With the fight to avoid relegation from the Bundesliga getting to the nitty gritty stage of the season, the race to replace the demoted sides is also hotting up. The 2.Bundesliga title race is as exciting as ever with a host of team still with designs on making it to Germany’s top tier
1st Darmstadt (61 points)
At this stage of the season for Darmstadt it is just about keeping their composure and maintaining the gap they have at the top of the table. With five games to play die Lilien have a four-point advantage over second place Heidenheim and a five-point lead over HSV. It’s looking extremely unlikely that they will not finish in the top three, but they will be very wary of any dip in results that could see them forced into the play-off place.
Relegated from the Bundesliga in 2017, this season looks set to see them return to the topflight at the sixth attempt. A 1-0 loss to Fortuna Düsseldorf two weeks ago was their second loss of the Rückrunde, but only their fourth of the entire season. Their run-in sees the face Kiel, St. Pauli, Hannover, Magdeburg and Greuther Fürth.
2nd Heidenheim (57 points)
Frank Schmidt’s FC Heidenheim are in a head-to-head battle with Hamburg to finish in the top two and avoid the uncertainty of the Bundesliga play-off match. They lost out in the play-off in 2020 with a 2-2 draw in the second leg against Werder Bremen seeing them cruelly denied so will be keen to go up automatically this time around.
They have the league’s top scorer in Tim Kleindienst and midfielder Jan-Niklas Beste is in good form going into the title run-in. Their final five fixtures don’t look too taxing with Fürth, Magdeburg, Paderborn, Sandhausen and Jahn Regensburg to play this season. They have a one-point advantage over HSV, so just need to better of match the Hanseaten’s finish to the campaign to finish above them.
3rd Hamburger SV (56 points)
The thrilling 4-3 win in the Hamburg derby against St. Pauli has put the Rothosen in pole position for a top three finish, although the key ambition now will be to overhaul Heidenheim and go up automatically rather than taking their chances in the play-offs.
Previous seasons have seen the club throw away their hopes of a return to the Bundesliga with an end-of-season meltdown, and while still possible, it looks like HSV will finally get a real shot of returning to the top tier.
Their final five games see them take on Magdeburg, Paderborn, Regensburg, Fürth and Sandhausen. They have a lead of nine points over the teams chasing, so it really will be only a Hamburg-esque meltdown that will prevent a top three finish.
4th Paderborn (47 points)
Paderborn have always been in and around the top end of the table this season, but just unable to break the stranglehold of Darmstatdt, Heidenheim and HSV. A 2-2 draw with Sandhausen last weekend saw the gap between them and the top three extend and it will take a series of wins from them, combined with a nightmare from the teams above to see them into a promotion berth.
They still face both Hamburg and Heidenheim this season, so the results of those fixtures could be the deciding factor for Lukas Kwasniok’s team.
5th St. Pauli (47 points)
The Kiezkicker’s ten match winning run came to a surprising end two weeks ago at home to Eintracht Braunschweig and they then lost again in the derby with HSV on Friday to severely dent their outside chances of a promotion place.
Fabian Hürzeler has worked miracles since succeeding Timo Schultz, but they look to have run out of steam at the vital moment. A return to winning ways could yet see them climb into the top three, but it will rely upon HSV dropping a lot of points. Whatever, the outcome they should be proud of their Rückrunde performance.
6th Fortuna Düsseldorf (47 points)
Like St. Pauli it looks to be a case of so near, yet so far for Düsseldorf this season. A loss to Nürnberg at the weekend saw them drop further behind the leaders and a run of just two wins in their last six games has hurt them.
Daniel Thioune’s side have to play Karlsruher SC, Holstein Kiel, St. Pauli, Hannover and Kaiserslautern in their final five matches.
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