Relegation dogfight

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Werder Bremen 14th – 33pts

Five minutes is a long time in football. Ask Werder Bremen.
Last Saturday, with just five minutes to play, Thomas Schaaf’s men were leading 2-0 against Hoffenheim, another relegation-threatened side. “The Green and Whites” just had to hold on till the final whistle to all but guarantee their safety.
Victory would have given them a five point lead over Fortuna Dusseldorf and Augsburg and an eight point lead over Hoffenheim. Instead, typical of their underwhelming season, Werder blew it allowing “Die Hoffe” to come back and snatch a 2-2 draw and what could yet prove to be a precious point.
That made it 11 games without a win for Werder, whose 32-year stay in the Bundesliga is under increasing threat.
Thomas Schaaf the longest serving coach in the Bundesliga has become a master of stating the obvious. “It was a hectic final few minutes. We lacked the calmness we needed and sadly, we didn’t hold on until the end,” said Schaaf. “We will look forward though.”
This Saturday it won’t get any easier as they host the season’s surprise package Eintracht Frankfurt who will be going all out to book a place in the Europe League. Werder hope to welcome back Serbian international Aleksander Ignjovksi from a knee problem for the last home match of the season at the Weser Stadium which is sold out. They will need all the drive and energy of the 42 thousand fans to help them stay up. Two players who don’t lack drive and energy will be missing. Austria forward Marko Arnautovic and Dutch midfielder Eljero Elia have been suspended for the rest of the season after they were caught speeding on a German motorway late at night at the end of April.
If Werder lose, they will have to save their very forgettable season with a victory at Nuremberg on the last matchday.

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Fortuna Dusseldorf 15th – 30pts

One team who can vouch for Eintracht Frankfurt’s resurgence is Fortuna Dusseldorf. Last Saturday they lost 3-2 at Frankfurt in their third consecutive defeat. Norbert Meier’s team have lost all momentum. They haven’t won any of their last 10 games and their last victory was against bottom club Greuther Furth back in February.
In their favour, Fortuna look to have have the easiest run-in, against two teams who have nothing to play for. This Saturday they host Nuremberg whose Bundesliga survival was guaranted last week despite their home defeat to Bayer Leverkusen who in turn booked their ticket for next year’s Champions League. They finish against Hannover.

Augsburg 16th – 30pts

Augsburg too are finding out that the margins between success and failure are very fine. Last Saturday Markus Weinzierl’s side took the game to Europe League chasing Freiburg. They had four golden chances to take the lead in the first half only to be denied by inspired goalkeeper Oliver Baumann. Christian Streich’s team rode the storm and their luck and it was they who scored the vital first goal through Cedric Makiadi. That knocked the stuffing out of the Bavarians who went on to lose the match 2-0 leaving the Black Forest in a black mood.

This Saturday, Augsburg face the unenviable trip to face Champions Bayern in Munich. Some might say it’s a good time to face the record champions who will have one eye on the final of the Champions League on May 25th. The only problem is that Bayern’s second side is as good as most other team’s first choice.

It seems likely that Augsburg will have to save their season with a win at home to already relegated Greuther Furth. Ominously for ‘Die Fuggerstadter’ now the pressure is off Furth, new coach Frank Kramer has got them enjoying their football and they’ve won their last two away games. Last season under Jos Luhukay, Augsburg escaped the drop. Will lightning strike twice ?

Hoffenheim 17th – 28pts

On paper, Hoffenheim are favourites for relegation as they are in the automatic drop position, three points behind the other three relegation contenders. However they will have been boosted by their comeback draw last week in Bremen thanks to two goals from super substitute Sven Schipplock, including a dramatic stoppage time equaliser. The 24 year old striker took both his chances for only his fifth goal this season and his first goals in five months

New coach Markus Gisdol oozed belief at the end of the game.
“Our second goal was fully deserved and an emotional moment for everyone. I am very proud. The decisive factor was that we never gave up and got our reward in the end,” said Gisdol. “The best thing of all is that we didn’t do anything silly, we just kept on playing football.”

Gisdol is Hoffenheim’s fourth coach this season and their seventh in the last three years. Since he took over, they have only lost one of their last five games and have momentum. But is it a case of too little, too late ?

This Saturday ‘Die Hoffe’ host Hamburg who are still dreaming of Europe in what should prove to be a tough match. Things go from bad to worse for Hoffenheim when they have to travel to Borussia Dortmund on the last matchday. They can only hope that Jurgen Klopp is going to wrap his best players in cotton wool a week before the Champions League Final against Bayern Munich at Wembley.

The side built by the software billionaire benefactor Dietmar Hopp are staring relegation in the face for the first time since they were promoted five seasons ago. The fairytale seems to be over for the village side who rocketed up from the fifth division to the Bundesliga top flight. Could there yet be a dramatic twist and a great escape ?

Tony Jeffers Eurosport 2 Commentator

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