March 23, 2017

2.Bundesliga Matchday 30 Preview: Magic Numbers

40!

The tradition is that once a team earns its 40th point of the season in either of Germany’s top two leagues, said club has assured the retention of the class.

There is not really any magic in this number. Theoretically, two of the three teams currently in the relegation zone could still reach the 40-point mark. You don’t need to be too clever with Kicker’s table toy to get all but one team to at least 40 points from this point. Cottbus would get up to only 39 points were they to win their remaining matches, but a week ago, you could get all 18 clubs to 40 points by picking an admittedly absurd series of results to happen the next five matchdays.

Were the massively unlikely to occur, some clubs would head to the 3.Liga with at least 40 points in their account. It has never happened, which is why the standard remains, but it could.

Much more likely, especially this season, is that the actual number to safety is much lower. At the rate the current bottom-three win points of late, VfL Bochum might be safe even now with just the 34 they have. I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest they should just sit on their laurels from here on out, but it wouldn’t be too shocking if the team that lands in the relegation playoff at season’s end does so with fewer than 34 total points.

Even though it will not technically have secured safety yet, as many as three clubs could reach the 40-point mark this weekend. A winner of the Fortuna Düsseldorf – VfR Aalen tie would hit 40 points, as would FC Erzgebirge Aue if they could pull off a victory at SpVgg Greuther Fürth. 1860 München would get to 41 with a win in Dresden.

“Magic Number” is a phrase used every autumn in Major League Baseball to help illustrate how close a team is to clinching a place in the post-season or a division title. If a team is said to have a magic number of five, that team needs a total of five victories and/or losses by their closest competition to clinch their prize.

We can do the same here for the 2.Bundesliga if we convert the games won-opponent losses piece to points won and dropped.

For 1. FC Köln, their “magic number” to automatic promotion would currently be seven.  Noting that the current table leaders have not earned fewer than seven points over any five-match stretch this season, it’s easy to understand the excitement of fans in the Cathedral City.

Due to the nature of points-distribution and the relative tightness of races, not all magic numbers are as exciting as others, especially when you’re still in double digits. SpVgg Greuther Fürth and SC Paderborn can be said to have magic numbers of 12 and 13, respectively, in order to secure a top-three finish. Then again, it’s much more exciting to have teams so closely contesting those places than it is to be able to put a single-digit “magic number” out there over a month before the end of the season.

The aforementioned VfL Bochum and FSV Frankfurt each have a magic number of ten, to secure a spot in the 2014-15 2.Bundesliga. While it’s still a double-digit number,  you have to keep in mind that Dynamo Dresden, they closest pursuant to the survival spots, has not failed to drop at least two points in a league match since November. Wins and losses can whittle those numbers down quite rapidly.

Some of the numbers on the other end of the table the numbers are a bit less magic due to the nature of the end result. Hence, we speak more of a “tragic number.”

Six is such a number for it’s assignation to FC Energie Cottbus with their relation to a safety spot. Granted, Cottbus likely has their eyes fixed on getting into the playoff spot more than they do have any realistic hopes of propelling all the way into 15th place. The number before that, too, is out of reach is a robust twelve.

Of course, there’s nothing “magic” or “tragic” about the numbers. Rather, they’re easily calculated bits of short-hand for how close sides on either end of the table are to achieving their goals or from having the season end in a way none of the 18 participants wanted to consider when the season began.

Which leaves the one real magic number the same as it always was: three. Pile up enough of those and nothing else matters

Friday

FC Ingolstadt : SC Paderborn

 fci scp

(Hinrunde result – 1:1)

SC Paderborn’s cruise toward a top-three finish hit a surprise bump last week when Fortuna Düsseldorf handed Andre Breitenreiter’s side their first home loss since September. The dropped points were made even more disappointing when second-place SpVgg Greuther Fürth drew on Monday night, as a Friday victory would have put Paderborn into a direct-promotion spot for the first time this season and kept them there with the Monday result.

As it is, Paderborn now trails Fürth by a point heading to FC Ingolstadt, the site of Fürth’s Monday night draw. Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side is somewhat comfortably ahead of the relegation zone, thanks to having lost just one match since winter break. Though, having been blanked in four of their last five matches, Ingolstadt would certainly feel better about their prospects of staying in the league with a few goals here and there to go with their steady collection of points.

FC St. Pauli : 1. FC Kaiserslautern

stp fck

(Hinrunde result – Kaiserslautern won 4:1)

 There is likely too much help needed for 1. FC Kaiserslautern to believe sincerely they remain in the promotion picture, but they also know they aren’t quite out of it yet either. A victory over FC St. Pauli would be just the first step in at least getting back into fourth in the table so they able to pounce should the teams above stumble down the stretch.

Neither club has been overwhelmingly consistent the last several weeks as the window for making a move has narrowed, but St. Pauli used a win in Sandhausen last weekend to return to the head of the pack trying to nip at the heels of SC Paderborn in the hopes of climbing into the top three positions. The hosts will certainly enter the match wanting three points to at least keep pace with what Paderborn and SpVgg Greuther Fürth do over the weekend, but avenging the licking they took in Kaiserslautern by delivering maybe the final blow to the hopes of the Red Devils would also be a nice moment as the season end draws near.

FC Union Berlin : 1. FC Köln

union - effzeh

(Hinrunde result – Köln won 4:0)

 Sports fans in Köln are having a pretty good spring. The day before their beloved 1. FC Köln will play at 1. FC Union Berlin to further drive themselves into the Bundesliga for next season, the Kölner Haie hockey club earned a spot in that sports championship round, as well as a place in hockey’s Champions League for next year.

Though many Effzeh fans are happy about the Sharks, attention will quickly turn to the match in Berlin, with hopes that coach Peter Stöger’s birthday will also come with three points toward the promotion cause, even should the match not be as lopsided as the 4:0 win in Köln.

Union suffered a 3:2 loss at Erzgebirge Aue, their second loss in three matches, though Uwe Neuhaus’ crew did celebrate a win in their last match at home, downing Energie Cottbus 2:0. Though Union has 42 points on the season already, they would clinch their spot in the league next year with a victory.

Saturday

SpVgg Greuther Fürth : FC Erzgebirge Aue

spvgg - aue

(Hinrunde result – Fürth won 2:6)

 Having won just one of their last five matches has let SC Paderborn catch up to SpVgg Greuther Fürth, with the third-place side just one point behind Fürth’s second-place spot heading into the weekend.

Visitors FC Erzgebirge Aue are unlikely to have forgotten the six goals Fürth scored against them at home and would likely enjoy repayment that would cause their hosts more trouble while also lifting Aue to the magical 40-point mark.

Arminia Bielefeld : Karlsruher SC

dsc - ksc

(Hinrunde result – Karlsruhe won 3:1)

 Arminia Bielefeld likely wouldn’t need to have had the success their co-promoted side Karlsruher SC have had since making the jump from 3.Liga to be happy with their 2013-14 2.Bundesliga season, but they would definitely like to have the chance to play them again next year. As it stands, Bielefeld are looking at a direct return to the league below without a sudden burst of point collection. Bielefeld has just six points from their last eleven matches, which is certainly relegation-worthy, but remain just one point behind Dynamo Dresden for the playoff spot.

The KSC had spent the early part of 2014 as a strong candidate for the leap into the Bundesliga, but three losses over a five-match stretch saw them fall back into the middle of the pack to watch as SC Paderborn’s strong 2014 form put them in a position of command for the third-place spot. With four of their final four opponents still fighting for league survival, Karlsruher will face beatable, if desperate side, leaving open the opportunity to stay in the race should anyone above them stumble.

Sunday

Fortuna Düsseldorf : VfR Aalen

fortuna - aalen

(Hinrunde result – Aalen won 1:0)

Fortuna Düsseldorf delivered the surprise result of matchday 29 by pumping the brakes on Paderborn’s run toward promotion with a 1:2 victory at Benteler Arena. The stakes are slightly lower for this weekend’s opponent, VfR Aalen, though a winner in this match would rise to 40 points on the season, the adjusted goal for sides once they’ve realized they are not playing for the promotion.

Aalen has not lost in four matches, though last weekend’s 2:1 over FSV Frankfurt was their first three-point matchday in six matches. Aalen appear likely to survive a second-consecutive season without ever being in danger of relegation since winning promotion from 3.Liga.

FSV Frankfurt : SV Sandhausen

fsv svs

(Hinrunde result – Sandhausen won 2:0)

 Relegated after last season, only to be given a second chance due to another club’s failure to earn their professional license, SV Sandhausen have all but secured they will need no such assistance to play a third-consecutive season in the 2.Bundesliga. A victory at FSV Frankfurt would make it a sure thing.

Frankfurt, however, have their own survival concerns. A three-match losing streak has dropped Frankfurt to 14th in the table, level with 15th place VfL Bochum. It’s another six points down to the relegation zone, but the longer the side goes without points, the more vulnerable to a rush from below they make themselves.

VfL Bochum : Energie Cottbus

bochum_cb

(Hinrunde result – Bochum won 0:1)

 Energie Cottbus got three wins in their first four matches after J0rg Böhme took over as coach to add more than just hope to the idea of getting into position to survive the drop despite being eight points behind the playoff spot when the move was made. Now, with just one point from the last three matches, the whittling down the gap to four points threatens to become the end result of their efforts.

VfL Bochum remain the first team those in the relegation zone see when the look toward the safety spots, but with a six-point lead on even the closest of them, Peter Neururer’s side appears to have earned just enough points to stay in the league. With just thirteen points in home matches, another home loss, especially to the league’s last-place side, might further agitate the Bochum fans for whom just barely surviving isn’t quite enough.

Monday

Dynamo Dresden : 1860 München

sgd 1860

(Hinrunde result – Dresden won 1:3)

Dynamo Dresden hasn’t won a match since late November. 1860 München have lost three of their last four and, thus, had their second coach-firing of the season.

The Lions can get over the 40-point mark with a win, though their goals for the season were set much higher. Pair that spiralling disappointment with the need for Dresden to finally cash-in a victory to assure they can keep hold of the playoff spot and maybe gain some ground on Bochum in 15th spot and we may have some drama for Monday night’s featured match, particularly should the other two teams in the relegation zone get much-needed victories over the weekend. 

Matchday 29 Table

W D L Goals Diff Pts.
1 - 1.FC Köln 16 10 3 43:15 28 58
2 - SpVgg Greuther Fürth 14 8 7 51:33 18 50
3 - SC Paderborn 07 14 7 8 53:44 9 49
4 - FC St. Pauli 13 7 9 39:36 3 46
5 - Karlsruher SC 11 11 7 40:27 13 44
6 - 1.FC Kaiserslautern 12 8 9 42:30 12 44
7 - 1.FC Union Berlin 11 9 9 43:37 6 42
8 - SV Sandhausen 11 8 10 26:26 0 41
9 - TSV 1860 München 10 8 11 29:34 -5 38
10 - VfR Aalen 9 10 10 28:34 -6 37
11 - FC Erzgebirge Aue 10 7 12 37:44 -7 37
12 - Fortuna Düsseldorf 9 10 10 29:39 -10 37
13 - FC Ingolstadt 04 9 9 11 28:30 -2 36
14 - FSV Frankfurt 9 7 13 39:44 -5 34
15 - VfL Bochum 9 7 13 25:33 -8 34
16 - Dynamo Dresden 4 16 9 28:40 -12 28
17 - Arminia Bielefeld 7 6 16 32:53 -21 27
18 - FC Energie Cottbus 6 6 17 32:45 -13 24

Matchday 29 Results

FC Energie Cottbus - 0:0 - Dynamo Dresden
VfR Aalen - 2:1 - FSV Frankfurt
SC Paderborn 07 - 1:2 - Fortuna Düsseldorf
1.FC Köln - 2:0 - Arminia Bielefeld
SV Sandhausen - 2:3 - FC St. Pauli
1.FC Kaiserslautern - 1:1 - VfL Bochum
TSV 1860 Munich - 0:3 - Karlsruher SC
FC Erzgebirge Aue - 3:2 - 1.FC Union Berlin
FC Ingolstadt 04 - 0:0 - SpVgg Greuther Fürth
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Randall Hauk is a freelance writer living in the United States while covering German football. He is currently the publisher of Planet Effzeh, an English-language site covering 1. FC Köln. He wrote about the German national team for the Telegraph as part of their World Cup Nation coverage.

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