What went wrong, and what is the potential for the record champions next season?
What went wrong, and what is the potential for the record champions next season?
5-2…I still cannot quite believe it…5-2. With the dominating performance last Saturday, where Borussia Dortmund out played (and out managed) the powerhouse Bayern Munich in the DFB Pokal final, Dortmund ended its greatest domestic campaign in club history with an emphatic and entirely deserved victory. For the first time in 103 years of existence, the black and yellow won both the league and the cup; the much vaunted “double.” The question though does remain as to how this season stacks up against the previous 100 plus?
The final in Berlin against the most successful German club best demonstrates where this season ranks among all those preceding it. In a nutshell, it’s the best. Even when comparing it to the Champions League winning season of 1997. That year, despite being crowned kings of Europe, Dortmund only finished third and the complete restructuring of the club began. So where that might rank very highly with every Dortmund supporter, the winning of both major domestic competitions outshines it by far. The reasons for this are simple. The squads and where they came from could not be compared. The team from the mid-90’s had German World Cup winners and veterans at its core such as Andreas Möller, Jürgen Kohler, Stefan Reuter, Karl-Heinz Riedle, etc. Even the 2002 squad that won the Bundesliga title and almost won the Uefa Cup was a group of high paid stars like Jan Koller, Tomas Rosicky, and Marcio Amoroso. Plus, this squad was truly only able to shine for one season where it barely beat out Bayer Leverkusen for the title.
This new Dortmund is one that has grown mostly organically and where the team, not the individual players, is the star. Over the last two seasons no team in the Bundesliga has dominated most of its major competition more so than Dortmund has. For the first time ever a team has defeated Bayern Munich five times in a row, and none of the victories was as emphatic as the last one (a great coincidence that the fifth victory saw them score five goals). In the last two seasons Dortmund has clinched the title early both times and the fantastic display from Saturday was the crowning and befitting final achievement.
The squad itself is mainly comprised of young, talented, technically thrilling and high paced players. Most are in their early twenties (or even younger) and have yet to see the peak of their development. They grew from within, many of them coming for comparatively low transfer fees, especially when you see the quality and note the achievements. At its core though stands a brilliant manager. Much like Ottmar Hitzfeld knew how to manage stars, Jürgen Klopp knows how to get the most out of his young players and is equally as savvy tactically as the arguably greatest Dortmund manager.
It is very difficult to draw comparisons to the era prior to the formation of the Bundesliga, but the back-to-back title winning teams of 1956 and 1957 had many similarities to today’s team. Many young players (e.g. Aki Schmidt), but also a core that stayed together long enough to grow together and, for two seasons, dominate the domestic competition. The next great team was that of 1966. A year removed from winning the DFB Pokal for the first time, Dortmund narrowly missed winning the Bundesliga that season (due to a second to last match day loss to the eventual champions 1860 Munich), but did pull off the great upset over Liverpool in the European Cup Winners Cup, thanks to the great Stan Libuda. But again, none of these achievements can compare, since in the era of high spending (Bayern paid more for Jerome Boateng this season than Dortmund did for all its new players combined) such clubs as Dortmund (or Montpellier in France, who beat out PSG and spent 104 million Euros less than the Parisian club) should not be winning.
Borussia Dortmund has had many great seasons and accomplishments since rising to domestic fame in the 1950’s, but none has been as dominant as this one and especially with this squad of tirelessly working and entirely unselfish players. Many have now advanced to the point where Dortmund will most certainly sell them off (e.g. Shinji Kagawa) to bigger clubs, but the core should still remain intact and be strengthened for still quite a few seasons to come.
I could not help but chuckle when I saw Jerome Boateng’s comments after the debacle in Berlin, where he said that Bayern had gifted the cup to Dortmund and they had not truly earned it by playing better. Of course these statements are ludicrous, especially if you actually watched the match and saw how Boateng got out played time and again. But this statement (and Mario Gomez made a similarly weak one) encapsulates where this Dortmund squad ranks. They clearly have Bayern rattled and worried, and if you can boast that achievement, then you can only say that this truly is the greatest season in Dortmund’s long and illustrious history.
This week on The Bundesliga Show, Jon Hartley and Terry Duffelen, talk about the historic DFB Pokal win for Borussia Dortmund. They are also joined by esteemed author and journalist, Uli Hesse, to discuss Bayern Munich’s prospects for the Champions League Final.
Also in the podacast, Holger Ruhl from Eintracht Frankfurt, chats about the clubs promotion. Joining them in the 1.Bundesliga will (possibly!) be Fortuna Düsseldorf. Jon and Terry talk about their fiery encounter with Hertha Berlin.
The league season may be over, but there is still so much to play for in Germany. Jon Hartley and Terry Duffelen run down through the key talking points of the final matchday of the season, which confirmed Cologne’s relegation and Hertha’s place in the play-off. Hertha Berlin face Fortuna Düsseldorf in the first leg of the play-off on Thursday evening at the Olympic Stadium.
In addition, ESPN’s Jim Proudfoot joins the pod to preview the up coming DFB Pokal final between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich. Richard Montague from Football Radar also makes guest appearance to talk about the final day of the season in the 2.Bundesliga.
Charlie Robinson looks behind one of the Bundesliga’s most appealing factors for fans, it’s ownership model.
Like all good legends, that of Faust tells an extraordinary tale, in this case, in exchange for earthly knowledge, fame, and riches, Faust foolishly sells his soul to the devil. And, again, like all good legends, different interpretations and versions of Faust’s ending abound. In early versions, Faust is irrevocably damned, whereas Marlowe’s late 16th Century retelling is ambiguous and leaves room for interpretation. Goethe is a little more optimistic and compassionate towards Faust, while Thomas Mann leaves us in no doubt – the protagonist dies insane, riddled with syphilis. Overall though, the moral of the story is clear, and here’s a clue – pacts with the devil generally don’t go well, and can end with a trip down to hell.
For fans of St. Pauli, however, things went a little differently. After refusing a pact with the devil, they still ended up being relegated to the fire and sulphur-filled eternal nightmare of Bundesliga 2. Okay, perhaps that’s something of an exaggeration. After all, you won’t have heard too many St. Pauli fans complaining too vociferously at the end of the 2010/11 season. After an 8-1 shellacking at home to the Bayern Munich leviathan towards the end of the season, supporters of both teams applauded the players and erstwhile manager Holger Stanislawski off the pitch.
Of course expectations were low, and many fans and commentators would have expected the club to have been relegated anyway, but that’s not really the point. Despite promotion and subsequent relegation, the Pirates refused to sell their soul. The club’s Social Romantics had earlier delivered a petition demanding an end to commercial and advertising activities that were harming the club’s image as a left-wing counter-cultural institution of German football. Amongst other things, they objected to the use of one of many new plush executive boxes by a local strip club, an obvious violation of St. Pauli’s anti-sexist ethos. Let’s skip over the fact that their Millerntor stadium is located close to Hamburg’s red light district.
In any case, for St. Pauli relegation was a price worth paying for the maintenance of dignity and self-respect. Also, by the way, shortly after that defeat to Bayern Munich, manager Stanislawski hotfooted it down south to take over at 1889 Hoffenheim, who had finished that season eleventh in the Bundesliga. Promoted to the Bundesliga in 2008 after an astonishing rise through the regional divisions, in their first ever top flight season Hoffenheim were crowned Herbstmeister (Autumn Champions). Although the title is informal and essentially meaningless, it was a significant achievement to be top at the half-way stage of the season. Although many players tired in the second half of the season and striker Vedad Ibišević was lost to a serious knee injury, the team still ended the season in a very creditable seventh place.
At the start of that season, Hoffenheim played attractive, attacking, and free-scoring football. Ibišević and the Newcastle striker Demba Ba each contributed to a team total of 42 goals in the first 17 games. As Raphael Honigstein noted in his Guardian Bundesliga column at the time, over 60% of German fans wanted tiny Hoffenheim to go on and win the league, challenging the supremacy of the usual contenders, such as Bayern and Dortmund.
Of course, it’s never quite as simple as that. After quietly slipping away and becoming a mid-table fixture in the Bundesliga up to the present day, attention turned to a more worrying aspect of Hoffenheim’s rise to the top, one that draws out a distinction not just between Hoffenheim and St. Pauli, but between the former and the entirety of German football ownership structures. It’s a distinction that has led to Hoffenheim being derided and hated by many.
The suburb of Hoffenheim itself is small. In fact, the club’s old ground (before the building of the Rhein-Neckar Arena) had a capacity of just over 6000 – that’s almost double the village’s actual population. So how did the club find itself in the Bundesliga, and how did it rise through the leagues so quickly? The answer, as is usually the case, is money. And lots of it, too. Despite recent cutbacks, the club is still bankrolled by owner Dietmar Hopp, a former youth team player at Hoffenheim and computer software entrepreneur.
Aside from the club’s distinct lack of anything even approaching a tradition, the idea of rich owners stepping in to take over and invest heavily in a club rankles much more with German supporters than it does with English. Despite the exceptions of works teams such as Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg, the rules regarding football club ownership in Germany rest on a firm set of principles designed to keep clubs in the hands of supporters. The 50+1 rule stipulates that outside investors can own no more than a 49% stake in any club, with the remaining majority of 51% held by club members. When, at a Deutsche Fussball Liga meeting in Frankfurt in 2009, Hannover suggested amending the rules so as to resemble more the ownership models of England and Italy, the remaining 35 clubs voted against the proposal. The league’s President, Reinhard Rauball, said at the time, “the Bundesliga remains faithful to itself and will continue to build on the factors which have made a decisive contribution to making German football successful over recent decades. These are stability, continuity and being close to the fans.”
Some might argue that, as a result, German clubs are hamstrung by an incapacity to attract massive funding from outside the country, and simply cannot compete at the highest levels of European club football. This might be a convincing argument if not for the fact that Bayern Munich will contest this season’s Champions League final. Or for the fact that they also reached the final in 2010. Or if Germany hadn’t recently overtaken Italy in UEFA’s coefficient ranking system, thus earning the Bundesliga an extra Champions League place. Furthermore, the last Deloitte “Football Money League” shows that of the top 30 highest earning clubs in Europe, 6 are German. The Bundesliga, overall, is the second richest league in Europe in terms of revenue, behind, of course, the EPL. In any case, the 50+1 rule means that clubs must engage in a delicate balancing act. On the one hand, they must attract revenue through sponsorship and other commercial activities, but, on the other hand, fans must always be kept happy.
Of equal importance is the relative strength of the national side, World Cup semi-finalists and second favourites with most bookmakers to win Euro 2012. A quick look at the squad picked to play France in an international friendly in February shows that only three members played outside Germany. (Admittedly, that’s more than England, but the same as Spain and Italy.) For a league regarded by many as inferior to the gluttonous and bloated English Premier League, the debt-ridden two-horse race that is Spain’s La Liga, and Italy’s corrupt and increasingly violent Serie A, the Bundesliga provides a refreshingly enjoyable spectacle. In the last ten years, five clubs have won the title, and as recently as 1998, Kaiserslautern were champions. Kaiserslautern!
The current 50+1 ownership model of German clubs doesn’t affect their revenue (and, as such, European prospects), and doesn’t harm the national team. But even if it did, the reaction of St. Pauli fans to their board’s attempts to drum up money to retain a Bundesliga place is indicative of a more general trend. Generally, clubs remain close to the fans, and ticket prices are ridiculously low. Fans of Schalke 04 can stand for as little as €15. In fact, two attempts by Dortmund to increase ticket prices in 2010 before the Ruhr derby and earlier this year before a match against Hamburg, met with strong protests built around supporter solidarity, epitomised by the No. 20 group. A spokesman for the group told Bild in January: “Everyone, including the socially disadvantaged, should be able to afford football tickets. If football is just for business, it is dead.”
Anyone who has been to a Premier League game in the last few years will be yearning for the days when they wandered the terraced streets of their town on the way to a ramshackle ground to watch a game played in a mud bath. The last Derby County season ticket I bought cost £70. Now, a trip to Pride Park can cost upwards of £30 for a single match day ticket (well, that’s what I paid to see Derby play Leeds over Christmas), and is, frankly, a baffling ordeal meandering through an anonymous industrial estate to get to the atmosphere-free stadium.
Whether German clubs can continue to stave off the pressures of commercialisation that are essentially killing English football remains to be seen. Even if it can’t, one thing is for sure – German supporters will resist a Faustian pact with sponsors and corporate interests as long as possible, and it will hopefully be a long time before fans are forced to buy their sausages from a McDonald’s inside the ground. After all, who needs McDonald’s when you’ve got the St. Pauli sausage train?
Jon Hartley seeks out the history of the end of season Bundesliga showdown, the promotion/relegation play-off.
The end of season play-off is a strange beast in the Bundesliga, not least because the terminology is a little strange to English speaking eyes and ears. The term used for two leg tie between the third from bottom in the first division, and the third from top of the second is ‘Relegation’. There was delight and joy for Hertha Berlin at the Olympic Stadium at being in the Relegation…not something that fans of other leagues would necessarily be in raptures about.
Putting the terminology to one side, the play-off has been a fixture of German football, on and off, for decades. Before the creation the national second division, the play-off used to promote the second placed side from either the Northern or Southern sections of the second tier. With the advent of the national second division in 1981, the current concept used to promote and relegate teams was born.
There have been some almighty matches in during this time as well. The first two seasons of this format were all about the teams linked with Bayer – Leverkusen and Uerdingen. Leverkusen survived the drop in 1982, while a year later, Uerdingen sent Schalke to their first stint in the 2.Bundesliga. Uerdingen won 4-2 on aggregate and that victory heralded a eight season stay in the top flight.
In the past, the rules demanded a third game if the matter couldn’t be settled in two matches. This was the case in 1986. It was deadlocked at 3-3, between 2nd division Fortuna Köln and 1st division Borussia Dortmund after the first two games. The decider was held at the Rheinstadion in Düsseldorf and was still close at the break in their deciding game. Dortmund were edging it by a goal to nil…the second half was however a little more convincing. BVB scored seven second half goals, including two from current Sporting Director Michael Zorc.
In 1988, not only did it go to extra time, but for the only time in play-off history, to penalties as well. Darmstadt and Waldorf Mannheim aren’t that far apart in terms of geography, in-fact only around 50 kilometres divides the two cities, so it was probably a pretty lively Hessen and Baden-Württenberg cross border skirmish. There was certainly tension due to the Darmstadt coach Klaus Schlappner. He had returned to Darmstadt after a 7-year stay at opponents Mannheim. It was an exciting three games between these two sides as it finished 4-4 on aggregate after the first two games, and 0-0 after 120-minutes in the third. It all came down to the penalty shoot out where Mannheim saved their place in the 1.Bundesliga by 5-4.
Having failed to take Darmstadt up, Schlappen turned his attention to Saarbrücken. He tried to get promotion in back-to-back seasons via the play-off but missed out on both occasions. Some other teams really don’t have any luck either in the play-off. St. Pauli have been in twice and have been beaten twice.
Unfortunately, the history of the Relegation was cut short after the 1991 play-off as the DFL opted for an automatic ‘three up, three down’ system. Thankfully there was a re-introduction of the play-off in the 2008/09 season. Twice since it’s comeback, Nuremberg have appeared in the Relegation and have been successful both times, once to get into the top flight and the other to stay there. Last season it was Borussia Mönchengladbach who secured their Bundesliga survival over two legs against Bochum.
This year will see two new teams fighting it out to be in the 1.Bundesliga, Hertha Berlin and Fortuna Düsseldorf. Neither have form in this particular competition, so this could be an interesting battle between the two. History favours the first division club, as in nine of the 13 play-off battles have gone the way of the top division club. Can Fortuna overcome this, get back to the Bundesliga for the first time in 15-years, and beat former manager Otto Rehhagel in the process? It’s all to be revealed in the Relegation.
In the red corner, weighing in with 30 points from 33 games, the winners of the inaugural Bundesliga – the extremely unreliable FC Cologne.
In the blue corner, weighing in with 28 points from 33 games, the club from the capital – the equally unreliable Hertha Berlin.
Now all boxing analogies and hyperbole aside, Saturday held a lot of importance for these two clubs. Of course, such is the way the Bundesliga works, the most either could achieve on Saturday was the relative safety of the awkward Relegation Play-Off.
It was the importance of the occasion which helped to make Saturday afternoon’s events all the more dramatic. Both Cologne and Hertha had the advantage of playing at home. However, the Billy Goats faced Bayern Munich, a side looking to keep themselves in good shape ahead of the DFB-Pokal Final and the Champions League Final.
Hoffenheim weren’t going to be an easy proposition for Hertha Berlin but they certainly weren’t as tough opposition as Bayern were to Cologne. The final results showed this.
Understandably, the relegation threatened duo started tentatively on Saturday but it was Hertha who struck first as Anis Ben-Hatira’s free-kick from wide on the right went all the way in to the delight of the Olympiastadion. Otto Rehhagel’s side had the advantage. The dour face of General Manager Michael Preetz, even when they’d scored, illustrated Hertha were by no means secure.
The mood was further lifted in Berlin with news Thomas Müller had opened the scoring at the RheinEnergieStadion. Such was their inferior goal difference to Hertha, Cologne now had to come from behind and beat Bayern. The problem for Frank Schaefer’s team was that not once during the campaign had their opponents gone in front in the Bundesliga and lost.
The last time it happened was actually against Cologne last season but there was to be no repeat on Saturday. Instead, things kept on improving for Hertha Berlin. Ryan Babel was harshly sent off for Hoffenheim just before half time. It meant Hertha continued to gather momentum which they took into the second period.
Meanwhile at the RheinEnergieStadion, Cologne made an impressive start after half time. Fortune didn’t favour their brave approach though on this occasion. Playing in such an open manner against Bayern is always risky and it didn’t pay off as Geromel diverted Franck Ribery’s cross into his own goal. This was quickly followed by a third by Arjen Robben. Milivoje Novakovic grabbed a consolation before Thomas Müller completed the scoring making it 4-1 to the Bundesliga runners up.
The news from Berlin wasn’t positive for Cologne either with Ben-Hatira scoring his second and ending their chances of automatic relegation, or so it seemed. Someone forgot to inform Hoffenheim’s Marvin Commper who ensured a bizarre finale to the season by halving Hertha’s lead with minutes left.
The scoreline now 2-1 and another goal for Markus Babbel’s side would condemn Hertha. In the final minutes, Thomas Kraft was forced into a save giving Hoffenheim a late corner. Up came goalkeeper Tom Starke but Hertha cleared and with no one guarding the goal at the opposite end, Raffael was able to run the ball in, cue roars of relief around the Olympiastadion.
Simultaneously in Cologne, there were some rather unsavoury scenes as some discontented supporters lit flares behind Manuel Neuer’s goal. Referee Florian Meyer took the sensible step to blow for full time as a plume of black smoke engulfed one end of the stadium. Players and officials rushed down the tunnel but one man trudged off at a slower pace than the others.
That was Lukas Podolski playing his final game for Cologne prior to his move to Arsenal. Seeing “Prinz Poldi” leaving the pitch with clouds of black smoke behind him was poignant. Indeed, he departs with his hometown club in disarray. That said Cologne’s exit from the Bundesliga epitomised the ridiculous nature of their season. Predicting whether they’ll make an immediate return is difficult at this time.
As for Hertha Berlin, they’ll have been delighted their former coach Markus Babbel didn’t end up coming back to haunt them. That relative honour might fall to Fortuna Dusseldorf, their opponents in the Relegation Play Off. Hertha fans know their team haven’t played that well under Otto Rehhagel but with the organiser supreme, they managed to win the fight for survival – for now.
For more on the Bundesliga, follow @archiert1 on Twitter
Matchday 34 Results:
Augsburg 1-0 Hamburg
Borussia Dortmund 4-0 Freiburg
Cologne 1-4 Bayern Munich
Hannover 2-1 Kaiserslautern
Hertha Berlin 3-1 Hoffenheim
Mainz 0-3 Gladbach
Nuremberg 1-4 Bayer Leverkusen
Stuttgart 3-2 Wolfsburg
Werder Bremen 2-3 Schalke
The Final Table
|2||FC Bayern Munich||34||23||4||7||77:22||+55||73||CL*|
|3||FC Schalke 04||34||20||4||10||74:44||+30||64||CL*|
|4||Borussia Mönchengladbach||34||17||9||8||49:24||+25||60||CL* Qual.|
|5||Bayer 04 Leverkusen||34||15||9||10||52:44||+8||54||EL*|
|6||VfB Stuttgart||34||15||8||11||63:46||+17||53||EL* Qual.|
|7||Hannover 96||34||12||12||10||41:45||-4||48||EL* Qual.|
|9||SV Werder Bremen||34||11||9||14||49:58||-9||42|
|10||1. FC Nuremberg||34||12||6||16||38:49||-11||42|
|13||1. FSV Mainz 05||34||9||12||13||47:51||-4||39|
|16||Hertha BSC Berlin||34||7||10||17||38:64||-26||31||Play-offs|
|17||1. FC Köln||34||8||6||20||39:75||-36||30||Relegation|
|18||1. FC Kaiserslautern||34||4||11||19||24:54||-30||23||Relegation|
Table thanks to Bundesliga Official Website
This article was originally written by Archie Rhind-Tutt for Football Fancast and it reproduced with promission.
For the original article follow this link: http://www.footballfancast.com/2012/05/football-blogs/bundesliga-review-cologne-condemned-on-dramatic-final-day
Matthias Suuck looks ahead to the DFB Pokal Final. Will it be a Dortmund ‘double’, or revenge for Bayern?
Every cup tournament, regardless of country or system brings with it a certain level of magic and passion that leagues have a hard time to equal. The main reasons for this phenomenon being that every match could be a clubs last in the tournament for that season and snatch away their only hopes of achieving a title, so the matches simply mean more. Another key reason is that it seems that every season some underdog, lower-league club trips up the big boys and thus gives hope and excitement to that base of supporters. The German DFB Pokal is no different. First introduced in 1935, the “Pokal” has produced some truly magical match-ups over the decades and this year’s final will certainly be no different.
With the two most dominant clubs in Germany this season facing off for the third time and fighting for the second title between them, the matchup of Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern Munich is sure to provide plenty of thrilling moments and headlines. Bayern have, as is the case in the Bundesliga, dominated this tournament, winning it an astonishing 15 times, with the first one being in 1957 and the last one in 2010. Dortmund, on the other hand, have only won it twice, in 1965 and 1989. This is also a rematch of the final from 2008 that ended with Bayern winning 2-1 in extra time.
This season’s final has more at stake than in 2008, when a very young, upstart Dortmund side was the woeful outsider against the dominant Bavarians. After Dortmund just won its second straight Bundesliga title and having defeated Bayern every time in these past two title winning seasons, Bayern Munich certainly do not want to go down once again, especially when another title is at stake. Dortmund have the opportunity to achieve their very first “double” in the club’s long history.
So with both teams clearly having something to play for what are the differences to keep an eye on? Well, for starters Bayern have an even bigger cup final just one week later, when they face Chelsea in the Champions League. Though Bayern clearly have pride at stake and want to defeat Dortmund, they certainly will not risk key players such as Ribbery, Robben, Lahm, Gomez or Schweinsteiger. Though I do not see any players being rested from the Pokal final, it would be no surprise to see some players not see more than maybe 60 minutes of action, especially if Bayern are in front. However, for three of the Bayern players who are suspended from the Champions League final (Badstuber, Gustavo, Alaba), this will be their big moment to shine and give it their all, without causing manager Heynckes any consternation as to their fitness for the bigger final the following week.
A closer tactical analysis would be a bit redundant from what has already been written just a few weeks prior. Both clubs are coming in with a great run of form in the Bundesliga, each having scored four goals in their last match. Both squads are also quite fit, without any real injury worries for either manager. For some of the players this will be the last match for their respective clubs, so do not be surprised to see some extra effort from players such as Lucas Barrios or Ivica Olic (if they start). Another factor will be the fitness of Mario Götze, who had a good run out against Freiburg this past weekend. Though Jürgen Klopp would not wish to potentially jeopardize the young star’s future at the Euros this summer, especially given the great form from Kuba Blaszczykowski, I do expect to see him at some point during the final.
Both clubs will field their strongest starting elevens, but with the Champions League final looming (and the nervousness that it will cause Jupp Heynckes in terms of keeping his squad fit) and Dortmund’s brilliant 28 match unbeaten streak in the Bundesliga, I see a close match, but one that Dortmund will ultimately prevail in and thus secure their first “double” in club history.
The most important positions in the top two tiers, the two relegation battles in the Bundesligas aside, may have already decided, but as Dave Tunicliffe explains, a look further down the leagues reveal that the excitement is far from over.
SV Sandhausen, the smallest professional club in Germany, sealed their promotion to the 2. Bundesliga for the first time in their history with a victory at Preußen Münster two weeks ago. The sleepy town in the Kurpfalz with a population of a mere 11,000 will be particularly looking forward to welcoming bigger brothers 1. FC Kaiserslautern and, if they escape from the mire, Karlsruher SC to the Hardtwaldstadion next season. There will also be another tier-two virgin next season in the form of VfR Aalen, who secured their promotion on Saturday with a straightforward victory over Werder Bremen’s reserve side at the weekend. Sandhausen and Aalen become the 122nd and 123rd clubs in the history of the 2. Bundesliga.
The battle for third sport in the 3. Liga and a promotion playoff with third-bottom of the 2. Bundesliga will go down to the final day. It is highly likely that Regensburg, a gorgeous city on the banks of the Danube, will be hosting second-tier football. 1. FC Heidenheim must win at Sandhausen, hope that Jahn Regensburg lose at home to already-relegated Carl Zeiss Jena AND ensure there is a three-goal swing to be in with any chance of promotion. Jahn looked to have missed their chance at the weekend, with star striker Tobias Schweinsteiger (yes, his brother) injured and down 1-0 at Rot-Weiß Oberhausen with 20 minutes to go. But a quickfire double from two set pieces preserved their three-point advantage in third place and ensured that only a freak set of results this coming Saturday will dash their playoff hopes. Regensburg’s victory also removed any hopes harboured by Rot-Weiß Erfurt, Chemnitzer FC and Wacker Burghausen had of making the playoff place, not to mention condemning actual opponents Oberhausen to their second straight relegation. Kickers Offenbach came into Saturday’s round of games as one of the form teams after beating a strong Burghausen side the week before thanks to a dramatic breakaway winner from captain Sead Mehic. Confidence had been so high that tickets were already being sold for the playoff at a reduced rate; in the event of Kickers not making the playoff, the tickets could be redeemed against the price of a season ticket for next season. But football weaved its fickle web once again; a 2-3 home defeat (or “Klatsche”, as the Germans say almost onomatopoeically) to 1.FC Saarbrücken pulled the rug from under Kickers’ feet and put them out of the reckoning once and for all. Red faces all round then.
The relegated sides have already been decided: Werder Bremen II, Carl Zeiss Jena and Rot-Weiß Oberhausen will be bidding farewell to the professional leagues unless any other professional sides run into severe financial difficulties – candidates include Hansa Rostock and SV Babelsberg. Watch this space: Oberhausen and Jena are level on points and third-bottom may get a reprieve after the season has finished.
In the Regionalligas, the race is on to secure the last ever direct promotion to Liga 3 before they are reorganised into 5 divisions with a playoff to decide the three promotion spots. In the Regionalliga West, Sportfreunde Lotte and Borussia Dortmund II are in the running for the title, with BVB’s reserve side trailing by 2 points with a game in hand. Former German champions Rot-Weiß Essen and one-time 2. Bundesliga mainstays Fortuna Köln are both on course for safe mid-table finishes after their respective promotions last season, perhaps signalling better times around the corner. In the Regionalliga Süd, the blue side of Stuttgart, Stuttgarter Kickers, are one victory away from a return to the 3. Liga after a three-year absence.
Meanwhile, the promotion battle in the Regionalliga Nord is perhaps the most exciting. Hallescher FC have defied the odds (and their budget) by sitting atop of the division ahead of cup heroes Holstein Kiel and moneybags RB Leipzig with 3 matches to go. HFC’s form has been consistently impressive, but a 0-0 draw away at Cottbus II on Friday has just left the door open a fraction for their pursuers. Earlier in the season, RB Leipzig looked to have buried their demons from last season’s (lost) promotion battle with Chemnitzer FC and were fully on course for promotion. A home loss in December against Halle turned out to be a pivotal moment. The January signing of Austrian international (in the fourth tier!) Roman Wallner bore fruit immediately: he bagged a hat-trick on his debut in an 8-2 thumping of Wilhelmshaven. However, has only scored three times since. Recent defeats in Hamburg against HSV II, at home to ZFC Meuselwitz and, most importantly of all, away at promotion challengers Holstein Kiel looked to have sunk RB Leipzig’s chances once and for all. Halle are at home to St Pauli II, then go to Meuselwitz before welcoming (sic) RB Leipzig on the final day of the season. Their four-point lead looks to be unassailable and two victories in the upcoming, completely winnable matches will turn the finale at home to RBL from a promotion decider into a promotion party right in their faces of the most hated rivals.
Terry Duffelen and Jon Hartley wrap up the action from matchday 33 and talk about all the relevant battles left in the Bundesliga season. Who will win the the race for the Europa League and will it be Hertha Berlin or Cologne in the relegation play-off?
There is also a chat about the 2.Bundesliga and the who could gain promotion and which clubs could take the drop.
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