With just nine games to play for each side in the Bundesliga before the end of the campaign, every point is crucial. But what should you look out for throughout matchday 26? GGFN’s Jon Radcliffe takes us through the weekend’s fixtures.
Tayfun Korkut’s time at Hertha is running out
After replacing Hannes Wolf during the second half of the 2017/18 campaign, Tayfun Korkut steered VfB Stuttgart well clear of relegation during a stunning Rückrunde. In 14 Bundesliga games, the ‘Schwaben’ amassed 31 points, losing just once along the way and beating the likes of Bayern Munich, Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach. That success is one of the reasons why Fredi Bobic chose to hire the Turk following the dismissal of Pál Dárdai last December.
However, Korkut has been unable to reproduce that Stuttgart form as Hertha’s situation looks more and more perilous with each passing week. His spell at the Olympiastadion started well enough, with the ‘Alte Dame’ picking up seven points from his first four matches, including a 3-2 win over Dortmund. Of the subsequent nine games, though, Hertha have lost seven, picking up just two draws. The defence has been particularly shambolic, with 29 goals conceded during that time, while they have only found the back of the net on eight occasions themselves. As such, Hertha have slid to 16th in the table, which would see them face a tricky tie against third in the 2. Bundesliga should they remain there at the end of the campaign.
As the side from the German capital travel to Mönchengladbach this Saturday, the encounter with the ‘Fohlen’ could be Korkut’s last in charge if he does not pick up at least a draw, and even that may not be enough. Gladbach are hardly in good form themselves, sitting in 13th place and with just two wins to their name this calendar year. Just four points above them in the table, Borussia are one of Hertha’s relegation rivals, which only adds to the importance of this clash. Whether Korkut is in charge when the ‘Big City Club’ host Hoffenheim next week remains to be seen.
Time for Eintracht Frankfurt to save home form
Fresh from their 2-1 victory away at Real Betis in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League Round of 16 tie, Eintracht Frankfurt’s next match is at home against VfL Bochum on Sunday. However, their European form belies their position in the Bundesliga, where they sit tenth and, although a place in the top six, and therefore qualification for more continental football next term, is not out of the question, they must improve their performances at the Commerzbank Arena as soon as possible if they are to do so.
Ten from a possible 15 points away from home in 2022 is a good return, especially in comparison to their torrid results in Frankfurt. Not only are Oliver Glasner’s men without a win at home since the turn of the year, but they also haven’t picked up a single point. While losing to Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich is far from surprising, defeats to Arminia Bielefeld and Wolfsburg are far less forgivable.
Frankfurt’s next visitors are Bochum, who have won 12 points from their last eight matches and have moved up to 11th as a result. A victory on Sunday could even see them move above the ‘Adler’, and the home side’s record in front of their own fans will surely give Thomas Reis and Co. confidence. For Glasner and his players, Thursday’s win at Betis must be used as inspiration, otherwise it may be another disappointing afternoon.
Marco Reus to further cement legendary status at Dortmund with 350th competitive fixture
While many Dortmund stars have moved on from the Signal Iduna Park upon reaching superstar status, such as Robert Lewandowski, Mario Götze and, more recently, Jadon Sancho, Marco Reus has been one of the few constants at a club where outgoings are as frequent as new arrivals. The club captain, Reus has managed 153 goals and 108 assists at the club since making a move from Borussia Mönchengladbach in 2013, and he is set to further cement his legendary status when he makes his 350th appearance for the Ruhr-based outfit at home to Arminia Bielefeld on Saturday.
His commitment and performances cannot be questioned, but they have seldom translated into silverware. Signing the summer after Jürgen Klopp’s side completed a historic double, Reus has got his hands on just two DFB Pokals. Bayern, of course, have lifted the last nine Bundesliga titles, with Dortmund usually runners-up, and the Bavarians were also their nemesis in the 2013 UEFA Champions League final, which the ‘Schwarzgelben’ lost 2-1. Still, despite often having to settle for second best, Reus has stayed true to his hometown club, and for that, he deserves enormous credit.
Already out of the Pokal and European competition, Dortmund can cling to a glimmer of hope in the German top flight. Bayern remain the team to beat, but they have not been at their glittering best in 2022, already losing twice in the league. Although BVB are nine points behind, they have a game in hand and still have to play the Bavarians. Slip-ups can unfortunately not be ruled out for Marco Rose’s side, who have been erratic at times this season, but the potential return of Erling Haaland from injury could provide a considerable boost. To lift the title, Dortmund may well need to win all ten matches between now and the end of the term, and even that may not be enough. If anyone deserves it, though, it is Reus, and his contribution will be pivotal to where his team ends up.
Greuther Fürth’s home form faces biggest challenge yet
Eleven points adrift of safety as we enter the business end of the season, Fürth’s predicament looked a lot worse before the start of the Rückrunde. With 11 points to their name in 2022, they have already managed more than double the five they picked up in the Hinrunde, and their home form has been paramount to their improvement. They are currently in the midst of a six-game unbeaten run at the Sportpark Ronhof, although that form will face its toughest test so far when RB Leipzig come to town this weekend.
Some questioned Schalke 04’s decision to sack Domenico Tedesco just months after he had led them to a second-place Bundesliga finish, and the Gelsenkirchen-based outfit’s fall from grace has only supported that scepticism. After a spell at Spartak Moscow, Tedesco returned to Germany to take up the vacancy left by Jesse Marsch three months ago, and he has got the most out of a talented squad since then. After looking in danger of missing out on European football altogether, Leipzig are now fifth and seem well-placed to clinch the last Champions League qualification spot.
Both sides will be under pressure on Sunday evening. Although Leipzig are clearly a better side than Fürth, the ‘Kleeblätter’ must look to grab points from every match if they want to remain in the Bundesliga for a second successive season. With fourth-placed Hoffenheim hosting Bayern Munich the day before, Leipzig may well be able to breathe a little easier than their opponents, but anything other than a comfortable victory against bottom of the table will be seen as an underachievement. Only time will tell who can best handle the occasion.
Can Stuttgart’s young guns continue revival against Union’s golden oldies?
Given that Stuttgart have lost by more than two goals just three times in the Bundesliga this season, it is somewhat surprising to see them sit in 17th, with relegation to the second-tier looming. While they have rarely been humiliated, they have too often lacked the concentration and cutting edge needed to eke out more points. Last season, the youngest squad in the division played without fear as they impressed amongst the elite, but that youthful exuberance has not manifested itself this time around. Still, avoiding relegation is not impossible, and their victory over Mönchengladbach last time out will give them confidence as they travel to Union Berlin this weekend.
In the ‘Eisernen’, Stuttgart will be facing the oldest squad in the Bundesliga, with an average age of over 28. As we discussed last week, Union’s form has slipped since the January transfer window and the exit of two key players, and they were once again on the losing end against Wolfsburg last time out. Another season of European football remains a realistic objective, though, and a 75% capacity crowd will buoy them at the Stadion An der Alte Föresterei as COVID-19 regulations are relaxed across Germany. Still, with a semi-final DFB Pokal clash with RB Leipzig yet to come, Urs Fischer’s men have something else to look forward to, while Stuttgart can focus entirely on their survival attempts. It promised to be an intriguing clash in Berlin.