the republic logo

Emotions running high as Bundesliga enters business end of season; 9 clubs fighting relegation

bug
Share/Save/Bookmark

BERLIN — With the Bundesliga headed to a conclusion, the coaching changes have been coming steadily.

Borussia Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp has decided to call it a day after seven years in charge, and Hamburg re-appointed former coach Bruno Labbadia in a desperate attempt to stave off the club's first relegation.

Only six games remain with a host of clubs battling the drop.

Meanwhile, Bayern Munich could be facing a surprise Champions League exit.

Here are some things to know ahead of this weekend's games:


LAST-CHANCE LABBADIA

Labbadia's task to save Hamburg, last in the league after four straight defeats, begins with a trip to rival Werder Bremen for the 102nd northern derby.

Bremen fans are taking pleasure in their foes' plight, though their side was bottom earlier this season until Robin Dutt was fired. Viktor Skripnik has since led the team on a five-game winning run.

Such a turnaround seems unthinkable for Hamburg, which hasn't scored in five games, has the league's worst attack, and hasn't won in eight.

Defender Johan Djourou is suspended against Bremen after being sent off in the 2-0 home loss to Wolfsburg. It emerged after the game that Djourou also came to blows with Swiss teammate Valon Behrami in the changing room at halftime.

Labbadia is Hamburg's fourth coach of the season.


END OF AN ERA

Only six points clear of danger in 10th, Dortmund still isn't safe from the drop after losing its last two games.

While he said the team's travails this season (Dortmund was last in February, now 37 points behind Bayern) had nothing to do with his decision, it's clear that the fall from grace helped convince Klopp he was no longer the perfect coach for the club.

Klopp has appeared at a loss to deal with his side's slump and the 47-year-old German hasn't escaped criticism despite being Dortmund's most successful coach with an average of 1.91 points per Bundesliga game.

His departure could galvanize the side to give him a worthy send-off. While the European places appear out of reach through the league, the German Cup - where Dortmund has a semifinal match at Bayern - offers the chance of Europa League qualification.

PHOTO: Borussia Dortmund's head coach Juergen Klopp sits in front of the club's logo at a press conference in the Dortmund stadium, Wednesday, April 15, 2015. Klopp will leave Borussia Dortmund at the end of this season after seven years in charge, stepping down after a dismal season for the soccer club. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
Borussia Dortmund's head coach Juergen Klopp sits in front of the club's logo at a press conference in the Dortmund stadium, Wednesday, April 15, 2015. Klopp will leave Borussia Dortmund at the end of this season after seven years in charge, stepping down after a dismal season for the soccer club. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Saturday's home game against Paderborn promises to be an emotional affair.

Dortmund is the best-placed of nine teams battling the drop, with Cologne, Hertha Berlin, Mainz, Freiburg, Hannover, Paderborn, Stuttgart and Hamburg all following.


BAYERN PREOCCUPIED

With the Bundesliga title all but sown up — Bayern needs just three more wins to make it three straight championships — the Bavarian powerhouse is preoccupied with the Champions League after losing the first leg of the quarterfinals 3-1 at FC Porto on Wednesday.

Pep Guardiola is ruing injuries to the likes of Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, David Alaba and Bastian Schweinsteiger, and the Bayern coach will be hopeful of avoiding any more at Hoffenheim on Saturday with Porto visiting for the second leg on Tuesday.

"It's a complicated result but we'll try everything in the return game with our fans and we won't give up so easily," Guardiola said Wednesday.


MISSING MEIER

Eintracht Frankfurt is counting the cost of league-leading scorer Alexander Meier's knee injury.

Meier, who has 19 goals this season, had surgery Tuesday on his patellar tendon and will miss the rest of the season.

"Alex's absence hits us hard. We hoped he would be able to help us in the last games of the season with his goals," Frankfurt coach Thomas Schaaf said of the player Frankfurt fans call a "football god."

Schaaf might consider focusing on defense with Stefan Aigner (nine goals) also out and Marc Stendera suspended at home against third-place Borussia Moenchengladbach on Friday.

Frankfurt's 51 goals helped cover over the 57 conceded — only Bremen has a defense as bad — but without his goalscorers Schaaf will have to rethink his swashbuckling style.


SCHALKE STUTTERING

Schalke coach Roberto di Matteo is coming under increased pressure after four games without a win.

Champions League qualification appears out of reach with fourth-place Bayer Leverkusen 10 points clear. And the Europa League is not certain either with Augsburg two points behind and Hoffenheim another two back.

Europa League qualification is now the minimum requirement, though the season will still be viewed as a failure for a club used to qualifying for the Champions League.

There were whistles for the side after last Saturday's goalless draw at home with relegation-threatened Freiburg and it won't get any easier at second-place Wolfsburg on Sunday.

Think your friends should see this? Share it with them!

Story copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Feedback, Corrections and Other Requests: AP welcomes feedback and comments from readers. Send an email to info@ap.org and it will be forwarded to the appropriate editor or reporter.


All content copyright ©2015 The Republic, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.
All rights reserved. Privacy policy.