With five matches left of the 2019/20 Bundesliga season to be played, the relegation places are yet to be decided. The heat is well and truly on for the likes of Paderborn, Werder Bremen and Fortuna Düsseldorf.
Remaining fixtures: Bremen (a), Mainz (h), Hertha Berlin (a), Schalke (h), Cologne (a), Paderborn (h)
Frankfurt go into their game in hand at Bremen on Wednesday fresh from snapping an alarming run of five straight defeats. The Eagles played out a 3-3 goal thriller with Freiburg, before beating top-six hopefuls Wolfsburg 2-1 away. They’re the division’s worst travellers, but have a pretty favorable run-in against two teams just above them in the standings – much-improved Hertha Berlin and free-falling Schalke – and a clutch of clubs fighting to stay afloat. Victories over Werder and Mainz in their next two will all but end any lingering relegation fears.
Key man: Filip Kostic
Eintracht head coach Adi Hütter is not short of individual quality, despite losing Sebastien Haller, Luka Jovic and Ante Rebic during the close season. Filip Kostic was integral to the aforementioned goal brokers’ success last term, and continues to deliver week in, week out in 2019/20. The Serbian winger has produced a team-leading nine assists and attempted over 160 crosses from open play – an unparalleled influence that is reflected in his Fantasy Bundesliga standing as the fourth-highest scoring player in the game. With the likes of Andre Silva and Bas Dost to aim for, it’s no wonder Frankfurt have scored the most goals of all teams outside the top five.
Remaining fixtures: Schalke (h), Cologne (a), Paderborn (h), Hoffenheim (a), Düsseldorf (h)
Union beat Frankfurt on Matchday 23, but that was one of only three league wins the Berlin outfit have recorded in 2020, compared to five at the same stage during the Hinrunde. Supporter absence appears to be effecting Urs Fischer’s side more than most, though they did respond to defeats to leaders Bayern Munich and rejuvenated city rivals Hertha by holding Mainz to a 1-1 draw, before going down 4-1 in Mönchengladbach. Four points is, nevertheless, their smallest cushion yet on the relegation play-off spot, and – on top of being winless in six – it’s worth pointing out Die Eisernen only took four points off their five remaining opponents earlier in the campaign.
Key man: Christopher Trimmel
Christopher Trimmel could be Union’s best hope of extending the capital club’s Bundesliga stay beyond a debut season. The Union captain has produced a Europe-leading seven assists from set-pieces, with the Berliners scoring 14 of their 33 goals from dead balls. That amounts to 44 per cent, which is the highest rate of any team in the Bundesliga so far this term. Trimmel’s party piece has been his corners, which have produced five of those seven assists. Needless to say he’ll be relishing the prospect of facing a Schalke team that has shipped a league-high 25 goals in 2020, and two of the league’s four most porous defences in Paderborn and Düsseldorf.
Remaining fixtures: Cologne (h), Mainz (a), Hoffenheim (h), Düsseldorf (a), RB Leipzig (h)
Augsburg are level in the standings with Union, but third from bottom in the Rückrunde form table with just eight points from a possible 36 this calendar year. A 3-0 win at Schalke and goalless draw with Paderborn hinted at the green shoots of recovery following a six-game winless run, before Hertha came, saw and checked the Bavarian outfit’s progress. Fixtures with Cologne, Mainz and Düsseldorf will be key, though two of those fall on the road, where Heiko Herrlich’s side have lost five of their last six without scoring. The idea of Die Fuggerstädter having to get a positive result at home to top-four candidates RB Leipzig on the final day doesn’t bear thinking about.
Key man: Florian Niederlechner
With 11 goals and six assists, Florian Niederlechner has had a direct hand in 43 per cent of Augsburg’s 40 league strikes this season. The fact the recent Schalke triumph was the only one of their eight victories in 2019/20 without a Niederlechner goal or assist underlines his value. The 29-year-old hasn’t produced either in his last nine league matches, but if can get back on the horse and repeat his four goals and six assists across the campaign’s corresponding fixtures against Cologne (1-1), Mainz (2-1), Hoffenheim (4-0), Düsseldorf (3-0) and Leipzig (1-3), Augsburg will confident of skipping the trap door.
Remaining fixtures: Frankfurt (a), Augsburg (h), Borussia Dortmund (a), Bremen (h), Bayer Leverkusen (a)
Three points behind Augsburg, and only two clear of the relegation play-off spot, Mainz are on dangerously thin ice. The 05ers have lost two of their last three, are winless in five since downing rock-bottom Paderborn at the end of February and have the worst defensive record in the division with 62 goals conceded. Back-to-back games without defeat has been achieved just twice, while three of their eight wins have come in games against bottom feeders Bremen and Paderborn. Completing the season double over Werder on the penultimate weekend could be rendered academic without a good result or two in the weeks prior.
Key man: Robin Quaison
As is the case with Augsburg and Niederlechner, Robin Quaison goals are usually a good sign for Mainz. The Sweden international’s career-best 12 strikes in 2019/20 have fallen across eight games – seven of which have resulted in wins. The problem is, he has fired blanks in his last five league outings, during which time Mainz have picked up just three points. Two goals in nine 10 defeats to top-six opposition don’t bode well for upcoming trips to Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen, but hat-tricks against Bremen and Hertha offer more than a hint of encouragement heading down the final straight.
Position: 16th (relegation play-off spot)
Remaining fixtures: Hoffenheim (h), Dortmund (h), Leipzig (a), Augsburg (h), Union Berlin (a)
Despite slipping to a first defeat in six, Fortuna can be forgiven for losing 5-0 at Bayern on Matchday 29. Less forgivable is the potentially costly pair of draws with Hertha and Cologne – games which Die Flingeranger led 3-0 and 2-0 respectively. Düsseldorf would be tied for points with Augsburg and Union, had they held on. As things stand, they’re only two clear ahead of second-bottom Werder – who have that game in hand with Frankfurt to come – and one adrift of outright safety. Worryingly, the fixtures get harder before they get any easier, with under-the-radar European hopefuls Hoffenheim and top-four rivals Dortmund and Leipzig up next for Uwe Rösler’s charges.
Key man: Erik Thommy
Erik Thommy was on the winning side when former club Jahn Regensburg avoided relegation to the third tier following a play-off win over 1860 Munich in the 2016/17 play-offs. Injury deprived VfB Stuttgart of the talented midfielder last season as they dropped out of the Bundesliga after losing their two-legged shot at redemption on away goals to Union. He took his time to get going at Fortuna, but has assumed something of talisman status ahead of faltering striker Rouwen Hennnigs in recent months. All but one of his six goals have resulted in positive results – the same applies to three of his four assists.
Position: 17th (automatic relegation)
Remaining fixtures: Frankfurt (h), Wolfsburg (h), Paderborn (a), Bayern Munich (h), Mainz (a), Cologne (h)
It was Thommy’s brace of assists that contributed to Bremen’s opening-day loss to Fortuna, in turn setting the tone for a hair-raising campaign for the four-time Bundesliga champions. The Green-Whites recorded just three Hinrunde wins, before taking their revenge on Düsseldorf on Matchday 18. The writing appeared to be on the wall when Bremen suffered a sixth defeat in seven upon the league’s resumption, but 1-0 wins over Freiburg and Schalke either side of a goalless draw with Gladbach have breathed new life into their survival fight. Victory against Frankfurt would take them above Fortuna and level with Mainz, with a handful of very winnable fixtures still to come.
Key man: Davy Klaassen
Davy Klaassen has been one of precious few Bremen constants throughout an uneasy campaign. The Dutchman isn’t Werder’s chief goal threat – that honour goes to Milot Rashica – but his commitment levels and ability to provide the bridge between a steadily improving defence and under-performing attack make him one of the first names on coach Florian Kohfeldt’s teamsheet. He has captained the side in the absence of Niklas Moisander, clocked up the most minutes of any outfield Bremen player, and had a hand in eight of 30 goals from midfield. Where there’s Klaassen, there’s hope…
Position: 18th (automatic relegation)
Remaining fixtures: Leipzig (a), Bremen (h), Union (a), Gladbach (h), Frankfurt (a)
Propping up the table with eight points to claw back on the relegation play-off spot and nine adrift of outright safety, Paderborn need a huge stroke of good fortune and a big helping hand from elsewhere to avoid an immediate return to the second tier. Steffen Baumgart’s men are winless in 10, and could find themselves in the position of having to take maximum points from their last four fixtures if they lose to Leipzig on Matchday 30. Ominously, the Westphalian outfit – relegated on the penultimate weekend in their only previous top-flight excursion – have never recorded back-to-back Bundesliga wins.
Key man: Dennis Srbeny
Paderborn might not have been in such a precarious position, had Dennis Srbeny rocked up six months earlier. Scoring five times in 12 appearances since rejoining his former club from Norwich City during the winter break, the 26-year-old striker has already accounted for almost a sixth of Paderborn’s 32 goals across the entire campaign. Four have come in losing efforts, though his goal past Bayern’s Manuel Neuer speaks to his ability as a stone-cold finisher. If the service is there, Srbeny has what it takes to at the very least provide the Bundesliga’s basement club with a stay of execution in the weeks ahead.