With nine games left this season, the battle to avoid the drop is certainly hotting up with six teams vying to keep themselves out of the bottom three. Every point matters at this stage of the season as the dreaded trapdoor to the second division looms large.
The reaction of the Mercedes-Benz Arena crowd said it all after VfB had slumped to a 1-0 defeat n Saturday against VfL Wolfsburg. Whistles and jeers greeted the players as the approached the Cannstadt Kurve. Cries of ‘wake up’ and ‘Bruno out!’ rang out and patience is clearly wearing thin for the Swabian faithful.
Since the January restart Bruno Labbadia has struggled to get his 4-3-3 system to function with the absence od Serhou Guirassy and big blow. Against Wolfsburg they failed to register a worthy effort on target, and you get that sinking feeling with VfB. They’ve won just once (v Köln) in the Rückrunde and find themselves rock bottom with nine to play.
No team in the last ten years has survived the drop after being bottom on matchday 25- except for Stuttgart back in 2014-15 so they will hang on to the desperate hope that they can turn things around again. Hope however doesn’t win you Bundesliga points.
When the Bundesliga broke slightly earlier than usual for the winter break it looked like the Königsblauen were dead certs for the drop with just nine points from their fifteen matches. Losses to both Eintracht Frankfurt and RB Leipzig after the break indicated that more of the same was to come in the Rückrunde. However, four successive goalless draws added to wins over Stuttgart and Bochum preceded draws against Dortmund and Augsburg meaning Thomas Reis’ side are actually unbeaten in eight games now.
They still find themselves in the bottom two, but there are signs of life and with the teams above them unable to pull away the ‘Great Escape’ is on for the team promoted last season as 2.Bundesliga champions. Matches against both Hoffenheim and Hertha in April could prove decisive.
“You have to say very clearly that it was not enough for the relegation battle”. Clear words spoken by Hertha coach Sandro Schwarz following the defeat to Hoffenheim this weekend. “We don’t want to appear like that, it’s a waste of time.”
Die Alte Dame only escaped the drop last season last season in the play-off with Hamburger SV and the club from the capital are looking set for another nail-biting end to this season. They face two Champions League chasers after the international break in Leipzig, Freiburg as well as Bayern Munich. The key matches will be against Schalke, VfB Stuttgart and Bochum, but with no wins in their last nine away games, something is going to have to change if they are to avoid a worse outcome than last season.
The abysmal run of seven consecutive defeats was finally brought to and end on Saturday as Hoffenheim passed their big test against Hertha. The result probably saved Pellegrino Matarazzo’s job and the task now is to maintain the upswing after the international break.
On paper the Sinsheimer have enough quality to turn things around but as we all know football is played on grass not paper. The goals that Andrej Kramaric can provide will be potentially decisive as will the metal strength and experience shown by the more experienced players like Oliver Baumann and Kevin Vogt. The rot has been stopped, can TSG now turn the corner completely and survive?
Like Schalke, Bochum looked dead and buried in the Hinrunde even if their performances were better than their points tally indicated. Thomas Letsch’s side are certainly showing they have the fight in them to survive and recent wins over RB Leipzig and Köln arrested a run of four successive losses.
If the Ruhr side can just keep their heads above the fellow strugglers below them that will be seen as a successful season. They face both Stuttgart and Hertha before the end of the campaign but also have tough assignments against Dortmund, Frankfurt, Union, and Leverkusen.
Could the Billy Goats find themselves dragged into the relegation fight? They are currently looking safe (ish), but a severe lack of goals recently (one in five games) and a run of just one point from the last fifteen available is hardly inspiring confidence. Maybe, just maybe Steffen Baumgart will be becoming more than a little concerned.