2. Bundesliga Preview - Matchday 26: Big weekend for sides both at top and bottom

Will there finally be change at the top of the 2. Bundesliga?

2. Bundesliga Preview - Matchday 26: Big weekend for sides both at top and bottom
Image credit: kicker

With the season end fast upon us, it's business time in Germany's second tier. Despite not having the stand-out game like last weekend, the sides who missed the chance to pick up vital points will be back at it once again.

Two promotion candidates get the action underway

Last weekend's defeat in Heidenheim didn't mathematically end St. Pauli's promotion hopes, but it certainly put a large dint in their challenge. They're now eight points off SC Freiburg in 2nd and five points from Nürnberg in 3rd, and defeat against Paderborn on Friday would almost certainly end any hopes that they have.

It's a game both sides really need to win. SC Paderborn are still four points adrift in a relegation position and, although they've started picking up single points in recent weeks, it's wins that they need if they're to avoid back-to-back relegations. Though the form table points to a home win, Paderborn have the second worst record on the road, taking just eight points from a possible 36, whereas St. Pauli have taken some beating at home and boast an impressive record.

The team Ewald Lienen's men look closest to catching are 1. FC Nürnberg. They too play on Friday evening, as they make the trip to Arminia Bielefeld. Although a win for Der Club would put them level on points with second-placed Freiburg, they would still remain in 3rd because of their inferior goal difference, but Nürnberg are pushing it all the way. They still boast this incredible run, in which they haven't lost since 2015.

They face a Bielefeld side who put in an impressive performance against VfL Bochum last matchay, and were only denied a win by a 97th minute penalty; the last kick of the match. They'll take heart from this performance and hope they can take it into Friday's match against Nürnberg and end all chances of facing the drop.

Friday's final offering is a battle between two sides who have very little to play for. Both Eintracht Braunschweig and Greuther Fürth are comfortable in the table, occupying 6th and 10th position respectively, yet neither have enough points to challenge the top three and have too many to be dragged into a dogfight. Rest assured, both sides will still be going in search of maximum points even if the overall goal is unlikely to be reached.

Duisburg and Düsseldorf with chances to aid their attempts at beating the drop

On Saturday, basement club MSV Duisburg welcome Union Berlin to the Schauinsland-Reisen-Arena with the opportunity to cut their gap to survival to six points. They're picking up more points recently, but are still finding the wins hard to come by. They've drawn three of their last five matches, but they need to turn the draws into wins soon, if they're to beat the drop; with just nine games left to play, the Zebras are running out of time.

Union Berlin are the visitors on Saturday and they come into the game in good spirits, on the back of a 4-0 home win against FSV Frankfurt. However, their form on the road hasn't been as impressive as their home showings and Duisburg may well fancy their chances to take something from the match.

Saturday's other game sees Fortuna Düsseldorf make the trip to SV Sandhausen. Since beating Freiburg and holding Nürnberg to a draw, the visitors have been on a poor run, losing three in succession, which means they remain deep in the mire, currently occupying the relegation play-off spot.

Their hosts, Sandhausen, have also been on a lacklustre run of form. They've lost four on the bounce, failing scored a home goal since early February, and have been on the slide down the table. Can one of these sides take the initiative and end their poor winless runs?

Ilia Gruev is hopeful of his side's chances against Union on Saturday. | Image source: kicker - imago
Ilia Gruev is hopeful of his side's chances against Union on Saturday. | Image source: kicker - imago

Top two go in search of further points to affirm their league positions

On Sunday, Christian Streich's SC Freiburg travel to FSV Frankfurt, looking to build upon the result they gained in their last match when they beat leaders RB Leipzig at home. The Südbaden side have been on an impressive run over the last month since suffering back-to-back defeats returning from the Winterpause.

They've won four on the spin and travel north in search of extending that to five matches. They come up against an FSV side who suffered a heavy defeat to Union in their last match and will be on the hunt to rectify that, as they're not clear of danger just yet.

Leaders RB Leipzig suffered defeat to the Schwarzwald side on Monday, a result which saw their lead at the top cut to just three points. On Sunday they host Benno Möhlmann's resurgent 1860 Munich side. After going nearly three months without a win, they've now won three in a row, guiding them out of the bottom three positions - where they have spent the majority of the season - to temporary safety.

They'll be keen to extend this winning run and potentially ending RB's long stay at the top in the process. However, Ralf Rangnick's side haven't lost back-to-back games all season and won't intend on doing so at this late stage.

Sunday's final match is another mid-table encounter, as Karlsruher SC host 1. FC Heidenheim in Baden-Württemburg. The travelling side had an impressive home win at the expense of St. Pauli in their last outing and will be hopeful of keeping that level of performance up when they visit Karlsruhe. The hosts, however, boast an impressive home record in recent matches - having not lost there since late November, so getting the better of them will be no easy task for Frank Schmidt and his players.

Kaiserslautern and Bochum wrap up the action for Matchday 26

Despite being unbeaten in the league since late November, VfL Bochum's draw against Arminia Bielefeld more or less ended their chances of challenging for a promotion spot. They're now 12 points off 3rd placed Nürnberg and 15 points off 2nd placed Freiburg - a gap most likely too great to close in such a short space of time. However, while it is still mathematically possible, they still have it all to play for, and they'll be keen to extend their unbeaten league run even further when they visit Kaiserslautern on Monday.

Lautern have been in free-fall since impressing on their return from the Winterpause and have now successively lost three matches, scoring just once in the process. They're comfortable in mid-table and don't look as if they'll be sucked into a scrap at the bottom.