BERLIN (AP) — Two games remain for the Bundesliga’s relegation candidates to avoid joining last-place Schalke in Germany’s second division.
Hertha Berlin’s enforced two-week quarantine period after a coronavirus outbreak at the club turned out to be a blessing. Hertha returned to claim two wins and two draws in 10 days, and now needs only a win against Cologne on Saturday to be sure of survival.
“We have two match points,” Hertha coach Pál Dárdai said, using a tennis analogy to describe his team's chances of staying up following the victory over Schalke on Wednesday.
Cologne is in the worst position of the six demotion-threatened teams, second-to-last with 29 points ahead of its remaining games at Hertha and at home against Schalke. It could be relegated for the sixth time with a loss on Saturday depending on other results.
Cologne was unlucky in losing 4-1 at home against Freiburg last weekend, with Ondrej Duda slipping while taking a penalty before Jan Thielmann had what looked like an equalizer ruled out in injury time. Freiburg went on to score two more.
Cologne is two points behind Arminia Bielefeld in the relegation playoff place. If it remains that way, Bielefeld will play the team that finishes third in the second division — most likely Greuther Fürth or Hamburger SV — in a two-leg playoff to decide which team plays in the Bundesliga next season.
Bielefeld, which has addressed defensive problems since appointing Frank Kramer as coach in March, next hosts Hoffenheim before finishing with a visit to Stuttgart. Kramer needs to address his team’s attack — Bielefeld has scored only one goal in its last four games.
Only goal difference is keeping Werder Bremen above Bielefeld in safety, but the club is far from safe after eight league games without a win, including seven straight losses. Bremen next faces relegation rival Augsburg for a potentially decisive duel before ending the season at home against Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Augsburg is only two points above Bremen after claiming one point from its last five games. Markus Weinzierl is back as coach, but lost in his return at Stuttgart last weekend. After Bremen, Augsburg ends the season at league champion Bayern Munich, which will be doing all it can to help Robert Lewandowski top Gerd Müller’s record of 40 goals in a league season from 1971-72. Lewandowski has 39.
Hertha is a point above Augsburg, and Mainz should also be safe, two points better off after a brilliant turnaround under coach Bo Svensson. But Mainz ends the season with difficult games against Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg – two teams fighting for Champions League qualification.
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Ciarán Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP