Opinion: Hamburg holds all the cards in Bundesliga relegation battle | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 18.03.2017
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Opinion: Hamburg holds all the cards in Bundesliga relegation battle

Hamburg's 0-0 draw away at Frankfurt makes them look like the losers on Matchday 25, but with nine games to go, DW's Matt Ford is still backing the Bundesliga dinosaur to stay up.

With Bayern Munich on course for a fifth consecutive title and Hoffenheim pulling away in the race for the fourth, it's the battle for survival which is providing most excitement as the Bundesliga enters its decisive phase.

Despite impressive upturns in form under new managers in recent weeks, minnows Darmstadt and Ingolstadt appear resigned to the drop. Above them however, just three points separate 16th and 11th with four teams tied on 29 points. In Hamburg, Wolfsburg, Augsburg, Werder Bremen and Mainz, the Bundesliga has a fascinating relegation fight on its hands - even Europa League quarterfinalists Schalke are not out of the woods yet. Yet despite having survived the relegation play-off in two of the last three seasons, Hamburg look best placed to avoid it this year.

Hamburg's home form

At face value, Saturday's 0-0 draw away at Eintracht Frankfurt makes Hamburg look like the biggest losers on matchday 25 but Markus Gisdol's side still hold all the cards in this fight.

Deutschland Fan-Banner Glaube Liebe Hoffnung Hamburger SV - FC Bayern München (picture-alliance/dpa/K. Nietfeld)

"Belief, love, hope" - HSV fans are backing their team to beat the drop

Going into matchday 25, Hamburg were second in the table in the second half of the season - with 13 points from seven games. The fact that Gisdol highlighted "room for improvement" after a point away at a top-seven side says it all about current levels of expectation on the banks of the Elbe.

Unbeaten in seven league games at the Volksparkstadion, Hamburg's home form is already providing a strong foundation ahead of a favorable run-in. If they can stay in contention after games against Cologne, Dortmund and Hoffenheim, Hamburg finish the campaign with games against all six relegation rivals. Six six-pointers in which they can directly take points from the sides around them - who face teams predominantly in the top half.

Pulling together

Hamburg's 8-0 demolition away at Bayern Munich in February made headlines for obvious reasons, but the reaction to the defeat from all at the club has been telling.

Matt Ford Kommentarbild

DW's Matt Ford

Rather than turn against the team, which they had every right to do, Hamburg's hardcore supporters wrote an open letter to the players and the management, assuring them of their support. "This team doesn't just consist of eleven players, but of all of us," they wrote. "The directors, the players, the management, the staff - and the fans. So let's work together - you on the pitch, us in the stands. Let's show every opponent that we always have a man extra! Make us proud as only you can!"

The letter was read out in the dressing room and has imbued a fighting spirit in this Hamburg side. On-loan defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos best embodies this - the Greek has become the team's leader in word and deed.

Rivals in trouble

In Bremen, rivals Werder are also hitting form at just the right time. Alexander Nouri's team were unbeaten in four before their win against RB Leipzig, and they've also scored ten more goals than any of their rivals. Wolfsburg are making steady progress under confident Dutchman Andries Jonker , but were unconvincing in their 1-0 win over Darmstadt and are perhaps over-reliant on Mario Gomez.

Augsburg are perhaps in the most danger. Following their 1-1 draw at home to Freiburg, Manuel Baum's team have only won one of their last six games and their run-in doesn't get any easier with seven top-half sides including Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Hoffenheim still to come. What's more, it's not a good sign when a team's top scorer is a left back (Konstantinos Stafylidis).

Whoever ends up in that relegation play-off in May will face the toughest test in years as a spirited batch of second-division teams equally play their part. However, given their home form, fixture list, and fans, Hamburg should be safe by then.