Germany's three clubs involved in the Europa League still have a chance of advancing to the knockout stage. However, Cologne, Hoffenheim and Hertha Berlin all need to earn points on Matchday 5 to keep those hopes alive.
Cologne vs. Arsenal, Thursday 7:00 p.m. (CET)
Cologne fans won't like to hear this but their team's match against Arsenal on Thursday could be their last home game in European competition for some time. Mired in last place in the Bundesliga with just two points from their first 12 games, the Billy Goats are looking much closer to relegation to the second division than to returning to Europe next season.
The good news, though, is that although Cologne are bottom of Group H on three points, the team in second place, Red Star Belgrade, only have five, meaning that if they were to get a favorable result in Müngersdorf, they would still have a chance of advancing to the knockout stage.
Still, Cologne's embattled Austrian coach, the man who first got them promoted to the Bundesliga before leading them into Europe for the first time in 25 years, isn't quite thinking quite that far ahead.
"We're up against an extraordinary opponent in a great atmosphere. A good result would be good for our confidence," Peter Stöger told the prematch press conference on Wednesday.
That getting a "good result" will be difficult goes without saying against the Premier League's sixth-placed team, which beat them 3-1 at the Emirates in September, in a match marked by security issues that eventually saw Cologne fined. Stöger's job won't be made easier by the fact that a number of key players, including national team defender Jonas Hector, are out with injuries.
"We can field 11 players, our job will be to find a formation in which they feel comfortable, Stöger said.
There's also another tidbit of good news for Stöger personally: Whatever happens on Thursday, Cologne management have promised that he will be on the bench for the club's Bundesliga match against Hertha Berlin on Sunday.
Athletic Bilbao vs. Hertha Berlin, 7:00 p.m.
With four points from their first four matches, Hertha Berlin are also looking for a win to keep their hopes of advancing from Group J alive, but their trip to Bilbao didn't get off to the best start. The flight they were scheduled to take was scuppered by a mechanical problem with the plane. The team eventually did embark on their trip – in a different plane and five hours behind schedule.
Head coach Pal Dardai took the inconvenience in their stride, making use of the delay to move their last pregame training session to their facilities at Berlin's Olympic Stadium.
"We have to get moving and train – and not at 10:00 p.m.," Dardai said before their plane finally departed. "We're thinking positive."
Braga vs. Hoffenheim, 9:05 p.m.
A defeat on Thursday would also leave Germany's third team in the Europa League with no chance of advancing. Hoffenheimare third in Group C on four points, three fewer than their hosts on the night, the Portuguese side Braga. Coach Julian Nagelsmann's only immediate problem may also be a medium-term issue. First-choice striker Sandro Wagner has been ruled out of Thursday's match by the flu. On the positive side, this will let Nagelsmann to consider what his post-Wagner attack might look like – the striker has let it be known that he wants to move to Bayern Munich as soon as possible. That would be the January transfer window.