The final stretch of the Bundesliga season means it’s squeaky bum time for the teams still fighting for points at the bottom of the table. Time is running out for them to get the valuable wins or draws that will ensure they have another year in the top flight. Here’s what matchday 29 means for the basement battlers.
18th Hertha Berlin
Hertha’s debacle last Friday at the Veltins Arena saw them slump to the bottom of the pile and in desperation they club have turned to legend Pal Dardai for a third time to try and dig them out of the hole they are in.
Werder Bremen are the visitors to the Olympiastadion on Saturday and the atmosphere promises to be electric. The home fans will get behind the returning Dardai, while the Grün-Weißen are reportedly bring over 20,000 fans to the capital to support their side. Passions will be running high, it comes down to whether Hertha can give the on-field performance to match.
Even with a win the best they can expect is to climb up to 17th, but at least a winning start under the returning Dardai will give them a foundation to build on. Lose and the ‘Great Escape’ could be over before it’s really begun.
The 5-2 win over Hertha last week in the ‘must-win’ game was a morale booster, but it came at a cost. Keeper Ralf Fährmann limped off injured and will now miss the rest of the season. Key man Tim Skarke’s foot injury that forced him off at half-time will keep him on the sidelines for the foreseeable future, while defender Cedric Brunner’s season is also over due to injury.
A trip to the Black Forest will be step up in terms of challenge with the Breisgauer themselves battling for the points they need to achieve a top four finish this season and Champions League football next year.
“The important thing is for us to be brave,” trainer Thomas Reis said this week. “We’re a team, which you need in our situation. Everyone is there for each other. That gives me a positive feeling heading into our remaining games.”
A win could potentially see the Königsblauen claw their way out of the bottom three if other results go their way.
16th VfB Stuttgart
Stuttgart remain unbeaten under new coach Sebastian Hoeneß after their Friday night draw with Augsburg kicked off matchday 29 at the WWK Arena. A poor first half saw them go 1-0 down, but an improved showing in the second 45 minutes was rewarded with a Wataru Endo equaliser. The single point keeps them in 16th, but they could be leapfrogged by Schalke this weekend.
“Augsburg were up for it right from the off and we had to be careful not to let the game get away from us” the Swabian’s coach said last night. “In the second half we were able to exert more pressure and get behind their defence more. We were lacking that last bit of precision in a lot of situations, so I think a draw is fair. We have to accept it.”
15th VfL Bochum
Bochum will take heart from their battling performance last week that earned a draw away at Union Berlin and will have their sights firmly set on a home win when they face VfL Wolfsburg this weekend. Their form at the Vonovia Ruhrstadion could be the key to them surviving and that starts with a requirement for three points against the Wölfe on Saturday.
Niko Kovac’s side however are the fourth strongest away side in the Bundesliga this season with 21 points (including six wins) coming on the road. Thomas Letsch’s side face Borussia Dortmund next Friday, before also facing both Augsburg and Hertha Berlin before the season’s finale.
After sinking like the proverbial stone, Hoffenheim have staged a mini-revival over the past four games with three wins and a draw. The point last week at the Allianz Arena would suggest Hoffenheim have the quality and the mental strength to steer clear of the drop zone, but they know they are only one poor result from being sucked back into danger.
The goals of Andrej Kramaric have been key and Pellegrino Matarazzo will be demanding three points when Köln are the visitors to the PreZero Arena this weekend. The Billy Goats are one of the teams with not much to play for this season except for pride, and a fourth win in five will push TSG into ‘relative’ comfort above the basement battlers.
13th FC Augsburg
In terms of ‘squeaky bum time’ Augsburg are certainly a side looking nervously over their shoulder and wondering why their rear end is emitting a strange noise. The 1-1 draw on Friday against Stuttgart means they haven’t pulled clear of the drop zone and they will be anxiously looking at the other results this weekend.
“We played very well in the first half, being good on the ball and investing a lot in the game” coach Enrico Maaßen said following the game on Friday. “It’s incredibly tough that we had to make five changes do to various knocks and injuries. That meant we lost our power, especially going forward. We started taking big risks, perhaps a bit too much, and that got Stuttgart back in the game.
“All in all, they were able to bring more power off the bench and it’s incredibly annoying to have conceded another goal from a set-piece. We would have loved to have won the game, but the minimum aim was for us to keep the gap to VfB and we’ve done that.”