In this piece we will ponder on which of the four teams involved in this seasons Bundesliga relegation race might rise above the rest and enjoy another season of top-flight football.
First things first, a nod to Greuther Fürth, who are not mathematically down and have displayed much more fight since the turn of the year but do stand nine points adrift off a relegation playoff spot, so it looks unlikely that they'll hold off relegation this season.
The South German club have had a very disappointing season, constant injuries to key players from the outset has deterred their progress alongside the transferring of their best players during the last few windows. Case and point Nicolás González, Gregor Kobel, Gonzalo Castro and Marc-Oliver Kempf have all departed since last summer, three of them to Bundesliga rivals. After such an entertaining return to the Bundesliga in the 2020/21 season, Stuttgart have become a shell of their former selves looking totally goal shy and unable to hold leads for vital wins. No more so than the last two weeks losing a lead to VfL Bochum late on costing them two points and losing altogether against TSG 1899 Hoffenheim in the dying embers of the game. The South German side have had to rely on defenders scoring the bulk of their 28 goals, which oddly is the most of the four teams we are looking at. What hope do they have? The arrival of Tiago Tomás and return of Sasa Kalajdzic and Omar Marmoush has given the side more attacking threat. They have been within a whisker of capturing crucial points in every game recently but struggling mentally to get the big win they so need. The next four games are huge for Pellegrino Matarazzo’s side as they include two home games against Borussia Monchengladbach and FC Augsburg and an away trip to Arminia Bielefeld. My prediction 16th place and to narrowly survive a playoff match.
It has been a rather typical season for the Bavarians, they have won when they really needed to and failed to inspire at both ends of the pitch. Once more they are involved in a relegation race but once more, they truly have the know-how and experience to get out of it. A very poor start of the season made them look like certainties to go down a division (I predicted a 17th place finish) but their form picked up as they began to shut down their defensive frailties. A season of up and downs has included a famous win over Bayern Munich and creditable draws with RB Leipzig and with Borussia Dortmund at the weekend. These results though have been an exception to the rule as their quality of football has been under question and have often struggled to keep a hold of the ball with an average of 43% possession, the second worst in the league. They do arguably have a more favourable run in than say Stuttgart’s, however, you must ask where their goals will come from. Aside from Michael Gregoritsch’s 6 goals their next highest goalscorers are André Hahn and Florian Niederlechner on 3 goals each. Can USAMNT Ricardo Pepi produce a late flurry of goals which the club were so hoping would have come slightly quicker after signing the US star in January. My prediction 17th place.
This is a team in freefall, winless in 2022 and look vulnerable at the back. The Berlin side have conceded nine more goals than Stuttgart with 54 goals going into their net. They also have a thread bare squad to choose from right now because of Covid-19 outbreaks and injuries. Interim Head Coach, Tayfun Korkut had to field his fourth-choice keeper Marcel Lotka at the weekend summarising their current plight. On two occasions Hertha have conceded six goals in a game and five on another which screams like a side who seem to implode an awful lot. Their dip in form could not come at a worse time as their next five fixtures include four teams chasing European football and teams that are not shy of scoring for example Bayer Leverkusen and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. Should they lose those five games they could well be in 17th spot if as expected other teams around them pick-up points. A Covid-19 break allowed this side to escape relegation last season as they rested and tallied up enough points to look comfortable. But all teams should know they are not too good to go down and could face an embarrassing drop down should they not get their hands back on the wheel again. My prediction 15th place.
The relative minnows of the league have had a much better second season in the Bundesliga and have mirrored their method of being tough to beat with the truly exceptional Stefan Ortega allowing them to gain points from games they would not usually gather. What is most striking is their lack of goals, only averaging 0.92 goals per game. Summer signing Janni Serra from Holstein Kiel hasn’t seen much game time or success nor has legendary club captain Fabian Klos who is moving on at the end of next season. Their wide players though have impressed such as Patrick Wimmer, Robin Hack and Masaya Okugawa who is the clubs top goalscorer with an impressive eight goals this season. They work hard as a unit covering great ground, the league’s most all season and have won as a team the most aerial duels showing the areas where the club is strong. The North-Western club have a mixture of tough and winnable games for their last 10, finishing away to RB Leipzig. Meaning they would want to get their work done before Matchweek 34. Prediction 14th place.