Curtain up for the (penultimate) round: On the 34th matchday there are still two places left when it comes to the question of what the Bundesliga will look like next season – and five teams in the draw.
After Greuther Fürth, seventeenth-placed Arminia Bielefeld was actually relegated to relegation rank 16 due to three points and seven goals behind, the decision was made between VfB Stuttgart (30 points, home game against Cologne) and Hertha BSC (33 points, but the worse goal difference, away in Dortmund).
Felix Magath, brought in as a rescuer, has never been relegated as a coach from the Bundesliga, but this time it could be so far. In the past two matchdays, the Berliners were within reach twice of relegation and then lost it both in Bielefeld (1: 1) and against Mainz (1: 2). Therefore, veteran Friedhelm Funkel now sees the rival in a better position.
“Hertha has an incredibly experienced coach on the sidelines, and we’ve seen what Felix Magath has done in a very short time with this squad, which had previously offered very little,” he told Kicker. “But the momentum is clearly on the Stuttgart side.”
Sport1 went even further in a column this week. “Hertha would have deserved relegation,” was the devastating verdict after a season full of bankruptcies, bad luck and mishaps, including the burning of Lars Windhorst’s 375 million investment: “Hertha BSC, as the table shows, has gradually run down. Very little was made of a great deal, there was no progress.”
After all, the loser of the long-distance duel can still avoid relegation via relegation, which the old fox Magath had supposedly planned from the beginning. “As a professional who I consider myself to be, I’m preparing for the worst-case scenario,” said the 68-year-old.
And this worst case scenario could now occur against his former club HSV, with whom Magath once won the European Cup and two championships: “That was my feeling from the start. The closer you get there, the clearer this game becomes.”
In addition to Hamburg, who are currently third in the second division (57 points, plus 31 goals, away in Rostock), there are two other clubs in the lower house in the running for promotion after Schalke 04 have already made the Bundesliga return perfect: second-placed Bremen (60 points, home game against Regensburg) still needs a point, Darmstadt (57) is level on points with HSV, but due to the goal difference of nine goals, they are currently in thankless fourth place.
In the past three years, the top favorite from Hamburg has always ended up there, which caused a lot of malice. While the Hanseatic League always collapsed on the home stretch, this time it was exactly the opposite: After 29 match days, coach Tim Walter’s team was seven points behind in third place and had no chance, but now after four wins in a row they at least have relegation in your own hands.
The euphoria on the Elbe is correspondingly high at the moment. “The whole city is electrified like never before in the lower house,” wrote the “kicker”.
Whatever the outcome on Sunday afternoon, it can already be said that the Bundesliga will become much more attractive in the coming season thanks to the traditional clubs Schalke, Hertha/Stuttgart and Bremen/HSV. “Renaissance of the traditional clubs” was the headline in the “Augsburger Allgemeine”.
In comparison, some of those responsible in the DFL, Bundesliga, TV stations and fan associations would probably be reluctant to see the outsider Darmstadt 98 in the upper house.
Almost everyone says that behind closed doors, but hardly anyone says it publicly. The facts outside the field speak a very clear language, as Eintracht Frankfurt’s board spokesman Axel Hellmann explained in Sport1’s Doppelpass in January: “Drag horses like Bremen, Schalke and Hamburg are painful when they don’t play in the Bundesliga. Then nobody should be surprised if we are not on the economic level of the last few years.”
The current leading trio in the second division in particular simply brings more supporters and television viewers, generates significantly more attention among those interested in football and thus also significantly more income than smaller teams such as Mainz, Hoffenheim or Augsburg.
Sportingly unfair, because the clubs mentioned have established themselves in the Bundesliga over the years with outstanding work under significantly more difficult conditions.
And yet the return of fans to the stadiums after almost two years with ghost games or only low capacity utilization has shown the power and appeal of glorious clubs with glorious pasts and large fan bases.
“There is something that unites many of the teams that have been successful these weeks. They are traditional clubs with many titles and even more fans. 60,000 people in a second division stadium, 50,000 in the third division, 12,500 in the fourth”, wrote “Zeit Online”. continue. This spring, it’s not money that scores goals, but tradition.”
The author was not only referring to Schalke, HSV or Bremen. But also on the second division promoted Magdeburg (European Cup winner 1974) and Braunschweig (German champion 1967) as well as the third Kaiserslautern (four times champion), who meets the most popular East German club Dynamo Dresden (eight times champion in the GDR) in the relegation.
And the two leaders in the West Regional League, Rot-Weiss Essen (1955 champions) and Bundesliga founding member Preussen Münster, who had the same number of points before the last matchday. While Münster fell back after the first year, RWE was first class for a total of seven years. However, the last Bundesliga relegation was 45 years ago, after which top scorer Horst Hrubesch joined HSV together with Felix Magath from Saarbrücken.
The traditional club from the tenth largest city in Germany, on the other hand, was passed through, has been struggling in the fourth division for eleven years and has only missed the leap into the third division in the last two years on the last day of the game.
The rise could have been perfect this time if a misguided spectator hadn’t thrown a firecracker onto the field in the top game against Munster three months ago. Two Prussia players suffered a bang trauma, the game was rated by the sports court for Münster.
An incident that shows the other side of the coin, as well as the sometimes uncontrolled storming of the square in recent weeks, when a spectator at Schalke, for example, said he was squeezed by the cheering crowd and feared for his life. Not to mention death and violence threats from alleged fans in the recent past, for example at Hertha BSC or in the previous year after Schalke’s relegation.
The force that traditional clubs can develop can also have a destructive effect. Not only in the ranks, but also in the management levels, where busybodies, bluffers and imposters have repeatedly led glorious clubs to ruin.
Ultimately, what matters is the pitch, and that applies to both large and supposedly small teams. And especially when it comes to the alleged favorites, many professionals often cannot cope with the pressure. HSV has been an example of this in recent years, which is why Darmstadt still has every chance of promotion, regardless of all sympathies or antipathies.
Personal details: Martin Volkmar is Head of Portals
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