2.Bundesliga Matchday 31 Preview: Your fast-like-the-Easter-bunny rundown

It’s an early start to the matchday this week, with 2.Bundesliga kicking off Thursday morning.

So, no time to dilly-dally. Hop to it, all rabbit-like!

Thursday

Energie Cottbus : FC St. Pauli

This is it for Energie Cottbus.

Should Cottbus fail to grab at least a point from visiting St. Pauli, the last embers of hope for remaining in the 2.Bundesliga next season could be completely extinguished with the final whistle. A Dynamo Dresden victory in Aue would move the relegation playoff spot out of the reach of the table’s long-time 18th place side, assuring Cottbus will be one of two clubs relegated directly to 3.Liga.

But, let’s face it, even a stunning victory at this point would do little but delay the inevitable and maybe add some small bit of intrigue to the matchday 32 trip to Frankfurt, should FSV continue to be stuck on 34 points heading into that match.

Clinging to a bit more hope is visiting St. Pauli, though dropping a 2:3 at home last week in the seventh minute of added time knocked the Hamburg side down to fifth, six points behind SC Paderborn in the playoff spot.

(Hinrunde result St. Pauli won 3:0)

 

FC Erzgebirge Aue : Dynamo Dresden

The latest edition of the derby between Erzgebirge Aue and Dynamo Dresden hardly needs more than rivalry to increase the drama, but that doesn’t mean the added interests are unwelcomed.

Dresden ended a 13-match run without a win by throttling 1860 München on Monday. If they can make it two consecutive victories, they can draw level on points with FSV Frankfurt, who face a tough match in Kaiserslautern Sunday, suddenly making very real the possibility of achieving the retention of their league status, without having to play in the relegation playoff dogfight.

As an added bonus, a win for Dresden would feature the added sweetness of likely putting the finishing touches on the sending down of rival side Energie Cottbus.

Despite having lost two of their last three matches, Aue seem likely to be in next year’s league. Their next victory would put them at the magical 40-point mark, likely sparking a celebration of security among the home fans, should it happen Thursday. Aue needs just one point to better their 2012-13 total, but a strong finish would help the men in violet finish much higher in the table than last year’s 15th place, putting Dresden behind them and in the playoff spot on goal-differential

(Hinrunde result – 1:1)

SV Sandhausen : Fortuna Düsseldorf

Heading into the last matchday of last season, Fortuna Düsseldorf felt fairly confident they’d done just enough to, at worst, finish in the playoff spot and defend their Bundesliga spot, if not actually end in 15th and avoid 2.Bundesliga.

Meanwhile, SV Sandhausen KNEW they were being relegated to 3.Liga, leaving 2.Bundesliga concerns for another time.

Yet, here both clubs are, facing off in a mid-table battle with both sides ready to prepare to spend 2014-15 in the second division.

Fortuna arrives in Sandhausen riding their first two-match winning streak since before Christmas. Five goals in the two victories in Paderborn and against Aalen totals the Fortuna offensive output of the preceding eight matchdays combined.

(Hinrunde result – Düsseldorf won 1:0)

 

Saturday

Karlsruher SC : FC Union Berlin

Eventually, Karlsruher SC will be left to reflect on a remarkable first season in 2.Bundesliga after being promoted.

But they’re not ready for consolation prizes just yet, knowing third place will be no higher on points than 53, the KSC will look to collect three more and keep their chances of getting a top-three finish mathematically alive, if not completely healthy.

Whether Union Berlin had really embraced promotion as a goal or not, the 2014 performance of the side has been a huge disappointment, winning just two of eleven matches after the holidays. A loss in Karlsruher will finally put Union below the rapidly rising line dividing clubs still technically eligible for promotion.

(Hinrunde result – 0:0)

 

1860 München : Arminia Bielefeld

Arminia Bielefeld has to be travelling to München with their hearts full of hope, having witness the exacerbation of the smoldering garbage fire that was the 1860 München season into raging inferno after the dismissal of coach Friedhelm Funkel

The Lions found themselves down three goals within the first 20 minutes of their match Monday in Dresden to a Dynamo team which had been able to score more than one goal in any single 90-minute stretch in their 13 previous matches. It would seem the club is not in the right mental state to go on the four-match string of victories that would be required to better their point total of last season, but, then again, club leadership also seemed to recognize the need for a new approach, leading to the strange, slow parting of ways with Funkel.

Bielefeld will feel not even a little bit sorry for 1860, not even if they manage to compound the problems of their hosts. Now three points behind Dynamo Dresden for even the playoff spot, the battle for class retention has taken a new air of desperation, leaving three-point matchdays as the only road to salvation. Though three of Bielefeld’s final four matches are on the road, but also include potentially huge relegation fights with both FSV Frankfurt and Dynamo Dresden, currently sitting 15th and 16th in the table, respectively

(Hinrunde result – München won 0:1)

 

Sunday

VfR Aalen : FC Ingolstadt

VfR Aalen has just one victory from their last seven matches. FC Ingolstadt just one in their last eight.

A loser here could be in danger of falling further down the table and possibly back into a potentially expanding relegation fight.

Ingolstadt, despite being at or near the bottom of the table for much of the season, have suffered the second-fewest road losses, getting points in all but three away matches.

(Hinrunde result – Ingolstadt won 2:0)

 

SC Paderborn : SpVgg Greuther Fürth

This is the big match of the weekend.

Though, I’d guess if you’re reading this, you already knew that.

SC Paderborn need a home victory to finally pass SpVgg Greuther Fürth and take the edge in a race for a direct-promotion spot by climbing into second place for the first time this season. Fürth, which has been a top-two side for all but four matchdays since dropping from the Bundesliga, knows it would benefit greatly from the distance earned by a victory here, expanding their lead to four points, but definitely has the advantage of being able to leave with a draw and their lead intact.

The two clubs have lost just three matches between them in 2014.

I don’t know what else I have to write here to convince you this is THE match to watch this weekend if you’re going to watch just one German football match this weekend (I know you won’t limit yourself to just one, though). There is not a single match in the top two leagues with anywhere near as much at stake for two sides on relatively even competitive terms.

WATCH IT!

(Hinrunde result – Fürth won 3:0)

1. FC Kaiserslautern : FSV Frankfurt

Now that 1. FC Kaiserslautern have finally had their DFB Pokal run extinguished by FC Bayern München, they Red Devils can return focus to the on-again/off-again hopes of fighting for their Bundesliga return. Consecutive 1:1 results at home against clubs from the relegation battle had fans angry enough with their side to serenade them with “Never again, first league!”

A last-gasp victory over St. Pauli in Hamburg last weekend, though, boosted the spirits of the players, lifted the club back into fourth in the table, and poised to draw even nearer to third place, as one of the two sides immediately above them will end the matchday with no more than 53 points, meaning a victory at home against the struggling visitors from Frankfurt would put them within three points of someone, if not just two.

But, as was just said, recent home results against competition from the relegation battle have been disappointing, and FSV Frankfurt is WELL in the the mix for relegation right now, riding a four-match losing streak to the bottom of the safety spots and presenting a rather tempting target for the newly rejuvenated hopes of Dynamo Dresden, just three points back.

Frankfurt has been the most-generous defense of the Rückrunde, surrendering 23 goals in 12 matches. Pair that pace with having scored no more than one goal in each of their last seven matches, and the recipe for disaster comes together. Four weeks ago, Frankfurt was in the middle of the table, having taken seven points from the preceding three matches and looking safe.

Things can change quickly when you don’t take points, can’t they?

(Hinrunde result – Kaiserslautern won 0:4)

Monday

1. FC Köln : VfL Bochum

The city of Köln are making preparations for celebrating a return to the Bundesliga. A top-three finish is already secured, but the clinching of a direct-promotion spot Monday will require at least one point more in the account, if not more, depending on results in Paderborn on Sunday.

Meanwhile, in Bochum, coach Peter Neururer knows his team was the first to defeat 1. FC Köln this season, ending Köln’s 13-match unbeaten run to start the season, and believes the VfL Bochum can do it again to get to 40 points and secure and improvement over last season as well as their spot in next year’s league.

Bochum has taken seven of the last nine points available to finally get some separation from the relegation zone and leap from 15th to 11th in the table. Köln has won four consecutive matches, dropping all three points just once in their last fifteen.

(Hinrunde result – Bochum won 1:0)

 

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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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