With eight games of the season to save their proverbial bacon, bundesliga.com runs the rule over a sextet of potential relegation saviours...
It's no surprise that Hertha Berlin's upturn in fortunes has coincided with 's return to the starting line-up. Cast in a bit-part role towards the end of the Hinrunde under departed head coach Jos Luhukay, the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations winner is enjoying a new lease of now that Pal Dardai is at the helm. The Old Lady have taken 11 points from seven games since the Hungarian came in, with Kalou starting six of them. He's only scored once, but it's his experience at pulling opposition defenders right and left that's really working wonders for Hertha in the final third. More importantly, he's enjoying his football again. As long as he can continue to do that, the capital club should be safe.
Hannover 96 captain underlined his importance to the club with a well-taken brace against Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 26, albeit in a losing effort. The Reds always look a much better side when he's involved and you have to wonder whether they'd be in the position they're in had the 26-year-old not missed the first three months of the season through injury. Finding a replacement for the former Karlsruher SC man when he leaves for Borussia Mönchengladbach in the summer is a thankless task, although right now survival is all that matters. Hannover haven't won since 16 December 2014, but in Stindl they at least have one player capable of deciding a game on his own.
The winter acquisition of could turn out to be a masterstroke from SC Freiburg head coach Christian Streich. The SV Werder Bremen loanee has scored four goals in as many games for the club - including a debut Lupenreiner Hattrick - with die Breisgauer already picking up as many wins in that time as they managed over the entire course of the Hinrunde. Two seasons in the no-frills environment of the second tier with Energie Cottbus certainly came in handy during the run-in for relegation-threatened Bremen last term, and it's the former Germany Under-21 striker's knack at doing the basics well that could once again make all the difference between a place in- or outside the bottom three come May.
With Rafael van der Vaart struggling for form, Hamburger SV midfielder has stepped up to the plate with a string of uplifting performances. All three of the Hungarian international's league goals so far this season have come since the winter break, but's its probably fair to say he hasn't quite found the same level of consistency that helped take former employers SpVgg Greuther Fürth to within a two-legged play-off defeat to HSV of a place in the top tier last May. Hamburg face four of the top six in the weeks ahead, yet if Stieber can deliver the goods in crunch games against Freiburg and VfB Stuttgart, the Red Shorts might just do enough to cling onto their unique status as the Bundesliga's only ever-present club.
was the standout performer during SC Paderborn 07's promotion-winning campaign of 2013/14, but had to wait until Bundesliga Matchday 10 to take his top-flight bow after injury. The Albanian playmaker swiftly made up for lost time with a goal on his first start of the season against Hertha Berlin, although he's only found the net twice since. He did, however, stick away a wonderfully executed free kick against Hannover on Matchday 21 to give the North-Rhine Westphalian minnows their only win this calendar year, proving just how invaluable set pieces can be for teams at the wrong end of the standings. Indeed, on current form (W1, D2, L6), dead-balls look like being Paderborn's best bet for a goal.
They say good things come to those who wait, and so it proved for : The former 1. FC Nürnberg forward bagged his first goals since January 2014 as Stuttgart ended a nine-match winless run with victory over Eintracht Frankfurt on Matchday 26. Only Hamburg (16) and Paderborn (23) have scored fewer goals than Huub Stevens' men (27) this season, but what better time for a striker of Ginczek's undoubted promise to find his scoring boots. The Swabians have been bottom of the table since Matchday 20 and are currently three points adrift of outright safety, but they are perhaps one of only two sides in the bottom six with an in-form, out-and-out frontman on the books.