The point in Dusseldorf on Monday night did nothing to clarify who might finish in 3rd place and gain the playoff place in the 2.Bundesliga. Whilst Fortuna sit 3rd at the moment, a 2 point gap between them and St Pauli means it’s still all to play for. Let’s also not rule out Paderborn, who despite a recent run of poor form sit only 3 points behind Fortuna Dusseldorf. This coming week sees the teams face “Englische Woche” or “English week” in the league, nicknamed such because the teams will face a gruelling schedule with 3 games in the space of about a week. With 6 games remaining in the league, the positions should be clearer come the end of the week ahead.
At the moment, Eintracht Frankfurt sit 7 points clear of Dusseldorf in 3rd, and Greuther Furth have a 6 point cushion in 2nd, so you’d expect that both of these teams will be promoted automatically, leaving the remaining three sides battling it out for the oppurtunity to face a Bundesliga side for the right to compete in the Bundesliga next season. With this in mind, our review this week takes a look at the matches facing the three chasing sides:
Dusseldorf: Whilst Dusseldorf are now unbeaten in 6 after the draw on Monday night, 4 of those matches ended in a draw. They struggled on Monday night against St Pauli, despite facing ten men for the closing stages of the game. Having started the season so impressively and looking like a certainty for promotion before the Winter break, have nerves got the better of them? They have a comparatively easy schedule during the coming weeks though, facing 3 games in 12 games, compared with St Pauli who face 3 games in 7 days. They start with a trip to Hansa Rostock tomorrow (Thursday 5th), who are starting to put up a fight against relegation. Rostock picked up an impressive 1-0 victory in Munich against 1860 last weekend, and are now only 3 points behind Karlsruhe who occupy 16th place, which is a relegation playoff place against a team from the 3rd division. They then host FSV Frankfurt on Tuesday, who have also pulled themselves out of the relegation battle. FSV are unbeaten in 4, and have been much improved in recent weeks, but they’ll struggle to take anything from their trip to Dusseldorf. Finally, Dusseldorf travel to Dynamo Dresden the following Monday (yes, Dusseldorf playing on a Monday again…). Dresden sit midtable and don’t really have anything to play for in these closing weeks, and have struggled in recent weeks, but they picked up a victory in Aachen last weekend. They’re a decent side at home too, so it’ll be a difficult place for Dusseldorf to visit.
St Pauli: As mentioned above, St Pauli face 3 games in 7 days, and some tricky opponents too. But St Pauli will be buoyed by their improved performance in Dusseldorf on Monday night, a game where they were the better side and had the better chances. A lack of goals and some individual defensive errors have halted St Pauli’s form since the winter break, which will have to change if they’re to catch Dusseldorf and beat them to 3rd position in the league. Their week starts with a potentially difficult trip to FSV Frankfurt on Saturday afternoon (which we will be streaming on a delayed stream from 4.30pm at Wharf Chambers, Leeds). FSV hadn’t won at home up until the end of February, but they have since won their last 3 home games, including a 3-1 victory over 1860 Munich a couple of weeks ago. St Pauli then play Union Berlin at the Millerntor on Tuesday, with the visitors on the back of two dissapointing defeats. Union Berlin are a decent side, but tend to struggle on their travels, having picked up only 13 points from 14 games away from home. If those two obstacles weren’t tiring enough for St Pauli, they then have very little rest before a trip to 2nd placed Greuther Furth on Friday evening. Furth have been formidable at home this season, winning 12 of their 14 home games and scoring 40 goals in those games too. It’ll be a difficult trip, but it’s worth noting that Fortuna Dusseldorf still have to visit Furth too. If St Pauli can take 7 points from these 3 games, i think they’ll put themselves in a great position going into the final weeks.
Paderborn: Many pundits had predicted that Paderborn would falter towards the end of the season, and they have been proved correct in recent weeks. That said, the form (or lack of) of St Pauli and Fortuna Dusseldorf has meant that none of those three sides have managed to open up a clear gap in the race for the 3rd spot. Therefore going into the final few weeks, if Paderborn can recover from their recent slump in form they could still catch the other two. Without a win in four games, Paderborn will face 3 games in 8 days, starting with a home game against 1860 Munich on Sunday lunchtime. 1860 have also struggled in recent weeks, with only 1 win in 6, so the game could go either way. They then face Aue away on Wednesday, followed by a trip to Cottbus on the following Sunday. Whilst both of those sides are in the bottom half of the table, they will be difficult games, with Aue having picked up 8 points from a possible 12 in their last 4 games, and Cottbus always difficult at home, and they’ve picked up draws with both St Pauli and Fortuna Dusseldorf in recent weeks.
The finaly weeks of the season really are too close to call. Dusseldorf and St Pauli have an almost identical run-in, both teams play identical opposition in the next coming weeks, with matches against Dresden, Rostock, Furth, FSV Frankfurt and Union Berlin. The only difference in the run-in is on the final day, when Dusseldorf have a huge local derby against relegated-threatened Duisburg at home, whilst St Pauli will host fellow promotion hopefuls Paderborn. I personally wouldn’t write off the boys in brown just yet, we don’t tend to go down without a fight, and there’s the added incentive of a potential playoff against HSV, too.