BERLIN - While Dortmund and Bayern Munich are battling it out for the German league title, former Bundesliga winners Cologne, Hertha Berlin and Hamburg are fighting for their lives to stay in the top flight.
Between them Hamburg, Cologne and Hertha have won 11 German league titles, seven German Cup finals and two European Cup titles.
But with four games left, both Hertha and Cologne are in the relegation places while Hamburg are just two points from the drop zone as four points separate Hertha in 17th and 14th-placed Hamburg.
With just eight points from their last 10 league matches, Hamburg badly need a win at home to Hanover on Saturday and coach Thorsten Fink is calling for some fighting spirit.
“On Saturday, everyone in the stadium has to realise from the first minute that we are a team in the middle of the relegation battle and I want to see the difference,” said Fink, whose team was hammered 4-0 at Hoffenheim on Wednesday.
“I have the fighting spirit and I will get the players fired up for his game with my power and energy, that is my job.”
Fink is not alone amongst Bundesliga coaches caught in the last chance saloon with time soon to be called.
Cologne’s coach Stale Solbakken was dismissed on Thursday and in his place ex-trainer Frank Schaefer has just four games to lift his team up to safety, starting against fourth-placed Moenchengladbach on Saturday.
Cologne are languishing in 16th place – should they finish there on May 5 on the last Saturday of the season, they face a play-off with the third-best team in the second division for the right to play top flight football.
Schaefer has no doubts he can keep Cologne up.
“Otherwise I would not have taken over the task,” he said having taken his first training on Friday.
“We must present ourselves as an unified front. I could have have forgiven myself in front of these fans, this city and this club if I hadn’t taken the job on.”
Hertha are at Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday and coach Otto Rehhagel issued a rallying call to his team who have picked up just eight from a possible 24 points of late.
“Everyone must stand up and be ready to fight passionately for 90 minutes,” he said.
“We need to reduce errors to a minimum.”