Bundesliga action returns this week after the international break, and with just seven matches left in the season, the race to avoid relegation is hotting up.
With just six points separating Eintracht Frankfurt in the final relegation position and 1. FC Köln in ninth position, half of the league’s clubs still have the threat of relegation hanging over them.
It’s desperate times for Hannover 96 at the bottom of the standings, with Thomas Schaaf’s side ten points adrift of the three teams ahead of them. Defeat to Frankfurt last time out in what was a must-win fixture appears to have all but sealed Hannover’s fate, having claimed just one win since the turn of the year, it’s hard to see the Reds getting out of this one. A loss to a struggling SV Hamburger side this weekend may prove to be the reading of Hannover’s rites.
Frankfurt on the other hand will be buoyed by their victory against Hannover, the first since new head coach Niko Kovac took over the reins, but despite the three points Frankfurt still slipped into the relegation places, albeit on goal difference. They’re joined on 27 points by TSG 1899 Hoffenheim and FC Augsburg, with Hoffenheim’s 3-1 win over Hamburg seeing them jump out of the relegation places and into the play-off berth.
While clash with league leaders FC Bayern München on Saturday is unlikely to herald a positive result, upcoming fixtures against fellow strugglers Hoffenheim, SV Darmstadt 98, and SV Werder Bremen mean that Kovac’s side can be the masters of their own destiny.
At a time when many other relegation candidates are struggling, Hoffenheim are heading in the right direction. Under Julian Nagelsmann, Hoffenheim have claimed 13 points from their last seven matches, having taken just 14 from their previous 20 fixtures. If they can continue anything like that form, Hoffenheim should steer clear of relegation.
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The same can’t be said for Augsburg. Having hit unexpected highs last season when they booked a spot in the Europa League on the back of a fifth-placed finish, it’s been a different story of late for Markus Weinzierl’s side. Having taken just two points from four matches in March, Augsburg head into what will be a defining month on the back foot.
A point above Augsburg in 14th position is a Bremen who will look back on March more fondly. A 5-0 hammering at the hands of Bayern aside, Viktor Skrypnyk’s men got the job done, registering wins over Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Hannover and picking up a point against 1. FSV Mainz 05 prior to the international break.
However, captain Claudio Pizarro has returned from international duty with an injury which could spell trouble for Bremen, with the Peruvian a driving force.
Level on points with Bremen is a Darmstadt side who simply can’t buy a win on home soil. With the fourth-best record away from home, but just one win in 13 at the Merck-Stadion am Böllenfalltor, there is no such thing as home comforts for Darmstadt. Dirk Schuster’s side will be desperate to avoid falling straight back down to the second tier, and a win at home on Saturday against a VfB Stuttgart, who are just four points ahead of them, will go a long way to helping their cause.
Having had to secure their Bundesliga status via the relegation/promotion play-off for the past two seasons, Hamburg will have been wary of getting caught up in the thick of another relegation battle. However, after suffering three defeats in March, they’re now just four points clear of the play-off place and the final relegation berth. A win over Hannover on Saturday is a must.
Similarly, three points for Stuttgart – who are just a point ahead of Hamburg – in game week 28 will help ease relegation fears. They face a desperate Darmstadt outfit, and can’t afford to hand the Lilies just their second win at home.
While things at the top of the Bundesliga standings may not be too tight, the same can’t be said for the relegation battle where a host of clubs are fighting it out for survival.