Bundesliga Survival of the Fittest
German League Relegation Battle Update
Official Bundesliga League Table
SGL Arena, Augsburg, March 31 – You can tell a lot about a team when their collective backs are against the wall. For the clubs currently at the bottom of the table with a handful of matches left, a few are showing their willingness to fight to stay in the top flight, while others can’t wait for summer vacation.
Due to the luck of the schedule, two major relegation battles took place on Match Day 28, with two other clubs hoping to take advantage against better competition.
The highlight of the schedule was 1.FC Cologne traveling south to take on FC Augsburg. Both clubs could reap the spoils of a win, while a loss would make their futures uncertain in the Bundesliga. A loss for Augsburg, relegation would be certain as they play their next five matches against the league’s top eight teams. The Billy Goats from Cologne can punch their ticket down to the second division thanks to their league worst goal differential and they finish the season with a similar schedule.
From the outset, it was clear who wanted it. Augsburg were creating all their chances, pushing the action. Cologne were waiting for… actually I don’t know what they were waiting for. Their position in the table reflects that they have been playing passive the whole season, but if there’s a time to turn it on, it’s now. And they didn’t.
Shortly before halftime, Cologne had zero shots on goal, zero corners, and they were being dominated on possession. They were receipients of a questionable foul in the area, Lukas Podolski crumpling to the ground after contact with Gibril Sankoh. Poldi converted but that was it. Karma repaid Augsburg, as only a minute later, they were able to cash in on their own penalty shot to retake the lead.
That was a shot in the arm for the hosts and they continued to attack, create chances and pressure their guests. The only thing missing was a clean finish or two, and Augsburg could take the points. And they did. Cologne were happy to give it to them in the 2-1 loss.
“This match was pure passion,” stated Augsburg head man Jos Luhukay. “We saw today’s the togetherness of the team and the fans, and that will be the deciding factor of staying in the Bundesliga.”
“Augsburg were clearly the better team, they dominated us in all phases of the match,” admitted Cologne head coach Stale Solbakken. He was not clueless that his team’s current predicament puts his job in jeopardy and he added, “what I saw in my team today, they do not want to stay in the league. That was a terrible performance and as coach, I am responsible for that. ”
But at least he has a sense of humor about his future. During the press conference, his mobile phone rang and he joked, “that’s probably my wife, wondering if I still have a job.”
(Editor’s note April 2 – as of today, Solbakken still has his job.)
Hamburger SV have never been relegated and they are using that motivation in their current situation. Like Augsburg and Cologne, they can still save their season and were lucky to be facing a Kaiserlautern team that have no soution to their plight. The Red Devils did fight in front of their home crowd, but Hamburg were one shot luckier in their 1-0 win.
A month ago, SC Freiburg lost to VfB Stuttgart 4-1 and sat rock bottom of the Bundesliga. Since then, they have not lost, winning four and drawing once, including today at Bayer Leverkusen and their former coach Robin Dutt 2-0. Their positive results reflect their rise in the standings and they should not stop climbing as their schedule is favorable. The team is coming together at the right time.
SC Freiburg should also see thier recent play as a stepping stone to next year. Last year at this time, Borussia Monchengladbach were struggling at the bottom of the table and they were the league’s best second half team. This year, they were involved in the title chase up until a few weeks ago and should clinch a berth in next year’s Champions League. So why not Freiburg next year?
Hertha BSC Berlin are picture perfect example of chaos. They’ve had three coaches this season alone but thought they solved the issue by bringing in coaching legend Otto Rehagel. But since the 73-year-old took over, they’ve lost five of seven matches, including 6-0 to Bayern Munich, and to their relegation partners Augsburg and Cologne. They will definitely return to the second division after earning promotion a mere 10 months ago.
All the teams mentioned can be assured where they stand in the table after Saturday will remain over the week, but they should not rest as the battle to survive will continue the next six weeks.
Friday 20:30 CET
Borussia Dortmund 4-4 VfB Stuttgart
Saturday 15:30 CET
FC Augsburg 2-1 1.FC Cologne
1. FC Nürnberg 0-1 Bayern München
1. FC Kaiserslautern 0-1 Hamburger SV
Werder Bremen 0-3 1.FSV Mainz
Bayer Leverkusen 0-2 SC Freiburg
Saturday 18:30 CET
Hertha Berlin 1-4 VfL Wolfsburg
Hannover 96 – Borussia Mönchengladbach 15:30
Hoffenheim 1899 – FC Schalke 17:30