Cologne boss Peter Stoger: 'It's no question' that Arsenal are favourites
Cologne coach Peter Stoger has conceded Arsenal are the clear favourites ahead of their Europa League tie, with his side going into the game after making their worst Bundesliga start in 14 years.
Arsenal welcome Cologne to the Emirates Stadium on Thursday for their Group H opener in Europe's second-tier club competition.
While Arsenal have had their problems this season, including a 4-0 defeat at Liverpool, Cologne travel to North London sitting bottom of the Bundesliga, having lost all three of their opening games, and with a testing trip to Borussia Dortmund to follow on Sunday.
"If we were to take something positive [from the Arsenal match], it could help us in the Bundesliga," Stoger told reporters following Saturday's 3-0 defeat at Augsburg. "Even though it's no question who's the favourite."
After finishing fifth in the Bundesliga last term, Cologne lost top scorer Anthony Modeste to Tianjin Quanjian in the summer.
While the rest of the squad remain unchanged, Cologne have yet to find a way of replacing Modeste and have only scored once in the Bundesliga this season, while they are still waiting on their first goal from an attacker.
However, sporting director Jorg Schmadtke remains hopeful that they will get back on track soon.
"It would only be dangerous if our playing style were to be a catastrophe," he told reporters. "But that's not the case. At Augsburg all the stats but the deciding one, the result, favoured us."
But while Cologne had 67 percent possession of the ball against Augsburg, they were unable to turn their dominance into goals -- just like in their previous game when they had 71 percent possession in the 3-1 defeat to Hamburg.
"We only had around 40 percent possession on average last term," Schmadtke said. "We were able to rely on our transition play."
Cologne captain Matthias Lehmann, however, was more cautious than his sporting director.
"The situation can not only turn into a dangerous one, it already is," he said. "We should not underestimate it. The games are happening quickly now and we don't get a lot of time on the training pitch."
Stephan Uersfeld is the Germany correspondent for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @uersfeld.