It could be a decisive weekend in the relegation battle as four of the Bundesliga's bottom five clubs face each other. After last season's heroics, Cologne have one last chance to save themselves when they welcome Mainz.
The last time Mainz 05 visited the RheinEnergieStadion in May 2017, the match ended in jubilant scenes as a 2-0 win for Cologne saw the Billy Goats return to European competition for the first time in 25 years.
Fans stormed the pitch, the players were hoisted aloft and ecstatic chants of "Europapokal!" (European Cup!) echoed around the ground. During the post-match press conference, head coach Peter Stöger was drenched in Kölsch beer.
Eleven months later, the situation could not be more different. Cologne are staring relegation in the face and, after "finals" against Augsburg, Hannover, Stuttgart and Bremen all ended in further dropped points, they now face the biggest "final" of all.
A win against fellow strugglers Mainz would see current coach Stefan Ruthenbeck's team move to within three points of the Zero-Fivers with five games left to play. Anything less will surely mean the end.
'The players are angry'
"We haven't been this close to the play-off spot since matchday two," said Ruthenbeck, who is expecting an emphatic response from his players after they "embarrassed themselves" in last week's 6-0 humiliation away at Hoffenheim — a result which gave Cologne the worst goal difference in the league, a potentially decisive factor come the end of the season.
"I don't want to see anything like that ever again," he said. "We've spoken about running, about tactical fouls and about aggression. When you lose 6-0, run as little as we did and don't pick up even a single yellow card — that's a no-go."
"But there's been more aggression in training this week and that gives us hope. The players are angry."
Nevertheless, he continued, some players "haven't responded in the way I had hoped so there will be some changes. We need players who aren't negative." That includes captain Jonas Hector, and Ruthenbeck confirmed that the German international will feature after recovering from a bruised thigh, while Marcel Risse faces a late fitness test.
Striker Simon Terodde, who has scored five goals since joining from Stuttgart in January, missed the trip to Hoffenheim but is likely to start against Mainz. "It will be an even game," he told broadcaster Sky. "There's a lot riding on it for both teams."
Mainz in a mess
Since beating Cologne 1-0 back on matchday 12, Mainz have only won two of their subsequent 16 league games, gradually dropping from 12th to 16th in the process. They haven't scored a single goal since February and have a long injury list to contend with.
"It's been a difficult week," admitted coach Sandro Schwarz after Leon Balogun, Abdou Diallo, Stefan Bell, Danny Latza, Karim Onisiwo, Robin Quaison and Yoshinori Muto all missed training. "At times, we only had 13 outfield players available so we'll have to see who's available on Saturday."
"It's going to be an emotional game – it's Cologne's last chance."
But with their final three fixtures featuring RB Leipzig, Borussia Dortmund and in-form Werder Bremen, it's a huge chance for Mainz to take a step towards safety too.
Mainz have now gone four games without a goal, but did get a point against Borussia Mönchengladbach last Sunday.
Elsewhere on Matchday 29:
- Only goal difference separates 17th-place Wolfsburg from Mainz and the Wolves are at risk of being cut adrift when they travel to Freiburg on Saturday. A win for Christian Streich's team would put the Black Forest side seven points clear of Wolfsburg, who are yet to win a game under new coach Bruno Labbadia.
- Bayern Munich can wrap up the title at the third attempt when they make the short trip to Bavarian neighbors Augsburg. In the last two weeks, Bayern have been reliant on both Schalke and Dortmund dropping points but this time it's in their own hands.
- Cologne aren't the only team looking to bounce back from a 6-0 hiding; Borussia Dortmund suffered the same fate in Munich last week and welcome VfB Stuttgart to the Westfalenstadion on Sunday. The Swabians are still unbeaten under new coach Tayfun Korkut and could plunge BVB into further disarray should they get a result here.
Matchday 29 fixtures:
Hannover vs. Werder Bremen (Friday, 8:30 p.m. CET)
Cologne vs. Mainz (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. CET)
Freiburg vs. Wolfsburg
Augsburg vs. Bayern Munich
Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Hertha Berlin
Hamburg vs. Schalke (Saturday, 6:30 p.m. CET)
Borussia Dortmund vs. Stuttgart (Sunday, 3:30 p.m. CET)
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Hoffenheim (Sunday, 6:00 p.m. CET)
RB Leipzig vs. Bayer Leverkusen (Monday, 8:30 p.m. CET)