved – goal difference, the HSV snatched the "Lilies" the relegation place for promotion to the Bundesliga.

The people of Darmstadt did not really dwell on mourning the missed coup in the summer. But coach Lieberknecht hinted that he would have trusted his team a relegation coup against Hertha BSC in their former state very well. Now the SVD has everything in its own hands to reach the goal directly as second division champions.