Friday, 7 March 2014

Bundesliga Matchday 24 Preview: Relegation battle heats up

Bayern Muenchen goes into matchday 24 with a comfortable 20 point lead over their closest contender Borussia Dortmund.  As the league draws closer to the final matchday, a trend is developing that sees the race for Euro League spots closing from spots two to nine, while several clubs are still in contention for a Champions League spot.  The middle of the field (spots 10-14) has some breathing space from a relegation spot, while the bottom four are full into a relegation fight.  While Bayern has another run away season, there is still plenty to be contested in Germany's top flight.

Bayern travels to Wolfsburg on Saturday.  Can the Wolves, who have had a good run as of  late, be the side that upsets the apple cart for the record champion?  After their 6-1 victory over Schalke last weekend, Bayern pulled even with their all time record of 15 consecutive wins.  A win this weekend will create a new record for Bayern.

Six of Bayern's players were part of Germany's national side on Wednesday against Chile. Will that play into the outcome on Saturday?  Wolfsburg has a good opportunity to become part of the above 40 point club and, of course, enhance the sides chance for a Champions League spot.  It will, in all likelihood, be a close match.

Second placed Dortmund travels to Freiburg, which is second from the bottom.  Borussia will try to solidify its place in the Bundesliga, while Freiburg desperately needs a victory to escape relegation.  One of Dortmund's biggest problems this  year has been consistency.  Dortmund should win, but don't discount Freiburg.   Leverkusen travels to Hannover and the Leverkusen side has dropped behind Dortmund due to inconsistency as well.  The club's performance in the Champions League has been dismal, exposing deficiencies in passing and its overall defensive unit.  This is Leverkusen's match to lose. For Hannover a win means for breathing space from the relegation zone.

Schalke 04 hosts Hoffenheim and this should be one of the most attractive matches in the league this week.  When Hoffenheim visits this season it seems to develop into a high scoring game.  Hoffenheim is third in the league with goals scored.  A Schalke win could permit the Knappen to overtake Leverkusen in third spot, while a Hannover win could create more space from relegation.

Eight clubs are fighting relegation.  This weekend Stuttgart will play Braunschweig, Hamburg hosts Eintracht Frankfurt, while Nuernberg faces Bremen.   Dortmund visits relegation candidate SC Freiburg on Sunday.

Hamburg's coach Mirko Slomka is facing injury worries and the side may encounter difficulties to assemble a worth opponent when Eintracht Frankfurt visits on Saturday.  VFB Stuttgart has lost eight in a row and for the side's coach Thomas Schneider it is a must that the side defeat Braunschweig.  A loss could cost him his job.

Schalke is under fire as well after high score losses against Real Madrid and Bayern Munich the side hopes to recover in their contest with Hoffenheim.  Leverkusen has suffered five defeats in all competitions, including a loss in the DFB Cup against second division Leverkusen. The match against Hannover is a do or die match for the factory team.

Despite Bayern's run away lead in the league, there is still a lot to be decided in the league in the last 11 matchdays.  For some clubs the stakes are extremely high in the relegation department, while others are fighting for a coveted European job.   With the exception of Bayern, the remaining three Champions League spots are still up for grabs.  

Below is the current league table and fixtures for this weekend:

Saturday 8 March
Hannover 96 vs Bayer Leverkusen    1-1    
Schalke 04 vs 1899 Hoffenheim       4-0 
Bor. Mönchengladbach vs FC Augsburg 1-2       
VfB Stuttgart vs Eintr. Braunschweig    2-2    
Hamburger SV vs Eintracht Frankfurt    1-1    
VfL Wolfsburg vs Bayern München     1-6   
1. FC Nürnberg vs Werder Bremen  

Sunday 9 March
SC Freiburg vs Borussia Dortmund    
FSV Mainz 05 vs Hertha BSC   

Posn  Team             GP   W   D   L    GF/GA   Points

1      FC Bayern         24    22   2    0       72:11      68
2      Dortmund         23    14   3    6       54:27       45
3      Leverkusen       24    14   2    8       40:27       44
4      Schalke             24    13   5    6       46:35       44
5      Wolfsburg         24    12   3    9       41:38       39
6      Mainz                23   11   4    8        32:35       37  
7      M'gladbach       24    10   6    8       41:30       36
8      Hertha BSC      23    10   5    8       34:27       35
9      Augsburg          24   11   5    8        37:34       38
10    Hoffenheim       24     7   8    9       52:52       29
11    Bremen              23     6   7  10       26:46       25
12    Hannover           24     7   5  12       31:43       26
13    Frankfurt           24      5  8  10       27:40       26 
14    Nürnberg           23      4 11   8       27:40       23
15    Stuttgart            24      5   5  14     37:51        20
16    Hamburg           24      5   5  14     39:53        20
17    Freiburg            23      4   7  12      22:44       19
18    B'schweig         24      4    5  15     19:44       17

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