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The fight for European spots are set to heat up; a look ahead to Bundesliga Match day 24

February 28, 2013 By Samrin Hasib
The race for the ugly salad bowl can said to be almost over. It is now time to decide the other positions in the table.

The Champions Elect and the Surprise Package Elect

Two years of hurt are being put down the drain this season. Bayern is angrier than ever this season. Each performance is more magnificent than the previous one. The Bavarians official retook the title of the best club in Germany, at least for the time being, by defeating Dortmund 1-0 in the Pokal.

This week, a Hoffenheim side coming off a loss to Augsburg, is the opponent. Hoffenheim has had a bad season. The dressing room morale is poor. This week, they will hope to not get battered by the increasingly beautiful and powerful monster, Bayern München.

Meanwhile, surprise package elect of the season, fourth placed Eintracht Frankfurt will look to keep their place in the top four against last season’s surprise package, Borussia Mönchengladbach. Both clubs have only league matches to look forward to this season following Gladbach’s exit from the Europa League.

Last week, Gladbach claimed a very good point against Borussia Dortmund. The fans will hope that that point instigates a run towards the European spots. Frankfurt’s results have not been excellent following the winter break. They need to start winning soon to keep their European hopes alive.

The Champions of Pressing

Borussia Dortmund, the champions of pressing, was about to be given a taste of their own medicine at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday. Roman Weidenfeller truly saved the Ruhr side from the might of Bayern. Dortmund registered only one shot on target. Manuel Neuer was rarely troubled.

This week, Hannover is the visitor. Hannover battered HSV last week. This is the same Hannover side which BVB took to pieces prior to the winter break in the DFB Pokal. Now, without a domestic title to chase, BVB will look to hold on to second place. Robert Lewandowski, amidst rumors of exit from the club, is set to feature this weekend after the DFB reduced his ban to two matches rather than three.

Mainz, another champion of pressing, takes on Fortuna Düsseldorf. In a rather strange match last week, Fortuna came back to 1-1 against Schalke thanks to Axel Bellinghausen but then lost 2-1 to a fortunate Joel Matip goal. Mainz is coming into this one on a low.

Four minutes into their home DFB Pokal tie against Freiburg, Mainz led 2-0. A second half red card should not have stopped their progress. However, Freiburg scored a late goal and added another in the third minute of injury time. Cue Extra Time! Freiburg scored a third to break Mainz hearts.

Düsseldorf will be looking at this game as a chance to prop up the table. Thomas Tuchel meanwhile will be looking to lift his side’s shattered spirits ahead of a must win game for the sake of European qualification. It takes plenty of heart to press continuously; currently, this is what Mainz might turn out to lack.

Stories from the North

Bremen, Hamburger SV and Wolfsburg could each write their own tales of turmoil this season. The longest novel would perhaps belong to Bremen though. One good result is succeeded by a shockingly poor one. A Bayern side which hardly resembled the best Bayern has to offer swatted them away like an annoying fly. Furthermore, Sebastian Prödl picked up a rather needless red card.

This week Augsburg and Sascha Mölders comes to Bremen. Mölders, the father of four who broke his nose and yet scored a winner against Hoffenheim last week, embodies Augsburg’s heart. Augsburg rose to the Relegation Playoff berth with that win and will now look to chase down none other than Wolfsburg.

Wolfsburg is far away from relegation; however, they are not close to any European berth. Die Wolfe fans and hierarchy will be happy to know that the turmoil is less following the hiring of disciplinarian Dieter Hecking. Also, the club qualified for the semifinals of the Pokal with a win over Kickers Offenbach.

Their opponent this week is topsy turvy Schalke. Aside from a good performance against Galatasaray in the Champions League, Schalke has won two recent games with very average performances. Wolfsburg does not have a good home record and Schalke will be looking to take advantage of that.

Finally, Hamburger SV, which began the season looking like relegation candidates, takes on bottom club Greuther Fürth. Fürth managed to pick up a point under their new manager against Bayer Leverkusen. HSV, despite looking quite average in a lot of games, now occupies a European spot. The club’s stature merits the European berth but does the current squad, especially after last week’s battering at Hannover?

Overachievers and Underachievers

Regular viewers of the Bundesliga know that Bayer Leverkusen has never won the Bundesliga. Leverkusen has finished second so many times that second place almost seems to be their championship. This season, after briefly trying to fight Bayern for the title, Leverkusen was eventually pushed back and currently sits third.

The underachievers of the Bundesliga take on a side which has won the league thrice in its history. Stuttgart never really had a ‘dynasty’ as such but managed to claim at least one Bundesliga title in the past three decades. They qualified for the semis of the Pokal after beating Bochum following last week’s 1-1 draw against Nürnberg.

Nürnberg has one Bundesliga title to their name. Considering the recent troubles of the Bavarian club, few would have guessed so. This southern German side has won nine German Championships overall. Currently ahead of them is a club which is seemingly getting accustomed to Bundesliga life and is perhaps slightly overachieving in SC Freiburg.

Freiburg, buoyed by their recent victory in the Pokal will look to win this one. This is Freiburg’s first progression to the semifinals of the DFB Pokal by the way, a competition which Nürnberg has already claimed four times if the days of the Tschammer Pokal are included.

Is it time to guess the winning margin of Bayern’s next game? Or is it time to cast an eye at the fight for European spots? Let me hear your thoughts!

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