2. Bundesliga - Matchday 18 Preview: Big battles at both ends of the league
Image credit: RB Leipzig

With plenty of crucial clashes across the league this weekend, for a variety of reasons, the 2. Bundesliga table could be bunched tighter still in the penultimate matchday of the year.

Bochum hoping to find form, Braunschweig and Sandhausen pit their wits against each other

As always, there are three matches on Friday evening to kick off the action. Gertjan Verbeek's VfL Bochum side, who are sliding down the standings at a rate of knots, play host to Stefan Effenberg's struggling SC Paderborn side as 8th host 16th at 17:30 on Friday.

Two other games will kick off at the same time as the aforementioned. 1860 München entertain 1. FC Heidenheim and SV Sandhausen host Eintracht Braunschweig.

Both 1860 and Heidenheim are currently finding wins hard to come by. Heidenheim haven't won a league game since mid-October and have slipped to 11th in the league after keeping a close eye on the chasing pack in the early stages of the season. 1860 have only won twice in the league all season. A meager record as we fast approach the Winterpause. Benno Möhlmann's side will be desperate not to go into the break propping up the standings.

Arguably, the main match to look forward to this evening is in southern Germany, and in Baden-Württemburg as Sandhausen host Eintracht Braunschweig. 5th - 6th. Both sides are very much in the mix to challenge leaders SC Freiburg and RB Leipzig to take one of the elusive top three positions. However, both sides have extremely fluctuating form, with consistency hard to come by. Calling this one isn't easy, but one would imagine goals won't be at a premium.

Fürth keen to keep pace with the promotion pack

Union Berlin travel to Fortuna Düsseldorf and Karlsruhe host Greuther Fürth as the 2. Bundesliga action continues into Saturday. Both games played at midday and all four teams involved will be keenly chasing the three points available.

Three of the four sides lay just above the bottom three, and will be hoping to pull away from the strugglers at the bottom. Union Berlin vs Fortuna Düsseldorf (13th - 15th) is an early "six-pointer" and both Sascha Lewandowski and Peter Hermann will be on the hunt for maximum points to steer their respective sides away from immediate danger.

Similarly, Karlsruhe have been unable to continue where they left off last season and find themselves in a scrap towards the bottom end. The 14th placed outfit host Greuther Fürth, who will be looking to close the gap on St. Pauli and Nürnberg who lead the chasing pack.

Nils Petersen will be hoping to replicate his hat-trick from earlier in the season. (Image credit: SC Freiburg)
Nils Petersen will be hoping to replicate his hat-trick from earlier in the season. (Image credit: SC Freiburg)

Freiburg and Nürnberg do battle in crucial clash

The game of the weekend will be played in Nürnberg. The fourth placed side who have mounted a real challenge in recent weeks entertain league leaders and "Herbstmeister" SC Freiburg. These two sides met on the opening weekend in a thrilling encounter which witnessed nine goals in a 6-3 win for the Breisgau side. Both have continued in similar fashion during the Hinrunde both scoring and conceding goals at quite a rate.

Elsewhere on Sunday, second placed RB Leipzig host FSV Frankfurt as the home side look to stay touch tight to SC. FSV are struggling for any sort of consistency, whereas Leipzig have won their last four matches, and will be keen to extend that to five on the bounce.

MSV Duisburg make the trip to 1. FC Kaiserslautern. Duisburg, who currently occupy bottom spot in the standings, will be keen to close the gap above them, with encouraging performances over recent weeks, yielding 5 points against some tough opposition. Kaiserslautern who lie right in mid-table will want a maximum points haul to steer themselves away from any danger.

Bielefeld take on St. Pauli to finish the matchday on Monday

Rounding off the weekends action are Arminia Bielefeld and St. Pauli. Depending on how other results pan out before Monday, St. Pauli could potentially close the gap on the top two to just three points. Both sides go into the game on the back of victories, and will be hoping to make it back-to-back wins.