Munich - The battle for Bundesliga survival intensifies this Saturday (kick-off 15:30 CET), with four of the bottom five sides in action. The spotlight will be fiercest on the potentially decisive clash between direct rivals SV Werder Bremen and 1899 Hoffenheim, although there are plenty of tasty ties elsewhere too.
Werder Bremen - 1899 Hoffenheim
Fortuna Düsseldorf are out to keep their heads above water at Eintracht Frankfurt; already-relegated Greuther Fürth play their penultimate top-flight away game and Hannover 96 host 1. FSV Mainz 05. bundesliga.com looks ahead to Saturday afternoon's fixtures...
SV Werder Bremen are feeling the strain following a ten-game winless run going into their key relegation battle against 1899 Hoffenheim at the Weserstadion.
Bremen's last victory came on 9 February and they now find themselves just two points above the drop zone with three games remaining. Hoffenheim are three points worse off, but their midfielder Sejad Salihovic believes the onus is on the hosts this weekend. “They have more to lose than us,” he told Kicker magazine. “They're at home and are under more pressure.”
Sea of green
Being at home may well be an advantage for Bremen this weekend, though, as spectotors have vowed to get behind their team by turning the stadium into a sea of green.
“The fans should experience a game that they can be happy about,” coach Thomas Schaaf said. “We’ve got to show we deserve their support and respond to it. Every one of us should feel the obligation for to fight against the situation we're in.”
Eintracht Frankfurt - Fortuna Düsseldorf
Japanese international has his heart set on playing in Europe for Eintracht Frankfurt next season, meaning victory over struggling Fortuna Düsseldorf is a necessity.
The Eagles currently sit fifth in the table, but with five teams still in the hunt for a European spot, every point counts and. “We have the chance to qualify for Europe and that would be incredible if it were to happen,” Inui told his club’s website. “That would be a reward for a great, successful season.”
Latka wants the points
Provided the visitors avoid relegation to Bundesliga 2, those two adjectives would also perfectly sum up Fortuna’s campaign. Defeat to Borussia Dortmund last weekend has left them on the brink of the bottom three with just goal difference separating them from FC Augsburg in 16th.
“We're still above the line and have it all in our own hands,” said defender Martin Latka. “Eintracht Frankfurt will be just as tough a task as any Bundesliga game, but we definitely want the points.”
VfB Stuttgart - Greuther Fürth
With the DFB Cup final against FC Bayern Munich on the horizon, Stuttgart go into their final three games of the Bundesliga season with the aim of gaining momentum ahead of their rare chance at winning silverware.
Coach Bruno Labbadia is yet to settle on a first XI for that final in Berlin's Olympiastadion, giving the remaining fixtures extra significance for the squad. “These last three games are not just light workouts,” sporting director Fredi Bobic said. “More than anything, everybody is playing for a place in the cup final.” Vedad Ibisevic is suspended for this one, but as the club's leading scorer, his place in Berlin should be certain.
Despite being relegated last week, the last three games of the season are also vital for Fürth, who are keen to drop down with their heads held high.
“The last three games in the Bundesliga should remain positive memories,” said coach Frank Kramer, eager for his troops to savour their illustrious surroundings while they can. “Stuttgart have a great stadium and a great atmosphere."
Hannover 96 - 1. FSV Mainz 05
Hannover 96 and Mainz 05 may have both slipped out of the running for a place in Europe next season, but that's no reason for either of them to put their feet up in the final three games of the season.
In fact, Hannover have good reason to want to beat Mainz after losing 2-1 in the reverse fixture. “We want revenge for that result,” said coach Mirko Slomka, who can breathe a sigh of relief that Adam Szalai, Mainz’s matchwinner back in December, is ruled out for the rest of the season.
Slomka can at least count on Christian Schulz again, while Christian Pander returns for the Reds, who could yet rekindle their flickering European hopes with a win. Mainz’s priority is merely to return to form after a six-game winless streak all but ended any loftier aspirations they may have had.
“After the defeat to Hamburg, the team reacted positively against Dortmund and played well against Frankfurt,” said coach Thomas Tuchel of the three most recent fixtures, which have yieleded a combined total of one point. “We were all disappointed that we did not get the result we had hoped for.”