Professionals | 18/04/2019

Battle at the top of the table

Five games to go, it’s crunchtime

With the 2. Bundesliga coming to a close, there remains five games to settle who will be making the leap up to the Bundesliga next season. With seven teams in with a reasonable chance of doing so, it’s time to cast an eye over their run-ins and who could pose the most danger to FC’s place at the top of the table.

1. FC Köln – 1st, 59 points

FC are in the driving seat for promotion after eight unbeaten games helped to take them clear of the opposition. On paper, FC also have the easiest run-in – facing no team higher than 8th. However, that is quite the opposite – as the teams that Markus Anfang’s men take on over the next month all want to put relegation concerns to bed.

With Jhon Cordoba and Dominick Drexler, FC have two of the league’s form players. Over the 17 games, the pair have contributed a combined 23 goals and 10 assists. It also helps to have the league’s top goalscorer in Simon Terodde (28), and Anthony Modeste in the side, too.

Remaining games: Dresden (A), Darmstadt (H), Fürth (A), Regensburg (H), Magdeburg (A).

Hamburger SV – 2nd, 52 points

As for HSV, they still have to face the bottom two. However, Hannes Wolf and his side also have trips to Union and Paderborn on the horizon, two games they can’t afford to slip up in. There’s also a tough home game against Aue to start the final push to the end of the campaign. HSV have fared well against the other top teams in the league this season, and will be hoping that can continue.

While form hasn’t been great, HSV have continued to grind out points at important moments – notably against FC. The fact that Manuel Wintzheimer got his first goal of the season is a huge boost, and gives Wolf a viable striking option from the bench if Pierre-Michel Lasogga needs help. With the return of Lewis Holtby, possibly Hwang Hee-chan and Aaron Hunt, things could turn for the better.

Remaining games: Aue (H), Union (A), Ingolstadt (H), Paderborn (A), Duisburg (H).

1. FC Union Berlin – 3rd, 49 points

Up until a few weeks ago, Union were the side that were looking likely to take advantage of any more HSV slip-ups. However, fast forward four weeks, just two points from a possible 12 have meant that Urs Fischer and the capital club have failed to make the most of Hamburg’s patchy form. Their run-in begins with a trip to Fürth, before the potentially decisive game against HSV.

With two goals in three games since his return from the injury he suffered against FC, Sebastian Polter’s leadership and goalscoring qualities could prove crucial at this stage of the season. Union still, despite losing some of their early season form, possess the best defence in the league. Plus, aside from HSV, they face no side above 10th.

Remaining games: Fürth (A), HSV (H), Darmstadt (A), Magdeburg (H), Bochum (A).

SC Paderborn 07 – 4th, 48 points

Paderborn have been the surprise package in 2. Bundesliga this season. Not just because of where they stand in the table, but how. Steffen Baumgart’s side have well and truly embraced the “You score three, we score four” motto and only FC have scored more goals than Paderborn this season. That has won over an awful lot of fans for their buccaneering style, but also cost them points.

Games against Kiel, Heidenheim, Arminia, HSV and Dresden promise little less than plenty of entertainment. Paderborn have got the most difficult run-in of all the sides in the promotion race, not least because they face three of the seven teams involved. However, that is also something that can work in their favour – especially when it comes to chasing down HSV.

Remaining games: Kiel (A), Heidenheim (H), Bielefeld (A), HSV (H), Dresden (A).

Holstein Kiel – 5th, 46 points

Markus Anfang’s former team have exceeded all expectations this year, given that they lost their head coach and several key players over the summer. While that will continue again this year, a push towards the end of the season could see Tim Walter take Kiel into the top flight. That won’t be easy, least not with the tricky trips to Sandhausen and Bielefeld.

A home game against Paderborn to kick things off could be the perfect start to the final five games of the season, should they get the right result. With the third best attack in the league and plenty of options and variations to change things up, the Storks will be confident of putting a late season surge into place and challenging right up until the final day.

Remaining games: Paderborn (H), Sandhausen (A), Duisburg (H), Dresden (H), Bielefeld (A).

1. FC Heidenheim – 6th, 46 points

Heidenheim have somewhat flown under the radar of late, perhaps due to the indifferent form which Frank Schmidt’s side are currently going through. With just one win in seven before the victory against Aue last weekend, they now have the chance to get back into the race with games against St. Pauli and Paderborn in the next two weeks.

With the attacking talents of Marc Schnatterer, Nikola Dovedan and Robert Glatzel, Heidenheim certainly won’t fear anyone in the final stretch – least not after the incredible topsy-turvy game against Bayern Munich in the DFB-Pokal. Now would be the perfect time to call upon the form that saw them lose just one of 16 games through the middle of the season.

Remaining games: St. Pauli (H), Paderborn (A), Sandhausen (H), Duisburg (A), Ingolstadt (H).

FC St. Pauli – 7th, 45 points

A change of coach, but no immediate change in fortunes. Last week, Jos Luhukay took charge of his first game as St. Pauli head coach. Markus Kauczinski had overseen a rapid and steady rise this season, but with promotion in sight – they opted to give fresh wind to the promotion push after three wins in nine games.

Whether that pays off, remains to be seen. The Hamburg outfit take on Heidenheim to start things off, and will hope Alex Meier can find his goalscoring boots once more. After five goals in his first six games, goals have dried up and he has found the back of the net just once in the following five. If he can manage to go on another run for the final games, there’s every chance they’ll have a chance.

Remaining games: Heidenheim (A), Regensburg (H), Dresden (A), Bochum (H), Fürth (A).

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Total table
9TSG 1899 Hoffenheim36
101. FC Köln34
11Hertha BSC34