4 clubs still sweating on Bundesliga survival
BERLIN (AP) — Four sides are fighting for survival in the Bundesliga’s penultimate round of games on Saturday, with European qualification places also at stake.
Augsburg, in the relegation play-off place, faces the daunting challenge of a visit to Bayern Munich, which will want to celebrate receiving the championship trophy with its 28th win.
Fortuna Duesseldorf is level on points with Augsburg and hopes to end its 10-game run without a victory against visiting Nuremberg, which has nothing but pride at stake.
Werder Bremen, three points ahead, faces a tough game at home against Eintracht Frankfurt, which can secure Europa League football for next season with a win.
Hoffenheim, second from bottom and two points adrift with the worst goal difference among the four, also hosts a side with European ambitions, Hamburger SV.
Despite a frustrating season, Hamburg is just three points off Freiburg in sixth.
Freiburg has a much better goal difference, however, and would almost certainly claim the last Europa League place with a win at already-relegated Greuther Fuerth.
It’s Fuerth’s last chance to avoid being the only side never to have won a home game in 50 years of the Bundesliga.
Fuerth captain Mergim Mavraj said the players want “to bring things to a decent end and give the fans the three points that mean so much to them. A matter of honor.”
All games are to be played simultaneously, with second-place Borussia Dortmund visiting Wolfsburg, third-place Bayer Leverkusen hosting Hannover, Schalke defending fourth place and the last Champions League spot at home against Stuttgart, and Mainz hosting Borussia Moenchengladbach, which maintains a very slim chance of European football next season.
Bayern wrapped up the title in record time, with six games to spare, and had won every league game this year until last weekend’s ill-tempered 1-1 draw at Borussia Dortmund. The sides will meet again on May 25 for the Champions League final in Wembley, London.
It was only the fifth time Bayern had dropped points this season, and put an end to the champion’s record 14-game winning streak.
Augsburg is aiming to be just the second side — after Bayer Leverkusen last October — to inflict defeat on its Bavarian rival in the league.
“The pressure couldn’t be greater,” said Augsburg captain Paul Verhaegh. “But we’re used to that for the last few months. Why can’t we spring a surprise?”
Bayern defender Rafinha is banned for the rest of the season following his red card and subsequent cheek-poke at Dortmund’s Jakub Blaszczykowski.
Fellow defender Jerome Boateng is also out after accumulating five yellow cards, as is Augsburg midfielder Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker.
Duesseldorf’s poor recent form is shared by Nuremberg, which has lost its last four games in succession.
Bremen’s form is even worse that Duesseldorf’s. Thomas Schaaf’s side threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Hoffenheim last weekend, extending its winless streak to 11 games.
Schaaf is under pressure and needs a good result against Frankfurt to stem talk of his dismissal after 14 years as Bremen coach.
Qualification for the Europa League would be a remarkable achievement for Frankfurt on its return to the Bundesliga, but the promoted side is just three points off Schalke and can even dream of more.
Frankfurt coach Armin Veh attempted to restrain burgeoning expectations.
“We don’t have to be in the Europa (League), but we want it,” Veh said. “We shouldn’t be disappointed if it doesn’t work out.”