Bundesliga′s relegation dogfight gets nastier | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 31.03.2014
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Bundesliga's relegation dogfight gets nastier

With the actual title decided so far ahead of time, the new Bundesliga title is called "surviving the drop." And if you think it doesn't involve any big-name teams, think again.

The tension of the relegation dogfight is beginning to tell on people's nerves. After Saturday night's spectacular 3-2 victory for Freiburg over Nuremberg, things got a little out of hand, as Nuremberg coach Gertjan Verbeek took exception to the touchline antics of his opposite number Christian Streich. The Freiburg coach, he claimed, was trying to gain an advantage by constantly barracking the referee.

"If you see how their coach insulted me - it's shameless, brutal, disrespectful!" he thundered of Streich at the end of the rollercoaster match, in which Freiburg had to equalize twice before Felix Klaus slotted home the winner in the 65th minute.

The Dutchman then boycotted the joint post-match press conference. "I don't want to sit next to my colleague," he told Sky TV. "He isn't a colleague for me. He was acting like a lunatic every time something happened." For the record, Streich was nonplussed at the accusations, denying that he had fired off any insults, before remarking innocently, "He gave me the finger. I can't help it if there's a red card."

1. FC Nürnberg - TSG 1899 Hoffenheim

Verbeek did not take kindly to Streich's antics on the touchline

Elsewhere, Braunschweig's coach Torsten Lieberknecht was sent to the stands in his team's 1-1 draw with Leverkusen on Saturday, after the referee was unimpressed with Lieberknecht's remarks on one of his decisions. "If I get punished for this, it's a joke," he remarked simply after the game, according to news agency DPA.

Troubled teams

The result left Braunschweig rooted to the bottom of the table - four points from safety with six games to play - and though their last two results (particularly the 3-1 win over Mainz in midweek) bears testament to their considerable improvement throughout the season, the phrase "too little, too late" seems to be hanging in the air.

But if Braunschweig are doomed, who is going down with them? This year's relegation scrap remains plenty tight, with only ten points separating Braunschweig from Eintracht Frankfurt in 11th. And yet the 28th match day did thin out the herd a little. Werder Bremen's 90th minute winner away at Hannover, for instance, lifted them eight points clear of the drop-zone, and Freiburg's victory (continuing an excellent run of ten points from their last four games) put precious daylight between them and Stuttgart, currently languishing on the relegation play-off spot in 16th.

As it stands, three clubs are staring into the abyss: Hamburg, Stuttgart, and Nuremberg. But chief among these is Bundesliga legends Hamburg - equal with Stuttgart on 24 points and just one behind on goal difference. HSV's prospects look bleak indeed, especially after their ignominious 3-1 capitulation to Mönchengladbach on Sunday. Even as the fans chanted "Never second league," Mirko Slomka's men looked browbeaten and demoralized after Gladbach's second. The "Bundesliga Dinosaurs" nickname - they are the only team to have played in all 51 seasons of the German top-flight - appears to have become more of a burden than a badge of honor in recent weeks.

Nothing is going HSV's way. Pierre-Michel Lasogga, the striker on loan from Hertha Berlin who provided a valuable spark up front, picked up a muscle injury on Sunday and will miss Friday's clash with Leverkusen. Meanwhile, they have an ugly run-in - with Bayern Munich, the in-form Wolfsburg, and Hannover all to come before they face Augsburg on the final day. Could this be the season where they finally fall?

Fußball HSV Felix Magath Pokal 25.05.1983

HSV, once European Champions, have never been relegated from the top flight

Storied Stuttgart in three-coach club

Stuttgart are almost equally storied as Bundesliga clubs go. The five-time champions have only missed two seasons in the top-flight since the Bundesliga was inaugurated in 1963 - and the 2007 Bundesliga winners graced the Champions League as recently as 2009/2010.

But now under the management of veteran coach Huub Stevens, after stints with Bruno Labbadia and Thomas Schneider this season, they have a fight on their hands. With only one win to their names in 2014, Stuttgart gave up a two-goal lead in their defeat to Dortmund on Saturday, and they too face a horrendous run-in. Given that three of their last six matches involve Bayern, Schalke, and Wolfsburg, next week's match against Freiburg could hardly be bigger - and the same goes for the trip to Hanover on April 25.

That leaves Nuremberg, whose victory over Stuttgart last Wednesday now looks even more significant. The two-point advantage they have over Stuttgart could well prove decisive - but then again, their final six games are no picnic either: Nuremberg must face three of the top five (Wolfsburg, Leverkusen, and Schalke) in their last six games - as well as relegation rivals Hannover in the penultimate fixture.

While the championship has never been won so emphatically, the almighty tussle at the bottom of the table could hardly be tighter - it might even go down to goal difference.

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