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Sports

DW experts need some special divining powers for match day 27

Last weekend's diabolical experiment in divination, involving the monstrous abuse of a tortoise shell, ended in ignominy for DW's pundits. So now they have to fall back on more conventional methods.

Louis van Gaal, Felix Magath and Armin Veh

The Bundesliga carousel keeps spinning

The crystal balls are cracked, the tarot cards are torn, the animal entrails have, erm, gone off.

Last week's experiment with a Chinese tortoise shell did not exactly set the world alight. Nor did an ill-fated attempt to raise the ghost of Nostradamus. DW's sports pundits need a new method of divination. Or else they could just use their razor-sharp intelligence, their subtle intuition and their expertise. Actually, where's that tortoise shell again?

Friday, March 18

Borussia Mönchengladbach - Kaiserslautern

Gladbach have been getting ideas above their bottom-of-the-league station recently by beating Hoffenheim and getting a respectable away draw against Bremen. This week, they'll have home advantage in a relegation battle against Kaiserslautern.

If Gladbach are going to produce a miracle and escape relegation, this would be an excellent time to start - Lautern are the only team in the bottom six that Gladbach will face in the run in, so a win would also deprive a rival of precious points. Lautern, meanwhile, won their first game in 2011 last week, so they'll be tripping the light fantastic.

Prediction: Gladbach 2-1

Saturday, March 19

A sketch of Nostradamus

Where's Nostradamus when you need him?

Hamburg - Cologne

Both teams have possibly resigned themselves to mid-table limbo, but while Cologne are on an upward surge, riding on the back of their biggest win of the season (a 4-0 trouncing of Hanover), Hamburg are still reeling from their biggest defeat (that 6-0 blitz at the hands of Bayern.)

Hamburg are also without the services of ex-coach Armin Veh, of course, who was sacked after that Bavarian humiliation. His replacement Michael Oenning has what he thinks is a joker up his sleeve - media reports say he intends to reintroduce the forgotten Dutch superstar Ruud van Nistelroy to the starting lineup. But one fears the ageing horse-like legend may not be up to speed just yet.

Prediction: Cologne 2-1

Frankfurt - St. Pauli

The second of three relegation slug-fests this weekend, and this is the tightest to call. Only goal difference separates 15th-placed Frankfurt from their 16th-placed guests, and there's nothing to choose between them on current form either. Both utterly dire Frankfurt and totally abysmal St. Pauli have lost four of their last five games. They also boast the two most toothless attacks in the Bundesliga. Barn-doors can rest easy when this bunch of chancers are around.

Prediction: 0-0

Freiburg - Bayern

It's hard to see this derby of the south going any other way than Bayern's. The defending champions will have a rage on after their miserable mid-week capitulation to Inter in the Champions League.

It's the natural order: the bully goes to school, gets beaten up by a big new lad, comes home and kicks a puppy. Plus, the Bavarians have an awful lot to play for. If they don't overtake Hanover and swipe that third Champions League place, the club could face a biblical exodus of superstars.

Arjen Robben has already described qualifying for the Europa League as "the very worst thing that could happen," and intimated that he won't dirty his boots in the second European competition, should Bayern fail. Freiburg, meanwhile, have probably now resigned themselves to the fact that the early part of the season was probably as good as things are ever going to get.

Prediction: Bayern 4-1

Cologne vs. Hanover match

Can Hanover recover from last week's misery at the hands of Cologne?

Hanover - Hoffenheim

The crunch is fast approaching for Hanover. They are on the brink of achieving their best ever finish and enjoying the giddy heights of the Champions League next year. It's all there, beckoning them - the football with all the silvery blue stars on it, the operatic theme tune, the pompous TV commentators. All they have to do is reach out and take it.

Of course, they'll probably choke. Last week's 4-0 defeat to Cologne had the C-word written all over it. But they have a huge boost for this home clash - free-scoring striker Didier Ya Konan is expected to return from injury against Hoffenheim. Hoffenheim are possibly the most gloriously unpredictable team in the league - they were beaten by the bottom club Gladbach two weeks ago, only to come back and put one over on runaway leaders Dortmund last weekend.

Prediction: 2-2

Nuremberg - Bremen

Bremen's erratic, disappointing season continued last week with an uninspiring draw at home to Gladbach. They're only one point off the drop-zone, but are unlikely to go down, given the number of under-performing sides (six) below them in the table.

Still, one has to wonder whether anyone other than part-of-the-furniture coach Thomas Schaaf would still be in the job, considering Werder's high expectations and the Bundesliga's exacting standards.

Unglamorous Nuremberg, meanwhile, are enjoying a fantastic second half of the season, and are now only one point behind Mainz, who occupy a much-coveted Europa League spot. They're on an eight-match unbeaten run.

Prediction: Nuremberg 2-0

Dortmund - Mainz

Not so long ago, this would have been a mouthwatering fixture, with the two best, youngest and most exhilarating teams of the season pitted against each other. But some of the brighter comets burn out faster, and Mainz have dimmed inexorably since the giddy autumn weeks.

They're still very much in the scrap for European football, but while they've done well against teams lower down the league, Mainz have lost to all the teams above them this season, and it seems unlikely they'll have enough firepower against Dortmund this weekend. The runaway leaders, meanwhile, will be keen to erase the blip of Hoffenheim last weekend.

Prediction: Dortmund 2-0

Sunday, March 20

Leverkusen - Schalke

This is a highly-charged local derby, but the soccer will have to compete for media attention with the off-field shenanigans surrounding both clubs. More than likely, Schalke will have their heads a little clearer than Leverkusen, because they have just parted company, albeit acrimoniously, with coach Felix Magath, soon to return to Wolfsburg. Leverkusen coach Jupp Heynckes meanwhile, will decide on Monday whether or not he wants to return to Bayern, a team he has flirted with shamelessly over the years. (The Leverkusen board is not happy.)

As for matters at hand, you can expect a tasty battle on Sunday. Leverkusen have just been dumped out of the Europa League, and they will fight like tigers to protect the second place in the league now. Schalke have been playing well in cup competitions, and are the last German side left in Europe, but their inertia in the league will probably reemerge on Sunday.

Prediction: Leverkusen 3-2

Stuttgart - Wolfsburg

Wolfsburg vs. Hoffenheim match

Wolfsburg are in a right old mess


Match day 27's final relegation six-pointer is the ultimate clash of the lame giants - the champions of 2007 play host to the champions of 2009 in a humiliating bid to escape the drop. Both sides probably consider this kind of undignified scrap beneath them, which may be why they are where they are.

Wolfsburg are in a more desperate situation, stuck in second-to-last spot, two points from safety, having won only two of their last 16 Bundesliga matches - and what do they have to look forward to? The warm, chirpy dressing room presence of Felix Magath. Stuttgart, meanwhile, are on a high having won three on the spin and leapt out of the relegation zone. Plus, Stuttgart's local nuclear reactor Neckarwestheim has just been shut down for three months, so the Swabians will have double reason to celebrate.

Prediction: Stuttgart 3-1

Last week's results: 3 points

Total for the season: 117

Cologne - Hanover 4-0 (DW prediction 0-2)

Bayern - Hamburg 6-0 (DW prediction 1-0)

Schalke - Frankfurt 2-1 (DW prediction 1-2)

Wolfsburg - Nuremberg 1-2 (DW prediction 2-3)

Hoffenheim - Dortmund 1-0 (DW prediction 0-3)

Kaiserslautern - Freiburg 2-1 (DW prediction 0-1)

Bremen - Gladbach 1-1 (DW prediction 4-1)

Mainz - Leverkusen 0-1 (DW prediction 2-2)

St. Pauli - Stuttgart 1-2 (DW prediction 1-1)

Three points for a correct score prediction
Two points for a correct margin prediction
One point for a correct winner prediction

Author: Ben Knight

Editor: Martin Kuebler

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