Forget Bayern Munich, it's going down to the wire in the Bundesliga
Bayern Munich might have breezed to the Bundesliga title with more than three Gameweeks to spare, but the league isn’t done yet with the European football spots up for grabs. The battle for survival is pretty interesting as well.
A few weeks ago, all seemed lost for Hamburg but like they’ve shown in the past few years, it’s never over till the fat lady sings. The Dinosaurs have managed to surprise fans and pundits alike and are still in the reckoning for making it to the relegation playoff spots.
What can we expect from the Bundesliga in the coming few weeks? Let’s take a look.
Hamburg’s late resurrection
The Dinosaurs refuse to become just a footnote. Though they’ve become infamous for the way the club is run, as long as that clock in the Northwest corner of Volksparstadion ticks, they’ll have the proud record of never being relegated to the Zweite Liga (2. Bundesliga).
The team has been dwindling around the relegation spots for quite a few years now and despite hiring managers with pedigree – the likes of Bruno Labbadia, Markus Gisdol – the team have often put in uninspiring performances.
The story has been the same this season as well, albeit with a few more dismissals. Following the defeat to Cologne, the bottom-placed club at the time, Hamburg decided to relieve Gisdol of his duties. The former Hoffenheim trainer guided the club to safety during the previous season but he was never going to last that long, was he?
Bernd Hollerbach, a trainer with no top-flight experience, was surprisingly given the reins and he didn’t last that long either. Hollerbach was let go of after the side’s miserable defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich (yes, they tend to smash a handful of goals past the Dinosaurs).
Before the dismissal of the German trainer, the club took a bold move of sacking their chairman and sporting director. Heribert Bruchhagen and Jens Todt were sacked a few days before Hollerbach.
The writing was on the wall, wasn’t it? The sackings felt like Hamburg were preparing for life in the Zweite Liga, with a whole new board that could guide the club better than their previous hierarchy.
Christian Titz was promoted to the first team from the Hamburg II side and the team has fared slightly better under the 47-year-old. An impressive draw away from home to VfB Stuttgart was followed by an enthralling contest against the best of the rest of the Bundesliga – Schalke.
A surprise 3-2 win against a team who have a mean defence gave the side a bit of hope, but there was still a lot of work left to be done.
Two wins in two games against fellow relegation strugglers Freiburg and Wolfsburg has put the team just two points off the latter who are on 30 and in the relegation playoff spots.
You wouldn’t bet against them doing it again, would you?
The race for the European spots
Expect the unexpected when the teams barring Bayern are playing. Despite having a great season, Schalke are just two points ahead of Borussia Dortmund have had a pretty poor campaign by their standards.
The Die Schwarzgelben are breathing down Schalke’s necks and are a couple of points behind Domenico Tedesco’s side. The two have enough quality to not mess up in the coming weeks, but you can never say never.
Hoffenheim and Bayer Leverkusen and vying for the final Champions League spot as the table stands and it’s likely to go down to the wire. It shouldn’t have, really.
Leverkusen have been the pantomime entertainers this season. A side bristling with young talent, the likes of Leon Bailey, Kai Havertz, Jonathan Tah and Julian Brandt, the team have played some brilliant counter-attacking football at times this season.
With youth comes inexperience, though, and that’s one of the reasons why they have struggled to maintain their consistency.
Heiko Herrlich’s men slipped below Hoffenheim after their latest defeat to the unfancied Stuttgart side. The young team will have quite a lot of pressure in the coming weeks despite the fact that they’re playing Werder Bremen and Hannover – two teams with nothing left to play for after guaranteeing their survival.
Hoffenheim have it in their own hands but the game against Stuttgart will be tough as Julian Nagelsmann’s team have struggled away from home this season, picking up just 18 points; fewer than Hertha Berlin and Augsburg!
If they do manage to win that game, the following game against Dortmund will set up a tasty encounter. Dortmund WILL NOT want to finish behind their local rivals Schalke and will go all out for the win.
Unlike their away form, though, Hoffenheim have been brilliant at home and are only behind Bayern if you consider the points won at home. Lest we forget, they’ve beaten Schalke, Leipzig and Bayern Munich at home, so Dortmund will have to play out of their skin to stop the hosts.