Freiburg-Nürnberg – The most crucial relegation battle so far

There are many reasons as to why the victor in this fixture will most likely be playing in Germany’s top flight next season. We take a look at a few of them:

1 – Considerable points advantage

With seven matches to go in the season, one should stop looking at points advantage as points and start looking at it as matches. So, say, 3 points is one match, 4 points are two matches, etc. With so few games left, the chances of recovering and overcoming a points advantage are reduced. Currently, Nürnberg and Freiburg sit in 14th and 15th place respectively equal on points (26), two ahead of HSV (16th) and Stuttgart (17th). Speculation is rife, but these two teams will most likely drop more points this weekend as they face Borussia Mönchengladbach away and Borussia Dortmund at home respectively, which is why a win in the fixture at hand would be so important. The winner could jump to 29 points, which could be as many as five points ahead of the danger places. Or, in other words, a two-match lead, which would mean that the rest of their pursuers would have only four matches through which to overcome the difference.

2- Streaky form

Nürnberg and Freiburg are two streaky teams, for good and for bad. However, in this case, we should be looking at this statistic with a positive outlook. Nürnberg failed to win any of their 17 Hinrunde matches, but won four out of the first five of the Rückrunde (the excuseable exception being the match against Bayern). After that, four defeats in a row were followed by an impressive and crucial victory against Stuttgart in midweek, with an on-fire Josip Drmić who will now be playing for a big summer transfer. It seems like Der Club work on confidence and, after the Stuttgart match, momentarily have their confidence back.

Freiburg, on the other hand, are on a decent streak of their own. Two wins and a draw in their last three matches scoring 8 while conceding just 3 is a pretty decent run heading into this crucial match. Those three matches are 1/9 of the total matches played this season, and in them they have scored over 1/4 of their total number of goals so far in the Bundesliga. It would be fair to say that they are on form and will enter the match with confidence, especially since they are playing at home.

All of this concludes with the fact that the victor of this match will probably head onto the rest of fixtures expecting to pick up more points, making the task at hand even more difficult for their chasers, bringing us to our next point.

3 – Tricky fixtures for HSV and Stuttgart

HSV have the trickiest remaining fixture list of all the relegation battlers. After this weekend, Mirko Slomka will have to plan for Leverkusen (H), Hannover (A), Wolfsburg (H), Augsburg (A), Bayern München (H), and Mainz (A). Out of those six matches, three are against top-5 opposition, meaning their chances of getting a winning streak going is extremely slim. Likewise, the Swabians also have tricky matches ahead, including trips to Mönchengladbach and Munich and visits from Schalke and Wolfsburg. However, they have a crucial match-up against Freiburg next week which, if results don’t go their way this weekend, could pound a few nails into the coffin should they lose.

4 – Building up the all-important cushion

If we assume a Freiburg victory, Christian Streich’s men should be rubbing their hands. Not only would they have a decent points advantage over the teams below them, but their fixture list includes some relatively easy match-ups compared to those of their fellow relegation battlers. After Nürnberg, they visit Stuttgart; getting points there would be half the job done to stay up. If they were to drop points and their cushion was to get smaller, they then welcome last-place Eintracht Braunschweig, which could further increase that advantage considering the difficult fixtures their opponent’s face. Building any points-cushion is important because they also still have to play Gladbach (H), Wolfsburg (A), and Schalke (H) consecutively, which will probably end up in some dropped points.

Nürnberg, on the other hand, don’t have the luxury of facing any more of their relegation rivals. Gladbach (H), Wolfsburg (A), Leverkusen (H), Mainz (A), and Schalke (H) are five of the six opponents in the remaining fixtures, which is why having a hypothetical four or five-point advantage would ease their fears and give them a little bit more breathing space should results not go their way.

5 – So, what will be the outcome?

This is a difficult game to predict due to various circumstances, mostly explained above in point 2. The MAGE SOLAR Stadion can be a tricky place to visit due to the proximity of the crowd to the pitch; just ask Pep Guardiola and Bayern, whose trip to Freiburg was one of the two matches in which the Bavarians dropped points. Also, with it being a night fixture, the atmosphere levels increase for an increaseed difficulty factor for Nürnberg in what is their most-crucial match of the season so far.

Nürnberg have in their favour a deciding factor you can’t find on Freiburg’s books: aforementioned Swiss striker Josip Drmić. Drmić is responsible for 15 of Der Club’s 32 goals this season and bagged a brace against Stuttgart midweek, which will mean he’s raring to go against Freiburg. Also, there is the undeniable factor that the former FC Zürich man is vying for a move elsewhere this  summer, with a top-5 Bundesliga team the most-likely destination. Therefore, tomorrow’s match is going to have many people watching and expecting him to score. There’s no doubt he won’t want to disappoint, and that may be at Freiburg’s expense.

Prediction: Not an easy one, but I’m going to stick my neck out and predict a 2-3 thriller, with Nürnberg coming out on top… just.

Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know your thoughts below!

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Aleix Gwilliam

Is a 27-year-old living in Barcelona who gets more pleasure from watching German lower-league football than from going to watch his hometown team at the Camp Nou every other week. Passionate about European football, its history and culture, you can follow him on Twitter at @AleixGwilliam

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