Hannover 3 – Dresden 0
Hosts Hannover heaped more misery on bottom club Dresden with a comprehensive win at the HDI-Arena on Wednesday evening.
John Guidetti missed an early header just to the right, but Die Roten didn’t have to wait long to get the opener. Julian Korb got good positioning on the right side, fed Marvin Ducksch in the area and the striker pushed the ball past keeper Kevin Broll for a 10th minute lead. Korb was the provider again in the 17th minute with another cross from the right. Dominik Kaiser stepped over the ball and Guidetti swept it into the far corner for 2-0.
Guidetti forced Broll into a save in the 37th minute, but Hannover would get a third just before halftime when Ducksch set up Edgar Prib to head in from close range.
Dresden’s René Klingenburg hit the bar with a header early in the second half, but other than that close call, Ron-Robert Zieler wasn’t tested all that much in the Hannover goal. Dresden’s offensive struggles, which have plagued the side all season, don’t seem to be going away anytime soon.
Hannover jump up to 6th in the table with the win.
As the 2. Bundesliga heads into its final 5 matchdays for the season, the promotion fight, which will determine the two or three sides that will make the jump to the Bundesliga for 2020-21, looks to be coming down to four, or possibly five, squads. Here is how the top of the table currently stacks up:
1. Arminia Bielefeld – 56 points
2. Stuttgart – 51 points
3. Hamburg – 49 points
4. Heidenheim – 48 points
5. Darmstadt – 43 points
Before the league moves into the final 5 matchdays, let’s take a look at the sides who have a realistic shot at promotion to the Bundesliga at this point. We’ll start from the bottom and make our way up.
For a team that was in the relegation zone nearly a third of the way through the season, Darmstadt have done remarkably well to put themselves in 5th at this point. While they have the fewest victories of the top 5 teams (10), they are tired for the second fewest losses (6) and have the highest number of draws (13).
Serdar Dursun has carried the load for them thus far, with 13 goals, and Darmstadt are regarded as one of the most dangerous teams on set pieces in the league.
The problem Darmstadt has is that not only do they need a lot of help from the teams in front of them to get up into the top 3, two of their last three league matchups are against teams already ahead of them and both are on the road.
While it’s still certainly possible for them to make up the gap, it may be a case of too little, too late for Die Lilien.
This is the only club in the top 5 that has never previously played in the Bundesliga. Manager Frank Schmidt is also the longest-tenured manager in either the first or second division, having been in charge of Heidenheim since 2007, shortly after the club was created.
While Heidenheim weren’t regarded as one of the favorites for promotion going into the season, last season’s 5th place finish and near upset of eventual double winners Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals of the Cup certainly put them on the radar.
Despite an inconsistent Hinrunde, they’ve managed to remain in the top half of the table virtually all season, and now find themselves closer than ever before to promotion. Heidenheim are regarded as one of the better coached sides in the league and they can be very difficult to break down, particularly at home in the Voith-Arena.
The issue Heidenheim has compared to the other teams around them is their attack. With only 38 goals scored in 29 league matches, the club lies in the bottom half of the table in terms of offensive output. Tim Kleindienst leads the club with 12 league goals.
If a club wants to seriously challenge for promotion, let alone be competitive in the Bundesliga, they’ll need to find their shooting boots fast.
The schedule might give them a real chance to break into the top 3 however. A matchday 33 date on their home ground with 3rd placed Hamburg looks tantalizing.
Hamburg and their supporters will be kicking themselves for being in a real fight for promotion for the second consecutive season. After the colossal disappointment of a 4th place finish last season, Hamburg brought in Dieter Hecking and a slew of new summer signings to ensure that what happened in 2018-19 did not happen again this season.
At times, the side has looked like a shoo-in for a return to the Bundesliga. They lead the league in goals scored (55) and have notched dominating wins on the year, none bigger than the 6-2 thumping they gave Stuttgart in the Hinrunde.
But at other times, the club has looked every bit the stumbling side it has been for the better part of a decade. For the first time in their history, HSV lost both legs of the Hamburg Derby to crosstown rivals St Pauli. Hecking has been criticized for relying too much on older veterans such as Aaron Hunt and Martin Harnik, both of whom have been a part of relegated Bundesliga sides in their careers, rather than the younger players at his disposal. As a result, players such as Lukas Hinterseer and leading goalscorer Sonny Kittel have seen their production drop off in the Rückrunde.
A disastrous loss in the return fixture against Stuttgart in Matchday 28 saw them slip to 3rd, making another potential stay in the second division a disturbing possibility. Hamburg could certainly get back into the top 2; they have the players to do it. But their inconsistency could kill them, as it did last season.
In an eerier parallel to last season, Hamburg face a daunting Matchday 33 fixture on the road against a fellow promotion candidate. Last year, an upstart Paderborn side welcomed them to the Benteler-Arena on the second to last day of the season and tore them to pieces, clinching automatic promotion to the Bundesliga with a 4-1 win. This year, Hamburg will travel to Heidenheim on Matchday 33. Might they be in for a repeat performance?
Stuttgart are in line for a promotion back to the Bundesliga, but it’s not the situation many predicted at the start of the season.
Widely regarded as one of the favorites to win the league, Stuttgart hit a prolonged dry spell in the middle third of the year that saw manager Tim Walter dismissed and dreadful attacking inconsistency.
The new signings they brought in to bolster their squad after losing the relegation playoff to Union Berlin last summer haven’t panned out the way they hoped. They’re having to rely on aging players such as Mario Gómez, Gonzalo Castro, and Holger Badstuber, players who were part of last year’s disappointing squad, to carry the load.
Stuttgart have been fortunate that fellow promotion candidates have also been beleaguered by inconstancy; Hamburg go hot and cold from match to match and Heidenheim haven’t been able to score enough. This has allowed them to stay in the promotion fight despite all the problems they’ve had, and a big come from behind win against HSV in Matchday 28 pushed them up to 2nd in the table.
Their remaining schedule doesn’t appear too daunting, though a derby matchup away to Karlsruher in Matchday 30 stands out. If manager Pellegrino Matarazzo is able to keep it together, Stuttgart should be able to secure a spot in the Bundesliga next season. But given how their season has gone thus far, it’s not guaranteed.
The season’s Cinderella team is in the catbird seat for not only the league title, but a return to the Bundesliga for the first time since 2009. It’s been a long road back to this point for Bielefeld, but the season they’ve had thus far deserves nothing less.
Bielefeld and manager Uwe Neuhaus have been the most consistent side in 2019-20. They’ve been in the Top 3 ever since Matchday 6 and while inconsistencies have plagued Stuttgart and Hamburg, Bielefeld kept grinding out results match after match and have been on top of the table since Matchday 15.
Their attack led the way at the start of the season. Fabian Klos and Andreas Voglsammer were both early candidates for players of the season and Klos in particular has been a menace to the entire league all year. Even after losing Voglsammer to a broken foot in January, Bielefeld didn’t lose form. Their defense picked it up as the season progressed, and they now have the league’s fewest goals conceded (26). As a result, Bielefeld have only suffered 2 losses through 29 league matchdays in 2019-20, one of which was in controversial circumstances against Stuttgart.
Barring a sudden drop in performance, Bielefeld look good to secure promotion and the league title. They have a match in hand on everyone chasing them, due to their Matchday 28 home fixture against Dresden being postponed to the midweek slot between Matchdays 31 and 32.
If you’re into magic numbers, here’s one for Bielefeld:
That’s the number of wins Bielefeld need in their final 6 matches to clinch automatic promotion, and that’s even assuming one of either Hamburg or Heidenheim win all of their remaining fixtures.
4 wins clinches the 2. Bundesliga title.