Five teams are going into Saturday’s matchup not knowing if they will be in the league next year. On that note, I wish the best of luck to the other teams’ fan bases who are in this predicament. At least two, and maybe three, teams and their fans are going to be devastated when it’s all said and done Saturday.
I hope I am not among them.
VfB Stuttgart will take on last-place SC Paderborn Saturday in the league finale. Do not let the last-place position fool you; Paderborn is at home and with very little pressure on their shoulders. It would not be surprising if they are the more-relaxed team when the match gets underway. The team and coach are very capable. They will challenge Stuttgart’s defense with their strong counterattacking ability and have better discipline than Stuttgart’s most-recent opponents.
Here is a quick look at the potential scenarios for VfB:
VfB Stuttgart at SC Paderborn
VfB defeats Paderborn
Then cry tears of joy!
It means the relegation threat is over. Depending on other matches, Stuttgart could even finish the season in 13th place. 13th place! It’s crazy to consider such a reality, given they have been in 15th place or worse since week 1.
Paderborn defeats VfB
Then cry tears of sadness and remember that strong men also cry.
VfB ties Paderborn
Stuttgart would likely stay where they are in the relegation playoff spot, but two other league matches could change that . . .
Schalke 04 at Hamburger SV
I am very concerned about this match. Hamburg gets to play in the comfort of their home crowd, and Schalke is a total mess right now. The gambling odds also favor a win for der Dinosaurier. They would switch places in the league table with Stuttgart in this scenario (where Stuttgart and Paderborn draw) and be in a relegation playoff for the second straight year.
Not all hope is lost, though. The fifth place team from Gelsenkirchen is still the better team talent-wise, even with their recent losses. They also have much to play for. A win or tie would ensure Schalke remain in the top spot for Europa League qualifying ahead of Augsburg. They have had an issue generating offense all year, but their defense under coach Roberto Di Matteo is solid.
SC Freiburg at Hannover 96
This game comes into play only if Freiburg manages to defeat Hannover by more than two goals. It seems unlikely on the surface, given Freiburg’s conservative style of play. However, if Freiburg take the lead, it is not unreasonable to think Hannover will be aggressive in doing whatever it can to even the score, and Christian Streich’s group is one of the best in the league at taking advantage of opponent mistakes.
Stuttgart would then be tied with Hannover in goal differential. The second tiebreaker in the Bundesliga is based on total goals scored, which Stuttgart leads 40-38. Winning the second tiebreak would enable Stuttgart to switch places with Hannover in the table.
In a nutshell…
A tie means Stuttgart could finish anywhere between 15th and 17th depending on the outcome of aforementioned two matches. Considering all of the possibilities, I believe the likeliest one is 16th place and a two-game relegation playoff. It’s crazy to think that Schalke is an underdog, but I think they will at least tie Hamburg, if not win outright.
Potential Relegation Opponent
There is plenty of drama on the other side of the relegation playoff spot as well. Three teams are fighting for second place; SV Darmstadt is currently there with 56 points, but Karlsruher SC and FC Kaiserslautern are right behind with 55 points. Whoever finishes third will have their season slightly extended. First-place Ingolstadt qualified for the top league last weekend.
If VfB have to be involved in a two-match playoff and potentially crush another team’s spirit, then 100% percent I want it to be Karlsruher SC. Earlier in the season, their former player Mike Franz mentioned “it would be most beautiful if KSC were promoted and VfB were relegated.” Karlsruhe fans have also set up a Facebook group for a “relegation party of VfB” scheduled hours after the conclusion of the Paderborn match. Well then!
Karlsruhe is an old “rival.” Their team and city are not on par with Stuttgart, so it’s understandable that there is going to be animosity. Judging by some of their former players’ ‘tudes and fan Facebook groups, they deserve to stay in the second league until they learn to be nice.
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