Mario Gomez is praying for more goals to help Wolfsburg beat the drop this season. - © © imago / Christian Schroedter
Mario Gomez is praying for more goals to help Wolfsburg beat the drop this season. - © © imago / Christian Schroedter

Of great renown, but too good to go down?

Things are so tantalisingly tight in the Bundesliga these days that teams vying for European qualification one week could find themselves fretting with talk of relegation the next.

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With just nine games of this current, spellbinding season remaining, an interesting collection of former champions and the league's brightest lights have begun to hear a haunting call emanating from the Bundesliga basement.

It is an eerie cry that would wisely be considered with caution as opposed to incredulity, for as certain sides have previously discovered to their dread, no club is ever too good to go down.

Teams finishing in the Bundesliga’s bottom two suffer automatic relegation, while 16th place offers the lifeline of a play-off against those finishing third in Bundesliga 2. As many as seven clubs have occupied the bottom-three spots at one time or another in 2016/17, while just six points separate the 1983 European champions Hamburg - third from bottom - from Schalke in ninth.

Contained in a group immediately behind the Royal Blues, former Bundesliga champions Borussia Mönchengladbach (10th), Werder Bremen (13th) and Wolfsburg (15th) are joined by five-time Bundesliga runners-up, Bayer Leverkusen (11th).

Watch: Mario Gomez scores Wolfsburg's winner against Darmstadt on Matchday 25

Should any of the aforementioned giants fall in this season’s climax, it would resonate in the world’s footballing press and cause a sensation among the sport’s social media channels. Yet such apparently inconceivable declines have already occurred in the fiercely competitive, and sometimes unforgiving, Bundesliga.

Champions in 1968, Nürnberg undertook a significant personnel change under victorious coach Max Merkel the following season. Der Club - as Nürnberg are known - subsequently struggled and despite dismissing Merkel before the end of the campaign, the champions were astonishingly relegated a year after winning the title.  

Germany World Cup winner Andreas Brehme (r.) once suffered the unthinkable: relegation with Kaiserslautern. - © imago / Alfred Harder

Kaiserslautern finished fourth in the 1994/95 Bundesliga, while just four seasons prior to that, the Red Devils were champions. Yet on a dark day for the club in 1996, a 1-1 draw against Rudi Völler’s Leverkusen on the last day of the season saw the southwestern giants drop into the second tier.

"It was like all the lights went out; flags in [the city] flew at half mast," the team’s 1990 FIFA World Cup winning defender with Germany, Andreas Brehme, told Der Spiegel. "Both [Leverkusen and Kaiserslautern] could have gone down that day and when Rudi and I were asked for an interview afterwards, I could hardly speak such was the size of the lump in my throat," Brehme explained, adding, "Relegation was a new feeling for me, and not a nice one!"

RB Leipzig forward Timo Werner experienced relegation with Stuttgart at the end of 2015/16. - © imago / DeFodi507

Similar sentiments were expressed by Stuttgart stars Timo Werner, Daniel Didavi and Filip Kostic, who formed part of a Die Schwaben team relegated for the first time in 38 years last season. While Stuttgart are looking to bounce straight back up this season, just as Kaiserslautern did in 1997, no team wants to experience the sting that comes with slipping from German football’s top tier.

However, in the lower reaches of the Bundesliga, no club has yet guaranteed their place among the nation’s footballing elite for next season, meaning a spectacular battle for survival is a certainty following the international break.

What they say: quotes from some of the those hoping to avoid the drop...

Benedikt Höwedes (Schalke captain): "We will do all we can to keep ourselves away from those below us and get closer to those above."

Dieter Hecking (Gladbach head coach): "Fortunately, we have a five-point gap between us and 16th place, but it wasn’t expected that the teams below us would pick up so many points. We need to be on guard; I don’t rule anything out in this league."

Jonathan Tah (Leverkusen defender): It's all very tight, but we must concentrate on ourselves, on our own strengths, and not be distracted by what’s happening elsewhere around us."

Zlatko Junuzovic (Bremen midfielder): "Of course we enjoyed taking 13 points from [our last] five games, but we must now continue along this path."

Mario Gomez (Wolfsburg striker): "It’s good that we have been able to draw more teams into the relegation battle. Whereas previously it was three, now its seven or eight teams."

Markus Gisdol (Hamburg head coach): "In the current situation, we have to remain focused."

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