Munich - It's guaranteed to be a nerve-wracking final day of the season for fans of bottom three incumbents Hamburger SV and Eintracht Braunschweig. The Lions must win on Saturday to stand any chance of avoiding relegation, while three points for HSV would ensure a 16th-placed finish, meaning the Red Shorts would enter a two-legged play-off with the 3rd-placed side in Bundesliga 2.
1. FSV Mainz 05 - Hamburger SV
Elsewhere, FC Augsburg go into their clash with Eintracht Frankfurt still in with a shout of qualifying for the UEFA Europa League, while Hannover 96 and SC Freiburg go head-to-head at the HDI Arena. bundesliga.com looks ahead to Matchday 34's remaining fixtures...
Put your beverages on ice and have your snacks at hand for Hamburg’s all-or-nothing trip to Mainz on Saturday as this is one match that will not be beaten for drama and all-consuming tension. Mainz are currently in seventh place and need one more victory to secure their passage into the UEFA Europa League next term, while Hamburg are scrapping to maintain their status as the Bundesliga’s only ever-present side.
Mainz coach Thomas Tuchel was taking nothing for granted at his pre-match press conference however: “Despite their position in the table HSV have outstanding attacking talent and they’re very dangerous from set-pieces. We need to defend cleverly, not concede many fouls and try to keep the ball as far away from our goal as possible while forcing our game on them.“
Comebacks on the cards
If history is anything to go by, the hosts will have a difficult time of things against Hamburg, who have only lost once in seven Bundesliga outings at the Coface Arena, winning three and drawing three. The visitors will also be boosted by the return of top scorer Pierre-Michel Lasogga as well as defenders Johann Djourou and Marcell Jansen for the crunch encounter.
“Our aim is to stay in the Bundesliga,” said a remarkably calm Mirko Slomka ahead of the match. “The relegation play-off spot merely offers us the chance to achieve that aim.” HSV are currently in 16th place so victory would guarantee them a last throw of the dice against the third-placed Bundesliga 2 side, while also sealing the fates of fellow top-flight strugglers Nürnberg and Braunschweig. Having earned just nine points on the road all term however, the visitors must also overcome their recurring travel-sickness to stay afloat.
1899 Hoffenheim - Eintracht Braunschweig
Any match between one of the league’s highest-scoring sides and one with a decidedly wobbly backline would appear to be a foregone conclusion on paper, but factor in the added spice of Bundesliga survival on the last matchday of the season and normal rules go out of the window. Free-scoring Hoffenheim have entertained their own supporters and neutrals alike throughout the 2013/14 campaign and while they are safely tucked away in mid-table, they are in no mood to be generous against the division’s bottom club.
“We know first-hand the situation they’re in,” said Hoffenheim head coach Markus Gisdol, referring to his side’s brush with the relegation play-offs last season. “But we want to finish our campaign on a high note, so we’re only thinking about what we need to do. We’ve had a very good season so far and a victory would take us to 44 points, which would be the second-best haul in the club’s history.”
There are no such lofty desires in Braunschweig, however, where the Lions are sharpening their claws for an almighty survival scrap. “It’s going to be an intense fight against a superb attacking side,” said head coach Torsten Lieberknecht at his pre-match press conference. “When you play in a final, the whole point of playing is to win it.” Indeed, only victory will do for the visitors, who currently trail Hamburger SV in the relegation play-off spot by two points.
Over 6,000 Braunschweig fans are expected to make the trip south to spur their team on, and Lieberknecht is keen to tap into the supporters’ power. “With our fans behind us we’ll turn this away game into a home game and give it absolutely everything we’ve got.” To do so the tactician can call upon almost his entire first-team squad, with only Omar Elabdellaoui failing to make the trip due to an abdominal strain. “Given the way the team has fought throughout this season and the way the club has presented itself, finishing in 16th would certainly be deserved.”
FC Augsburg - Eintracht Frankfurt
Widely tipped as relegation candidates back in August, Augsburg could turn an already outstanding season into a spectacular one if they better Mainz’s result this weekend. Markus Weinzierl’s team trail Mainz by a single point going into Matchday 34, but the Bavarians will be guaranteed a crack at European football for the first time in their history if they beat Eintracht Frankfurt and Thomas Tuchel’s side drop points against HSV.
Augsburg’s superior goal difference means they could afford to draw against the Eagles if Hamburg win at the Coface Arena, but Weinzierl is determined to finish the campaign with a win. “We know it’s not in our hands, but it’s incredible we’re still in with a shout of European football on the final day of the season,” said the coach, who is likely to recall Borussia Mönchengladbach-bound midfielder Andre Hahn following a thigh injury. “We want to win the game, then we’ll see what happens in Mainz.”
Whatever the result in Augsburg, Saturday is certain to be a special occasion for Armin Veh. The 53-year-old, who will leave the Commerzbank Arena, took charge of his final home game as Frankfurt boss against Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Matchday 33 and the Augsburg-born coach is now looking to bow out in style at the SGL Arena.
“Last weekend was already very special for me,” he said. “I already said my goodbyes after our last home match of the season, but I will do so again against Augsburg on Saturday.” Alexander Madlung and 1899 Hoffenheim’s recent acquisition Pirmin Schwegler are both doubtful for the game, but Veh revealed the duo could yet feature. “I hope they’ll be ready for the game,” he said. “Whoever plays, we want to put in a performance that enables us to win the match.”
Hannover 96 - SC Freiburg
Having ensured their Bundesliga status well in advance of the final day of the season, both Hannover 96 and SC Freiburg are hoping to sign off their campaigns with all three points when the two sides go toe-to-toe at the HDI Arena. The hosts go into Saturday’s clash unbeaten in their last four matches and coach Tayfun Korkut is confident of making it five games without defeat against the Black Forest club.
“We’ve started a mini-run and the team has realised that winning is actually quite enjoyable,” joked Korkut at his pre-match press conference.” Korkut is confident Dider Ya Konan, who picked up a thigh injury against VfB Stuttgart a fortnight ago, will be available, but Hiroki Sakai is sidelined with a knee problem. Frantisek Rajtoral is set to deputise at right-back, while Marcelo and Andre Hoffmann are set to return following suspension.
Mehmedi ruled out
Freiburg midfielder Matthias Ginter was one of several surprise inclusions in Germany coach Joachim Löw’s . While the 19-year-old has admitted he was shocked at the call-up, his club coach Christian Streich says Ginter deserves his place in the 30-man squad. “It didn’t surprise me at all, but I’m delighted for him,” said the 48-year-old.
Like his opposite number, Streich is hoping his charges can end the 2013/14 Rückrunde, in which Freiburg have amassed 21 points in 16 games, on a positive note. “Even if we’re no longer under huge pressure [to win the match], we want to end the season strongly in Hannover,” said the coach, who will be without injured Swiss forward Admir Mehmedi for the trip to Lower Saxony.