There’s only eight games left.
This is not a drill!
Sadly, the end of the 2. Bundesliga season is now on the horizon, and we’re heading into the final stretch. Every game is important; that is a given. But the state of the table this year means that there is still everything to play for.
Here’s how Matchday 27 is shaping up:
Fortuna Düsseldorf – Arminia Bielefeld (Friday 17:30)
Fortuna now look to be set for promotion and the 2. Bundesliga title after their promotion rivals slipped up once more. They hold a five-point advantage on Nürnberg and seven on Kiel, with Friedhelm Funkel’s men coming out of their blip in style. A derby day win over Duisburg will give a team high on confidence yet another boost, though they will be without André Hoffmann. The defender, who has been excellent over the last few weeks, needed emergency surgery on his testicle. That opens up the chance for Robin Bormuth or Adam Bodzek to slot into defence.
There are a lot of positive noises around Arminia Bielefeld, too. Jeff Saibene’s contract looks set to be extended, Konstantin Kerschbaumer has spoken of his happiness – despite an unlikely stay – and they picked up all three points against Nürnberg on Friday. That was a huge win and give them a necessary shot in the arm for a potential promotion push. Saibene will now hope to get his own back on Fortuna, having been beaten them in league and cup this season. It would be a huge statement of intent heading towards May having got the better of the champions-elect.
Holstein Kiel – 1. FC Heidenheim (Friday 17:30)
After their win against Duisburg, Kiel could count themselves fortunate to take a share of the spoils in Bochum. The Storks looked set to get back to their old form, yet had Dominik Schmidt’s two goal-line clearances to thank for being in the game. Returning to the Holstein-Stadion, Rafael Czichos should return to partner Schmidt in defence. There is some doubt over Steven Lewerenz’s fitness, though Tom Weilandt’s showing against his parent club means they have an adequate replacement. Markus Anfang will be desperate to get three points and try to prevent another winless run.
Heidenheim have been in patchy form of late, though defensive injuries have hardly helped Frank Schmidt’s cause. Oliver Steurer and Timo Beermann have been joined by Mathias Wittek on the absentee list. Yet another defensive set-up isn’t ideal, but he will be hopeful that Heidenheim can spring a surprise. After a good run they have been on the slide and sit just four points above 16th . . . which is also only five points from fourth. There is still plenty to play for this season, and with the rumours John Verhoek is moving on come the summer, he will want to leave on a high.
1. FC Kaiserslautern – FC St. Pauli (Saturday 12:00)
After another defeat in a big away game at the bottom of the table, Michael Frontzeck is tasked with picking his players up once more to have another crack at beating the drop. Defeat in Fürth was hard to swallow but with Benjamin Kessel returning, Lautern do have the chance to go back to the starting side that was so successful against Darmstadt and Union. Given the form of the sides above them and with Fürth facing Aue, this does feel like a final for Frontzeck. Should they pick up all three points, however, then the situation changes once again.
Sankt Pauli have continued to muddle their way through a topsy-turvy, injury-riddled season. They had the better of the play against Braunschweig last weekend but were also thankful that the post was in Suleiman Abdullahi’s way on two occasions. Without key men like Lasse Sobiech, Waldemar Sobota and Christopher Buchtmann, it will certainly be a tough trip to the Betzenberg. However, there is one positive. Philipp Ziereis returned after a lengthy injury lay-off to put in a fine defensive performance against Eintracht, and that is something Markus Kauczinski will be over the moon with.
1. FC Union Berlin – Jahn Regensburg (Saturday 12:00)
Much like that of Sankt Pauli, Union’s season has been unpredictable. After Jens Keller’s sacking, André Hofschneider has failed to turn their fortunes around. The doubts over Steven Skrzybski’s future haven’t helped, although his restoration into the team has most certainly aided their cause. They are still without Sebastian Polter, which means Philipp Hosiner will lead the line once more. The question remains whether or not he will opt for a change of formation. If the last few games are anything to go by, that answer is a “yes”.
Jahn moved into fourth with a hard-fought win over Sandhausen last weekend and now are aiming to break the curse of winning from that position. It’s been 11 games since the side in fourth won, and Jahn will hope that they are going to get lucky this weekend. Joshua Mees’ brace was a lift for a player who hadn’t found the net since November, and he should get the nod on the left once more. There are positions up for debate in midfield, meaning Achim Beierlorzer has a very welcome selection headache.
SV Sandhausen – VfL Bochum (Saturday 12:00)
Sandhausen’s promise heading into the Rückrunde has slowly slipped away, and now they are starting to look over their shoulder with the teams below them beginning to pick-up points. Just two wins and five goals in eight games means Kenan Kocak’s men have struggled to back up their usually excellent defence. However, at home, they have been very good, and this represents a good chance to get back to winning ways at last. Given Sandhausen’s lack of goals, they might go for a more attacking outlook come kick-off on Saturday.
Bochum’s attack isn’t exactly awe-inspiring at the moment, but it has improved in recent weeks. Scoring in back-to-back games is something the team haven’t managed since December, and five points from three matches has been enough to keep their heads above water. Robin Dutt will want to continue that progress against an out-of-sorts Sandhausen, although he will be without Toto Losilla. He’s suspended thanks to a fifth yellow card in the 1-1 against Kiel. There is some good news, and that comes with Robert Tesche’s return from injury; he should slot in beside Vitaly Janelt in midfield.
1. FC Nürnberg – SV Darmstadt 98 (Sunday 12:30)
Nürnberg are three games without a win for the third time this season and are now beginning to look at Kiel a little more than they would like to. However, even though they’ve lost points in terms of second and first place, Nürnberg can take solace from the fact that they have won three games in a row after each of these runs. At this crucial stage of the season, Michael Köllner would more than welcome that run. Eduard Löwen, who had to replace Kevin Möhwald early on, is suspended and will miss out. Möhwald is fit and should return to his place in the line-up for Sunday’s fixture.
Darmstadt are in a tough place at the moment, but their recent form at least suggests that the battling nature is back. Two draws and a win have kept them in touch with the sides above them, although an away win in Nürnberg would really get things going. Felix Platte’s long-term injury hasn’t helped matters. Terrence Boyd will be desperate to show his worth and earn a new deal for next year. After Tobias Kempe’s effectiveness in the centre of midfield against Ingolstadt, he could line up there once more to get things going for the Lilies.
Eintracht Braunschweig – MSV Duisburg (Sunday 12:30)
Torsten Lieberknecht seems to have stabilised Eintracht after a few rough weeks, but there is the feeling that more is to come. They were the width of the post away from winning in Hamburg and are only a handful of wins away from getting into the promotion picture. That said, they are still hovering just above the relegation zone. This is symptomatic of many teams in the league, but there is the feeling that they are finally starting to turn the corner. Georg Teigl is set to miss out after his injury in the warm-up against Sankt Pauli has stuck around, so Onur Bulut should start once more.
Duisburg, on the other hand, have been finding things even tougher than their Niedersachsen counterparts of late. Ilia Gruev’s men have faced four of the top five in their last five games, so it’s somewhat understandable that it’s been hard going. However, the Zebras are now left with one of the easier run-ins and will hope to take full advantage of that. They are without Stanislav Iljutchenko and Kevin Fröde through suspension, meaning Kingsley Onuegbu and either Tim Albutat or Christian Gartner are likely to start. A win in Braunschweig would really get things up and running again.
FC Ingolstadt 04 – Dynamo Dresden (Sunday 12:30)
Ingolstadt are bolstered by the returning Alfredo Morales, Almog Chofen, and Stefan Kutschke from suspension, but it’s not clear if any will start. Despite having their troubles against Darmstadt, a switch to 4-2-3-1 saw the Schanzer play much better and finally free Sonny Kittel. He provided the long-overdue Robert Leipertz the chance to score. A fine rearguard action meant they came away with a point. However, with their aspirations coming out of the Winter break, Stefan Leitl won’t be settling for a mid-table finish come May.
Four wins in six have turned Dynamo’s rather bleak-looking season into one of promise, especially now that they sit just six points from fourth. Florian Ballas committed his future to the club on Thursday, signing a deal until 2021. While Dynamo’s defence has quietly improved in recent weeks, the headlines have been all for Moussa Koné. His hat-trick won the game against Heidenheim, and the talented youngster looks set for big things if he continues in the same vein. Koné’s partnership with Lucas Röser should only get better and see Dynamo go in only one direction.
Erzgebirge Aue – SpVgg Greuther Fürth (Monday 19:30)
A rare Monday night game for these two sides is made even more important with their current positions. Aue are in good form and have built a solid base in recent weeks to try and move away from trouble; they are 16th and three points behind Fürth. A very credible draw in the capital continued that run. Only a series of good saves from Daniel Mesenhöler prevented them from taking all three points. That said, some desperate defending and Martin Männel’s experience was called upon. It won’t be easy, but Aue have shown more than enough fight to get out of trouble.
While the Violets have come on leaps and bounds recently, it is the Shamrocks who had been the best side in the league over the past five games. 13 points from a possible 15 have transformed their outlook. Although it might be incredibly unlikely, there is reason to believe they are set for a charge up the table. The dynamic front four has been electric in recent weeks. That will have to continue on their trip toward the Ore Mountains. A favourable set of results could see them sit just five points from third, and then who knows where is next for Damir Buric’s men?