Düsseldorf aim for Bundesliga return despite being play-off underdog

Duesseldorf coach Daniel Thioune stands in the stadium before the German DFB cub semi-final match between Bayer Leverkusen and Fortuna Düsseldorf at BayArena. Marius Becker/dpa

Fortuna Düsseldorf coach Daniel Thioune has said that his team will go into the Bundesliga play-off tie against Bochum as the underdogs but that won't stop him from believing they can return to the top fight.

Düsseldorf finished third in the second division and will play against Bochum, 16th-placed in the Bundesliga for a spot in the top tier.

The first leg is on Thursday in Bochum, the reverse fixture on Monday in Düsseldorf.

"With all due respect, it's not Bayer Leverkusen, but it's still Bochum. A first division team who will be the favourites in a home game and generally have to be the favourites," Thioune told a news conference on Wednesday, referring to the unbeaten run of champions Leverkusen.

Nevertheless, he stressed he's confident the team can make a return to the top flight.

"If we want people to talk about us, we have to get promoted."

"My team had an incredible journey, a wonderful season with an incredible goal difference. They more than deserved to leave this league."

Despite all the tension, Thioune advised his players to keep a cool head in the lively Bochum stadium.

"I'm not in a rush, I'm patient. And that's what we have to be on Thursday evening. We have to show how unbelievably cool we are at the moment and what a great team we have."

Düsseldorf are unbeaten in 14 league matches and are aiming to play their first Bundesliga season since 2019-20.

Bochum, by contrast, slipped into the danger zone after big defeats against Leverkusen and Werder Bremen in their final two games, coupled with Union Berlin's last gasp winner against Freiburg.

They not only lack momentum but first choice goalkeeper Manuel Riemann is not in the squad due to Bochum spoke of "irreconcilable differences on team-related issues," according to the club.

"Manu's sporting value is undisputed, of course we would have preferred it all to be different. I'm not happy to be in this situation now. But we have to deal with it, it's all about VfL now," managing director for sport Patrick Fabian said.

Captain Anthony Losilla added: "We need calm in order to work sensibly. It's not just about us, it's about something really big - the whole club, a lot of people who work here. We have to fight for that."

The good news for Bochum is that Bundesliga teams have won 12 of the 15 play-off ties since they were introduced again in 2009. However, Düsseldorf are among the three second division sides that prevailed, 2012 against Hertha Berlin.