2. Bundesliga - Matchday 25 Preview: First travel to second, chasing pack look to close gap

It promises to be another exciting weekend in the world's best second division.

2. Bundesliga - Matchday 25 Preview: First travel to second, chasing pack look to close gap
Image credit: kicker

It's a huge weekend of football in Germany's second tier, with crunch games at the top and bottom of the table.

Nürnberg look to close the gap, as strugglers 1860 and Düsseldorf have home matches

René Weiler's Nürnberg side are doing all they can to try and pip SC Freiburg to that elusive second automatic promotion spot. Der Club have taken 11 points from a possible 15 since returning from the winter break and look in fine fettle going into the final stages of the season.

On Friday they host a Kaiserslautern side who've struggled of late, suffering successive defeats, after a promising return from the break. The odds are in Nürnberg's favour, but Konrad Fünfstück's men won't want to suffer three defeats on the spin.

Another side in contrasting form are Benno Möhlmann's 1860 Munich. Having struggled for points all season, a resurgence in form has seen them win back-to-back games for the first time this season, lifting them out of the bottom two and above fellow strugglers SC Paderborn in the process.

They host a Sandhausen side that haven't won since the first game back after the Winterpause, and have lost three games in succession, albeit against all in the top five positions. On recent form, you wouldn't back against 1860 making it nine points from nine. 

Friday's third and final game sees Fortuna Düsseldorf host Karlsruher SC, as two sides who are struggling for form face off. It's been three matchday's since either side has experienced victory. The hosts aren't yet clear of relegation worries, and a win would go a long way to securing their 2. Liga status. The visitors, on the other hand, have little to play for at this stage and will neither trouble the top sides nor get sucked into a relegation scrap.

Relegation candidates have the chance to pull clear of danger

On Saturday lunchtime, managerless SC Paderborn, who recently sacked Stefan Effenberg, play host to Greuther Fürth. The hosts are five points off survival, but just two points off 1860 Munich in the relegation play-off place. Their opponents, like the aforementioned Karlsruhe, have little to challenge for in their remaining nine matches but won't want to see their season peter out.

Elsewhere, FSV Frankfurt make the visit to the capital to take on Sascha Lewandowski's Union Berlin side. FSV, who also aren't completely clear of safety just yet, come into the match on the back of a disappointing draw against basement club MSV Duisburg.

They led 3-1 with just shy of fifteen minutes to play, but contrived to throw this lead away and draw 3-3. Union are really struggling to find any consistency in their game, having lost, won, lost and then won their last four matches. Their home form is considerably better than their away form, but they face an FSV side who's away form is superior to their home form, so calling a winner for this one is anyone's guess.

Confident Compper. | Image source: kicker.
Confident Compper. | Image source: kicker.

Opportunities at the top as St. Pauli and Bochum look to build upon recent results

On Thursday night, St. Pauli cut the gap on third placed Nürnberg to just two points, after beating fellow hopefuls Eintracht Braunschweig by a goal to nil at the Millerntor. On Sunday, they make the journey south to Heidenheim, looking to build upon their impressive form.

They've lost just once in their last five, winning the remaining four, including a win against first placed RB Leipzig. In reality, the promotion race looks to be a four horse race, and St. Pauli are well in contention. They travel to a Heidenheim side, led by Frank Schmidt, whose season appears to have petered out after a hopeful start. They lie seventh, but 12 points adrift of Nürnberg - a gap which looks too big to close in such a short space of time.

Bochum, who also have an outside chance of making one of the top three places, go in search of three wins in succession when they host a Bielefeld side who took a real hammering at home to SC Freiburg during the week. Gertjan Verbeek's side have 39 points from 24 games, and are the outside chance for a promotion spot. Bielefeld, who aren't yet completely clear of danger, will look to correct the wrongs of the midweek defeat when they travel to Bochum on Sunday afternoon.

Eintracht Braunschweig, whose chances at promotion were effectively ended with defeat at St. Pauli on Thursday, round off Sunday's action when they host bottom club MSV Duisburg, who will be buoyed by their late comeback against FSV Frankfurt on Matchday 24.

Anybody would be brave to bet against Duisburg eventually being relegated as they remain 10 points adrift of safety, despite their battling comeback. However, a win on Saturday would go a long way in terms of morale and could cut the gap on Paderborn to just 2 points.

Toppspiel to round off matchday 25 as Freiburg and Leipzig do battle

When the two sides met back in September, they played out a closely contested 1-1 draw. A fair result between two sides who looked certain to be challenging at the top come the final run-in. And so it has proven. Christian Streich's SC Freiburg have picked up of late, after a shaky start to the Ruckründe, winning three on the bounce, scoring eight times in the process. However, whatever Freiburg can do, RB Leipzig can match.

They've also won three on the spin, and separating the two sides is difficult. The leaders could stretch their lead to a, most likely, uncatchable nine points with a win, however, a win for the hosts would see them cut the gap on the leaders to just three points. Whichever way the result goes, it's sure to play a huge part in how the final standings will pan out.