Cologne - The scrap for survival comes into focus this Saturday, with three fixtures taking place that could have important repercussions when it comes to which clubs slip through the Bundesliga trapdoor at the end of the season.
Hannover 96 - TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
bundesliga.com previews the action down at the bottom...
There will be a new face on the Hannover 96 bench this weekend as the Reds bid to end a 13-game winless streak and climb clear of trouble. Having succeeded in keeping Alemannia Aachen in 2006/07, 51-year-old Michael Frontzeck has been chosen to replace Tayfun Korkut and keep the club in the top flight.
"I've seen a lot in this business, but there's always something new which crops up," said Frontzeck. "The key thing for us is not to lose out nerve and stay calm. Hoffenheim are dangerous on the break, they tackle aggressively and are a threat. We’ll need to be at our best.“
'Backs to the wall'
Hoffenheim coach Markus Gisdol is not expecting an easy ride for his team and is all too aware of the boost that a managerial change can give a team. "They've got their backs to the wall," he said. "So we know it's going to be a tense game."
Gisdol, who is bidding to lead Hoffenheim into Europe for the first time in their history, will be without the suspended Kevin Volland, while Hiroki Sakai and Ceyhun Gülselam will miss out for the hosts.
VfB Stuttgart - SC Freiburg
It is derby time in Baden-Württemberg, only this time there is more than just pride at stake, with both Stuttgart and Freiburg still mired in relegation trouble.
Just three points separate the local rivals going into the final five games of the season, and while it may not be winner takes all on Saturday, this is still a hugely important game. "I can definitely say I'm really looking forward to this one," said Stuttgart goalkeeper Sven Ulreich in his club's matchday magazine. "It's certainly a special match for me and I hope that, with our fans behind us, we can get a derby win."
Keeping cool in a heated atmosphere
Freiburg had taken seven points from nine going into their Matchday 29 game with 1. FSV Mainz 05, but a 3-2 defeat in that one means they are still in trouble. Nevertheless, left-back Christian Günter is confident the players can respond to last week's setback.
"We've got to keep our nerves under control and not run around like headless chickens when we're under pressure," he said. "We know how much rests on a derby match and the situation in the relegation battle amplifies all that this year, but like I've said, we'll be keeping cool heads and we can't let the atmosphere affect us. We're only focusing on ourselves."
Hamburger SV - FC Augsburg
Hamburger SV welcome FC Augsburg to the Imtech Arena for the first of "five cup finals" in the words of HSV coach Bruno Labbadia.
The Red Shorts have five games left to secure their place in the top flight for another season and avoid what would be a first ever relegation from the Bundesliga. To that end, Labbadia says they must approach the season's run in like a knockout competition - and hope to be the last man standing. "If you don't win your next game in the cup, then you're out," Labbadia said. "We're in cup mode."
Augsburg have no such pressures. On their contrary, their motivation is another three points to keep them on course for a maiden UEFA Europa League qualification, and Markus Weinzierl is aware of the test that awaits his players.
"They [HSV] need to win, they need to score goals and they need to seize the initiative, so we've been warned," he said. "It's been a while since we won away and we want to do something about that. It's up to us. We want to finish as high as we can up the table," continued the 40-year-old, who could have Jan Moravek and Tim Matavz back in the match day squad.