2. Bundesliga - Matchday 22 Preview: Important games at both ends of the table

Can Leipzig stretch their lead? Will Duisburg get a much needed win? Matchday 22 could pose more questions than it answers.

2. Bundesliga - Matchday 22 Preview: Important games at both ends of the table
Image credit: kicker - Imago

There are important games at both ends of the table this matchday and results could be telling for how the season may pan out.

Leaders look to further extend their lead, Duisburg desperate and St Pauli eye second

The 2. Bundesliga continues tonight and leaders RB Leipzig have the opportunity to stretch their lead at the top of the standings to nine points. Ralf Rangnick's side hit a stumbling block last weekend when they suffered their first defeat since early November when they narrowly lost out 1-0 to fellow promotion hopefuls St. Pauli. Tonight, RB host Sascha Lewandowski's Union Berlin, who picked up a positive result last weekend, beating strugglers 1860 Munich 3-0. 

St. Pauli are mounting their own promotion charge, and they're back at home this evening, buoyed by last weekend's win, against Tomas Oral's FSV Frankfurt outfit. Oral's side have failed to register a win since returning from the Winterpause, losing to Fürth and drawing against Karlsruhe, and couldn't face a sterner test if they tried, as they aim to finally register a maximum point haul. St. Pauli have taken six points from six, and will be firm favourites to extend that to nine from nine tonight.

Last weekend, Fürth picked up their first league win since late November, and tonight presents their best opportunity to win back to back games for the first time since September, when they take on basement club MSV Duisburg.

The Zebras have only two wins to their name all season, and are firm favourites to drop back down to the 3. Liga at the end of the season. Fürth still have an outside chance at challenging for one of the top three spots, but will have to string a run of results together pretty soon if they're to make that late charge.

Kaiserslautern and Karlsruhe look to build on impressive Rückrunde starts

Kaiserslautern, who have take four points from a possible six since the restart, host a Heidenheim side who have also taken four points from six, and both sides still have hopes of making a challenge towards the top end of the table. Just two points and two league positions separate these two sides and I think we can expect a closely contested game on Saturday lunchtime.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Braunschweig make the long journey south to face Karlsruhe, who are unbeaten in the league since early December. Eintracht Braunschweig, who are certainly in the hunt to make the jump up to the Bundesliga, will be buoyed by last weekend's victory against Arminia Bielefeld, and could make the jump to 5th position with a win this weekend.

Karlsruhe look as if they'll have to settle for a season in mid-table after a rocky start, and despite drastic recent improvements on the pitch, they are in 9th position in the table, neither threatened by relegation or likely to trouble the sides at the top.

Streich has just signed a new deal with Freiburg. | Image source: kicker
Streich has just signed a new deal with Freiburg. | Image source: kicker

Opportunities for bottom clubs to pick up valuable points, SC Freiburg must improve

On Sunday, there are opportunities for two relegation-threatened sides to pick up valuable points. Benno Möhlmann's 1860 Munich side play host to Gertjan Verbeek's VfL Bochum side, and despite putting up a real fight against Nürnberg a fortnight ago, 1860 crumbled in defeat to Union Berlin last weekend. They're nine points adrift of safety and a win against Bochum could see them climb and switch places with Stefan Effenberg's SC Paderborn.

Effenberg has struggled to really make an impact at Paderborn since replacing Markus Gellhaus in October, winning just two matches under his guidance, and they shipped four goals in last weekend's 0-4 home defeat to Kaiserslautern to further affirm that they are in a relegation battle.

They'll have the opportunity to rectify recent results on Sunday when they face Norbert Meier's Arminia Bielefeld. Meier's side will most likely not be dragged into a relegation battle, lying ten points clear of the drop, but should they beat lowly Paderborn, then they can really start to look up the table as opposed to looking over their shoulder.

Sunday's final game sees SV Sandhausen host a stuttering SC Freiburg side. Christian Streich's side have lost both games since returning from the Winterpause, as many as they lost in the opening nineteen league games of the season.

Fortunately for them, they still occupy second place in the standings, although the gap has been closed by both Nürnberg and St. Pauli, while RB have extended their lead above them. They face a Sandhausen side who've won and drawn since returning, so it'll be no walk in the park for the Breisgau Brasilianer.

Düsseldorf and Nürnberg close Matchday 22

Nürnberg, who've been on a real charge after a sketchy start to the campaign, now find themselves with real promotion aspirations. After a hard-fought draw against Bochum last Monday, they extended their unbeaten league run to 14 matches, and depending on how previous results pan out, they could climb to second place this weekend - the last automatic promotion place. However, Fortuna Düsseldorf won't just roll over and accept defeat.

They beat Freiburg last weekend at the Schwarzwaldstadion, where they had previously only lost once this season, and looked very organised in doing so. Marco Kurz's side are also trying to fight their way away from danger and could pull themselves 9 points clear from the dreaded drop with a win over Nürnberg this matchday.