Cologne have followed Darmstadt down while Union Berlin and Mainz have lifted themselves out of trouble to leave Bochum contesting the play-off. - © DFL
Cologne have followed Darmstadt down while Union Berlin and Mainz have lifted themselves out of trouble to leave Bochum contesting the play-off. - © DFL

The 2023/24 relegation battle: Darmstadt and Cologne down, Bochum survive play-off


Darmstadt and Cologne went down, and Bochum breathed a huge sigh of relief by surviving the most dramatic of play-offs. Relive a nerve-racking season at the bottom as we recap the 2023/24 battle for survival.


Position: 18th (relegated)
Points: 18
Goals: 30-86 (-56)
Final fixture: Dortmund 4-0 Darmstadt

Promoted Darmstadt's fate was confirmed with defeat to Heidenheim on Matchday 31. It left them with an unassailable 11-point deficit on the relegation play-off spot, with only three rounds of fixtures remaining. They finish the season bottom of the table.

Watch: Darmstadt relegated after Heidenheim loss

How does promotion and relegation work in the Bundesliga?


Position: 17th (relegated)
Points: 27
Goals: 28-60 (-32)
Final fixture: Heidenheim 4-1 Cologne

Ten defeats across the first 16 games cost Steffen Baumgart his jobTimo Schultz sparked a revival for the Billy Goats, but that wasn't quite enough despite a sensational comeback to win 3-2 against Union Berlin on the penultimate matchday, with a 4-1 final-day loss in Heidenheim sealing their fate. 

Watch: The story of Cologne's 2023/24 relegation rollercoaster


Position: 16th (play-off)
Points: 33
Goals: 42-74 (-32)
Final fixture: Fortuna Düsseldorf 0-3 Bochum (3-3 on aggregate, 5-6 on penalties)

Bochum were dragged into the relegation dogfight following a run of eight matches without a win that prompted a parting of ways with head coach Thomas Leitsch. Seven points from five games under interim boss Heiko Butscher - a former VfL player - staved off automatic relegation, but they failed to gain the point needed on the final day to ensure safety as Bochum dropped into the two-leg play-off for a Bundesliga spot next season. A first-leg nightmare resulted in a 3-0 loss at home to Fortuna Düsseldorf - who finished third in the second division - but Bochum scraped through on penalties after victory by the same scoreline second time round. It means they retain Bundesliga football for the 2024/25 campaign.

Watch: Bochum's relegation rollercoaster

Union Berlin

Position: 15th (safety
Points: 33
Goals: 33-58 (-25)
Final fixture: Union 2-1 Freiburg

Nenad Bjelica provided Union with the desired new coach bounce after replacing Urs Fischer, but they've slipped back into old ways in recent months and the Croatian was dismissed after a 4-3 loss at home to Bochum with two games to go in favour of former interim coach Marco Grote. In the penultimate match of the season, the new coach bounce was back as Union raced into a 2-0 lead against Cologne and they looked set to relegate the Billy Goats. Instead, Cologne staged the comeback of the season to win 3-2, putting Union in real danger of a play-off spot that a final day win over Freiburg averted by the narrowest of margins.

Watch: Union Berlin 2-1 Freiburg - highlights

Borussia Mönchengladbach

Position: 14th (safety)
Goals: 56-67 (-11)
Final fixture: Stuttgart 4-0 Gladbach

While they kept their heads above the bottom three for almost the entire season (slipping into 16th only for one week after Matchday 3), Gerardo Seoane's side were far from certain of survival when slumping to 15th on Matchday 22. After just one win in their final 11 fixtures, the Foals were leapfrogged by Mainz on the final day.

Watch: Wolfsburg 1-3 Borussia Mönchengladbach - highlights of Gladbach's last win back in April


Position: 13th (safety)
Points: 35
Goals: 39-51 (-12)
Final fixture: Wolfsburg 1-3 Mainz

Mainz took four points from their first three games under Bo Henriksen, before slipping to an 8-1 loss at Bayern Munich. They bounced back with wins over Hoffenheim, Bochum and Darmstadt, and even climbed out of the bottom three with a draw against Freiburg. Two points from meetings with Cologne and Heidenheim had them back in 16th, but an emphatic 3-0 win over Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund propelled the 05ers back out of the bottom three, and ended any threat of automatic relegation this season. A win in Wolfsburg on the final day secured safety and sent them up to 13th.

Watch: The story of Mainz's latest great escape

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