Ranking the Teams Likeliest to Be Relegated in the Bundesliga This Season
The title race may have ended this week with Bayern Munich clinching its 24th league title in dominant fashion, but the rest of the league is as competitive as ever.
Below Bayern, up to eight teams are currently battling it out for a spot in Europe, with FC Augsburg, Hertha Berlin and Mainz all potentially upsetting the odds to qualify.
But the most heated race of all is happening in the bottom half of the table, where eight teams have a realistic chance of being relegated. With seven games remaining, the relegation battle is as tight as it has ever been in recent memory.
More than ever, teams will have to look inside themselves and find that little extra spark that will save their season. The magic number of points to stay up has usually been at the low- to mid-30s mark, and there are currently eight teams that are still teetering on the edge.
Based on form and ability, let us look at those eight teams and analyze who the most likely are to go down at season’s end.
8. Eintracht Frankfurt
Frankfurt are currently sitting in 11th place in the standings and have the best chance of all eight teams to beat the drop.
Their win against Borussia Monchengladbach during the week moved them up three spots. With the win they collected their 17th point of 2014, already more than they had in the entire first half of the season.
Armin Veh’s side have lost only one of their last six league matches, and players like Tranquillo Barnetta and Joselu have become key players at the perfect time. Veh has finally found the right formula for his team and did not alter the starting 11 for the first time this season against Gladbach.
However, Frankfurt also face a challenging schedule in the final seven games. Five of those games will be against sides in the top half of the table and teams looking to seal their European places. It will be interesting to see how the players react to that kind of pressure on this kind of form.
7. Hannover 96
Next on the list are Hannover 96, who are three points behind Eintracht Frankfurt in 12th. Hannover’s form has been up and down since the hiring of new coach Tayfun Korkut, and they have struggled on the road all season.
That said, Hannover have been one of the most difficult sides to beat at home for years now, and their strength at home should be enough to avoid the drop. Their final seven games will also all be against teams below them, so the fixtures against the league’s best clubs are all out of the way.
But Hannover will need to better their current form, which saw them win just one of their last eight games, and fiery derbies against Werder Bremen, Hamburg and Eintracht Braunschweig could provide the exact slip-up to set them back again.
6. 1. FC Nurnberg
Nurnberg finally beat a negative streak of four consecutive wins with their 2-0 win against Stuttgart on Wednesday. But that was followed by an impressive string of results under new coach Gertjan Verbeek, who has inspired his side to some exciting football.
The most important factor in Nurnberg’s favor is striker Josip Drmic’s form. The Swiss attacker has scored more goals than any other player in the league since the turn of the year and has been one of the league’s big revelations this season.
In fact, Drmic has been responsible for 76 percent of all of Nurnberg’s goals in 2014 (11 of 15 goals), an impressive individual statistic but also worrying due to the team’s overreliance on a single player.
How they adjust to that dependence going into the final seven games could well decide their fate in the Bundesliga this season.
5. SC Freiburg
Character means perseverance. And persevere they have. Freiburg had the most difficult task this season, having to adjust after losing their four best players in the summer. Christian Streich’s team has shown great resilience as of late and have a good chance of staying up if they build on their form.
Their draw in Hamburg was their third consecutive game without a defeat, their best run this season. With the next three games all against fellow relegation candidates, they have a good chance to put some distance between them before they finish the season.
Freiburg’s youth and inexperience has often been a setback for them this season, but if any coach has the ability to rally his team and get them to perform above their ability, it is Christian Streich.
4. Werder Bremen
Bremen should avoid the drop, but just barely. They currently sit in 13th but are just five points off the relegation play-off spot. For a team known for its prolific attacking football for most of the last decade, they have been surprisingly anemic in front of goal this season.
Despite the fact that only two teams have scored fewer goals than them, Bremen have done quite well defensively for a team scrapping to stay up. They have kept nine clean sheets but have also suffered some of the biggest defeats in the league.
They will face five teams from the top half of the table in their last seven games. If the strong, defensively organized Bremen shows up, they will avoid the drop. If not, things could get very ugly for Robin Dutt’s team.
3. VfB Stuttgart
Stuttgart are now second from bottom and in the worst position they have been all season. There is enough in the tank to avoid direct relegation, but just barely. At this rate Stuttgart will have to fight for their survival in the relegation play-off.
The loss to Nurnberg during the week was their first under new coach Huub Stevens, who now finds himself in a must-win situation with two back-to-back home games coming up. Unfortunately for Stuttgart, three of their last seven games happen to be against the top three sides in the league.
If Stuttgart are to avoid the drop, Stevens must find a way to get his attack going again. Against Nurnberg they failed to get the ball in the net for the ninth time this season, which is simply not good enough considering their talented attack.
2. Hamburger SV
The unthinkable scenario of Hamburg’s first-ever Bundesliga relegation could well be a reality at the rate they are playing and dropping points.
Their last five games have all been against fellow relegation candidates, and they have only mustered a measly five points. Added to that has been the consistent instability off the pitch. Between fan protests, coaching changes and unrest within the squad, nothing suggests Hamburg will turn things around in time.
The experience of Mirko Slomka, who saved Hannover from relegation when he first took over, could be the deciding factor, but his appointment may have come too late to have a real effect.
Slomka started the oldest Hamburg lineup in two years against Freiburg and will hope that experience on the pitch will win out in the end. The fact is that the clock is ticking for the Bundesliga dinosaur unless their performances drastically improve.
1. Eintracht Braunschweig
Although they have picked up their form recently and the win against Mainz midweek gave them a huge boost, it is difficult to see Eintracht Braunschweig staying up.
The Mainz win followed five matches without a win, and their miserable first half of the season has set them too far back to make up ground. They also still have a Bayer Leverkusen team desperate to make the Champions League and a rampaging Bayern Munich to play.
On top of that, Braunschweig have struggled to score all season long. They have averaged less than one goal per game this season, and coach Torsten Lieberknecht has few scoring options in the team other than striker Domi Kumbela.
Follow Cristian on Twitter @cnyari.