With just six matches remaining on the 2.Bundesliga slate, the end battle is fairly well defined for most clubs, whether they choose to acknowledge it or not.
The three clubs in the relegation zone can, of course, go on great runs to finish the season, which would likely win them enough points to catch at least a few of the middling teams above them. Though, were any of the three truly capable of winning six matches in a run, they would not likely be where they find themselves today. Even so, with the gap between places 10 and 15 a mere three points, a burst of strong results would be enough to quickly climb up the table. Unfortunately for Dynamo Dresden, Energie Cottbus, and Arminia Bielefeld, the six point gap between places 15 and 16 is the much bigger void.
Meanwhile, fourth-place Kaiserslautern and fifth-place St. Pauli both also face a six-point gap to a promotion spot, with the two sides on 49 points just above them, Greuther Fürth and Paderborn, rarely losing these days and, hence, making that six points appear much more daunting and the opportunities wane.
Energie Cottbus : Dynamo Dresden
(Dresden won – 0:1)
As if the passion of the derby were not enough to fuel the match, Energie Cottbus will doubtlessly be looking to Friday night’s huge relegation battle with visiting Dynamo Dresden as perhaps the last good opportunity to re-start their climb out of the massive hole they spend the middle of the season. A victory would pull Cottbus to within a point of Dresden in the relegation playoff spot and finally make tangible the dream of class retention that seemed absolutely hopeless coming out of winter break.
Dresden, however, will have their own designs on Friday night, hoping to get their first victory in over a dozen matches, as well as their first win in Cottbus in 18 years, and perhaps put an end to any thoughts Cottbus might displace them in the playoff spot, while making their lead over 17th place Arminia Bielefeld hold for at least one more matchday.
Whether it’s a call for celebration or a need to drown sorrows for the home fans, the accompanying beverage will have to be secured from somewhere other than the Stadium of Friendship, as FC Energie Cottbus hopes the Friday festivities remain friendly and football-focused.
SC Paderborn : Fortuna Düsseldorf
(Hinrunde result – Paderborn won 1:6)
SC Paderborn can squeeze in front of SpVgg Greuther Fürth and into second place by taking points in their home match with struggling Fortuna Düsseldorf. After dominating their visitors on matchday twelve and considering Paderborn has taken points in every match but one since the beginning of December, Andre Breitenreiters are sure to be full of confidence at kick-off.
Düsseldorf, meanwhile, might feel a bit haunted by ghosts of last season as their late season struggles send them plummeting toward the bottom of the table. With just one goal and two points from their last four matches, Fortuna now sits 14th in the table. A seven-point cushion above the relegation playoff spot is enough to keep things from a complete panic, but if the result in Paderborn is anything like the clubs’ Hinspiel meeting, it could set the stage for a very uncomfortable ride to season’s end.
Paderborn has won five-consecutive home matches and have not been defeated in Benteler Arena in their last eight.
VfR Aalen : FSV Frankfurt
(Hinrunde result – 0:0)
VfR Aalen hosts FSV Frankfurt in a battle of teams looking to secure their mid-table status, knowing their place in the 2014-15 2.Bundesliga is all but secured.
Aalen have drawn each of their last three matches and have won none of their last five, while Frankfurt have won just once their last four times taking the pitch.
1. FC Köln : Arminia Bielefeld
(Hinrunde result – Köln won 1:0)
1. FC Köln will the momentum of consecutive victories will carry through their home match with Arminia Bielefeld and help close the game to securing direct promoition. The Billy Goats will be missing captain Miso Brecko at right back, with midfielder Marcel Risse prepared to stand in his stead. Austrian center back Kevin Wimmer will also miss the match, having suffered an injury during midweek training.
Bielefeld continues to scrap for whatever points they can find to avoid being caught from behind by Energie Cottbus and nudge in front of Dynamo Dresden into the relegation playoff spot. Winless in their last four matches overall and also in their last five away matches, Norbert Meier’s crew has their work cut out for them at the league’s winningest side.
SV Sandhausen : FC St. Pauli
(Hinrunde result – 0:0)
With league survival all but secured, SV Sandhausen will look to leverage one of the league’s stingiest defenses to further establish their second-division credentials when hosting 2.Bundesliga fixture St. Pauli. The Hamburg side will need all three points to maintain their quickly dimming prospects of promotion.
Sandhausen is currently unbeaten in four matches, having won their last three, which is a new 2.Bundesliga record for the club. Further, Sandhausen is currently the toughest home team to beat, with just two home loses on the season.
St. Pauli has won just one of their last five matches.
1. FC Kaiserslautern : VfL Bochum
(Hinrunde result – 0:0)
1. FC Kaiserslautern will need help from above (in the table, not the heavens) to soon prove wrong their home fans who serenaded players with “Never again, first league” after another disappointing draw at Fritz-Walter-Stadion two weekends ago, but they can at least bolster the mood of those in attendance by dispatching their Sunday visitors, VfL Bochum.
The fans in Kaiserslautern are a bit peeved at the dearth of points of late, settling for draws in three of their last four matches. By this point of last season, when Kaiserslautern finished third and, hence, played for promotion, the Red Devils had 48 points.
Peter Neururer’s side has enough points to not be under immediate threat of being sucked into the relegation fight, but continuing their remarkable away-form to get at least a point is certainly in the Bochum plans for their trip to the Betzenberg, especially since Bochum has managed at least a point in each of their last seven trips to Kaiserslautern.
1860 München : Karlsruher SC
(Hinrunde result – Karlsruhe won 2:1)
In a match-up of two clubs in the thick of the promotion chase at the winter break, only to find themselves having drifted back toward the middle of the table, 1860 München will host Karlsruher SC Sunday in a pride-battle.
For the Lions, there can be only the temporary staving-off of the disappointment of yet another season in 2. Bundesliga for a club with long-term top-league aspirations. Already reacting to the unreached expectations, the club and current head coach Friedhelm Funkel have agreed to part ways at season’s end.
The KSC, on the other hand, will eventually be able to look at the season as a huge success for their first upon making the climb from the 3.Liga. The sting of fading late to miss the chance at a second-consecutive promotion will linger for a little while, but fans can already recognize a job well-done.
There has not been a single draw in the last eleven matches between these two clubs, dating back to 2005. As KSC has won once in the last 18 visits to 1860, the Lions may be licking their chops in anticipation of reversing their current home form, which as resulted in just a single victory in their last six matches.
FC Erzgebirge Aue : FC Union Berlin
(Hinrunde result – Union won 1:0)
The promising start to 2014 for Erzgebirge Aue has faded into memory, as the Violets are back near the relegation zone, needing to find their February form to secure league status for next season. Doing it at home by knocking off fellow eastern Germany side Union Berlin would be a nice boost for Falko Götz’s side, which has won just one of their last six matches.
Unfortunately for Aue, it’s been ten years since they beat their fellow former GDR foe.
Union finally snapped their extended winless streak Monday by downing Energie Cottbus 2:0. Having exited the promotion chase during the stretch, coach Uwe Neuhaus has already shifted focus to planning for next season. In more immediate scheming, Neuhaus will need to plan Sunday’s squad around the absence of versatile defensive presence Michael Parensen, who suffered a broken nose Monday night and will miss the match in Aue.
FC Ingolstadt : SpVgg Greuther Fürth
(Hinrunde result – Ingolstadt won 0:1)
Whether or not Paderborn wins a point Friday night to actually pass SpVgg Greuther Fürth, Frank Kramer’s side knows they are in for a legitimate fight over the automatic promotion spot they’ve held since the beginning of December, despite having gone eight matches since their last loss.
In FC Ingolstadt, Fürth will be facing the league’s second-least successful home side, though die Schanzer have somewhat begun to turn their poor home form around, having taken seven points from their last four matches at Audi Sportpark. Ingolstadt have also lost just one of their last nine matches.
The home improvement has been part of an overall emergence from a disastrous start to the season when Ingolstadt spend 14 of the first 16 matchdays in the relegation zone. While FCI currently sit tenth in the table and just three point shy of the table’s upper half, they are also just two points above 15th place Bochum, in an increasingly tight bottom half of the table.
The Hinspiel victory for Ingolstadt in Fürth was the first for current coach Ralph Hasenhüttl after replacing the woefully unsuccesful Marco Kurz, who had just ten points in eleven matches to start the season.