The battle for Bundesliga glory may have been over for several weeks already, but those at the bottom of the table are scrapping for survival, and one team in particular is scrapping like never before.
The inevitable was confirmed for FC Koln on Saturday as defeat at SC Freiburg saw them relegated, but they didn’t go down without a fight. The game epitomised the club’s season, the Billy Goats fighting back superbly from two early goals to draw level late on, only for their hearts to be broken as Lucas Holer netted an injury-time winner to condemn Koln to a sixth relegation in the last two decades. And all this came after a fifth-placed finish last term saw them earn Europa League football.
Can the Bundesliga’s yo-yo club bounce back at the first attempt?
— 1. FC Cologne (@fckoeln_en) April 28, 2018
Relegation rivals Hamburger SV did their slim survival hopes a world of good at the weekend with a vital 3-1 win over fellow strugglers VfL Wolfsburg. The win leaves them just two points behind their opponents and gives Hamburg hope of overhauling the Wolves to snatch the relegation playoff place – perhaps Hamburg’s only realistic hope of survival after vital wins for Mainz and Freiburg left them five points ahead of Christian Titz’s side with just two games remaining.
The Red Shorts are hoping to avoid a first-ever relegation from the top flight, but it won’t be easy with games against high-flying Eintracht Frankfurt and mid-table Borussia Monchengladbach to come. Wolfsburg meanwhile, face a tough trip to Leipzig and a home match against already relegated Koln. It could go right down to the wire.
Lewis Holtby got his fourth goal in five games yesterday ☄️
— HSV English (@HSV_English) April 29, 2018
If Hamburg do survive, one player they will have to thank is Lewis Holtby after another star performance from the former Spurs player at the weekend. The 27-year old has been in sparkling form over the last few weeks, netting four goals in his last five games – including a vital winner against SC Freiburg last time out. Titz’s faith in Holtby has certainly been repaid since his recall in March, the Red Shorts losing just two of six games (W3, D1) since his return. Can he single handedly save Hamburg?
Julian Nagelsmann’s Hoffenheim side certainly seem intent on finishing the season on a high. Their 3-1 win over Hannover at the weekend saw them stretch their unbeaten run to nine games (six wins), a streak that has seen them rattle in 26 goals in the process. Croatian striker Andre Kramaric was the hero at the weekend with a first ever Bundesliga hat-trick in a win that saw Nagelsmann’s side move into fourth place. Hoffenheim now look a good bet to seal a Champions League place thanks to the goal-scoring exploits of the former Leicester star, who has been ably supported by on-loan Bayern Munich striker Serge Gnabry and Mark Uth.
— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) April 27, 2018
Should Hoffenheim manage to keep hold of their attacking trio for next season, perhaps signing Gnabry (Bayern certainly don’t need him), then hopes will be high for both European and domestic competition.