Like the Bundesliga, the 2. Bundesliga reaches its climax this weekend, with issues at the top and bottom of the table still to be resolved.
However, the promotion race looks all but settled with VfB Stuttgart and Hannover 96 set to make immediate returns to the top level of Germany football – with the title still on the line – although Eintracht Braunschweig pipping Hannover to second isn’t beyond the realms of possibility.
It is a different picture at the bottom though, with six teams in danger of filling the remaining two spots in the bottom three, with all manner of potential scenarios able to be played out. Here, we take a look at what could happen on Sunday.
Stuttgart and Hannover all but promoted
Stuttgart and Hannover are level on points after the latter won their meeting last Sunday. In terms of promotion, the equation is pretty simple for both of them, especially after Braunschweig's shock capitulation against Arminia Bielefeld - a point sends them up.
In terms of the title, Stuttgart are favourites, and would probably seal it with a win against struggling Würzburger Kickers, however anything less opens the door to Hannover, who travel to SV Sandhausen. If both sides win, Hannover would need to win by five more goals than Stuttgart in order to overturn their goal difference deficit and thus take the title.
Braunschweig will finish third unless something crazy happens - albeit not any crazier than what happened last Sunday. If they beat down-and-out Karlsruher SC 5-0 and Hannover lose, they would snatch second spot on goal difference.
However in the grand scheme of things, a big win for the Lions just to build up momentum ahead of the play-off between against the third-bottom side in the Bundesliga – Hamburger SV, VfL Wolfsburg or FC Augsburg – would be something of a result for them.
Würzburg, 1860 Munich and Bielefeld in relegation danger
Karlsruhe are down, but the second automatic relegation spot, as well as the play-off place, remains open. Three teams could go down automatically, whilst another three are still in some danger of slipping into 16th.
Würzburg, currently second-bottom, have to beat Stuttgart to have any chance of escaping an immediate relegation back to the 3. Liga. After making a strong first impression, they have fallen away terribly and have not won a single game in the second half of the season. They seemingly have little chance, but the one caveat of hope is that their last win was against Stuttgart just before Christmas.
1860 Munich, who play 1. FC Heidenheim, are in the next most immediate danger, sitting in the play-off spot. They are currently level on points with Bielefeld, whose big win last weekend has given them a handy five-goal advantage ahead of their trip to Dynamo Dresden.
If Würzburg were to win and either lost, they would be guaranteed to finish in the bottom three. Both losing in this scenario would probably mean 1860 going down automatically, with Würzburg staying up. A Würzburg win combined with Bielefeld and 1860 draws, leaving them all level on 37 points, would relegate Vítor Pereira's side, with Würzburg needing a three-goal swing with Bielefeld to escape the play-off.
Although a win for Bielefeld should be enough to completely escape the bottom three, it might not be for 1860. If 1.FC Kaiserslautern win the Red Devils would stay ahead of them, and if there's a winner between Fortuna Düsseldorf and Erzgebirge Aue, 1860 will be level on points with the loser in that game. Aue's much weaker goal difference in this scenario would probably push them down to third bottom, but 1860 would have to hope for a six-goal swing if they finish level with Düsseldorf.
Kasierslautern amongst trio not safe either
Kaiserslautern, Aue and Düsseldorf have matters in their own hands, but if any slip up any of them could still finish in the play-off spot. Victory for Kaiserslautern, who are two points ahead of Bielefeld and 1860, means they're safe, but a draw might not be enough. Wins for both of the two sides below them would bring them all level on points.
Bielefeld are already ahead of the Red Devils on goal difference, but 1860 would need to beat Heidenheim by four clear goals to overtake them. Of course if they both won and Kaiserslautern lost, that would guarantee them finishing 16th instead.
Düsseldorf and Aue are three points clear of the play-off place. They play each other at the Esprit Arena, and a draw would be most convenient as it would keep both up. Either side might just be fine even if they lose, as Bielefeld and 1860 would both have to win and Kaiserslautern would need at least a point to move above.
Aue's goal difference in this case is worse than all of Kaiserslautern, Bielefeld and 1860, and if they did finish level on points with all three of them (or just Bielefeld and 1860 if Kaiserslautern win) they would finish 16th. Düsseldorf have a better goal difference than those three sides as it stands, but this scenario would see Bielefeld overtake them, Kaiserslautern would need a three-goal swing and 1860 a six-goal swing.
Who will the 16th-placed team meet in the play-off?
The team that does finish 16th will play the third-placed side in the 3. Liga. With MSV Duisburg and Holstein Kiel already promoted automatically, just two sides remain in content for that spot - Jahn Regensburg and one-time UEFA Cup Winners' Cup winners 1. FC Magdeburg.
Regensburg have a two-point advantage will go through if they beat Preußen Münster in their final game on Saturday, however a draw or defeat leaves them vulnerable to being caught. Only a win would do for Magdeburg, who have a better goal difference and would overtake Regensburg if they beat Sportfreunde Lotte and the Bavarian side slip up.
Matchday 34 Fixtures
VfB Stuttgart vs Würzburger Kickers
VfL Bochum vs St. Pauli
Eintracht Braunschweig vs Karlsruher SC
SpVgg Greuther Fürth vs 1. FC Union Berlin
1.FC Kaiserslautern vs 1. FC Nürnberg
1. FC Heidenheim vs 1860 Munich
SV Sandhausen vs Hannover 96
Fortuna Düsseldorf vs Erzgebirge Aue
Dynamo Dresden vs Arminia Bielefeld