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2. Bundesliga Matchday 33 Preview: Can Bochum and Kiel Clinch Promotion?

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Hamburger SV - Darmstadt 98 Photo by Christian Charisius/picture alliance via Getty Images

It’s taken until mid-May, but as of Thursday all of the 2. Bundesliga matches that were postponed due to COVID-19 testing and quarantining have finally been made up.

Now, with Matchday 33 upon us, the promotion and relegation fights have crystalized into a clear picture, involving 5 clubs at the top of the table and 3 near the bottom. Let’s take a look at where things stand heading into Sunday’s action:

Promotion

Here is how the top 5 in the league table currently sits, with each club having played 32 matches:

1. Bochum – 63 points

2. Kiel – 62 points

3. Fürth – 58 points

4. Hamburg – 55 points

5. Düsseldorf – 53 points

While none of these 5 clubs have officially clinched promotion to the 2021-22 Bundesliga, Bochum and Kiel cannot finish lower than third, which means one of them will be promoted.

VfL Bochum 1848 v SSV Jahn Regensburg - Second Bundesliga Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images

Bochum have held the top spot in the table since Matchday 23 in late February and have been out of the top 2 only once since Matchday 15. They are one of only two sides (St Pauli being the other) with double digit wins in the Rückrunde and boast the best goal differential in the division (+25).

Robert Žulj is one of the front-runners for 2. Bundesliga player of the season and Simon Zoller leads the side with 15 goals scored. Bochum’s performances in recent weeks haven’t been spectacular, but they’ve managed to get the job done with enough consistency to put themselves in pole position for promotion.

Holstein Kiel v SSV Jahn Regensburg - Second Bundesliga Photo by Oliver Hardt/Getty Images

Kiel meanwhile, have ridden a recent hot streak to the brink of their first appearance in the Bundesliga. After being drubbed 5-0 by Dortmund in the semi-finals of the DfB-Pokal on May 1, Die Störche won 4 league matches in the span of 10 days, including 3 fixtures that were postponed due to COVID-19 related issues.

The 12 point surge has seen them vault over both Hamburg and Fürth to where they now sit, just a point out of first place. Midfielder Alexander Mühling and striker Janni-Luca Serra lead the side with 11 goals each, but Kiel have done it with defense for much of the season.

Their 29 goals allowed are by far the lowest in the division. Center-backs Hauke Wahl and Simon Lorenz (who ironically switched from Bochum to Kiel last summer) have been excellent over the past month, barring the cup semi against Dortmund.

With their four most recent wins, Kiel have matched Bochum’s point total in the Rückrunde (30) and sit only one behind St Pauli for most points in the second half.

The math for the two aforementioned clubs is simple: win your Matchday 33 contest and you’re promoted. Both will have the chance to do it away from home, as Bochum visits 12th place Nürnberg while Kiel travel to 9th place Karlsruher.

SpVgg Greuther Fürth v Karlsruher SC - Second Bundesliga Photo by Roland Krivec/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

In 3rd place, Fürth go into Matchday 33 on the outside looking in for automatic promotion. But, they sit in the driver’s seat when it comes to the promotion playoff spot, with a 3 point cushion over Hamburg and 5 points over Düsseldorf.

Kleeblätter missed a chance to clinch a top 3 finish in Matchday 32, when they could only get a point against Karlsruher. But, a win away to Paderborn on Sunday would go a long way toward getting themselves into the promotion playoff.

If Fürth are going to make noise in the last 2 weeks, it’s going to be through their Scandinavian forwards, Branimir Hrgota and Håvard Nielsen, who have 24 goals between them. Fürth have actually equaled their points total from the Hinrunde already (29), but it unfortunately hasn’t been enough to haul back either Bochum or Kiel.

Fürth are the only other side besides the top 2 with a chance at automatic promotion. For Kleeblätter to get there however, they likely need to win both of their remaining matches.

Hamburger SV v 1. FC Nürnberg - Second Bundesliga Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images

Three points below Fürth, Hamburg go into Matchday 33 needing help from others to get back up into 3rd place.

HSV kept themselves in contention for the promotion playoff with a 5-2 thumping of Nürnberg this past Monday. Of the top 5, HSV have the easiest remaining schedule, facing off against relegation candidates Osnabrück and Braunschweig in their final 2 contests.

Simon Terrode finally got back into form with a brace against Nürnberg and manager Horst Hrubesch will be hoping that the rest of his attack can continue to score in their final two matches.

However, HSV’s fate is not in their own hands. They need to win and hope Fürth drop three points in their final two matches. This would likely put Hamburg in 3rd due to a better goal difference. Hamburg is likely the better side of the two, but they’ve been so putrid in the Rückrunde that their return to form might have come too late.

Fortuna Düsseldorf - Eintracht Braunschweig Photo by Marius Becker/picture alliance via Getty Images

Lastly, Düsseldorf are still mathematically eligible for the promotion playoff, but they need even more help than Hamburg.

Düsseldorf are by far the weakest of the top 5 in terms of goal difference (+7). For them to finish 3rd, they would need both Fürth and Hamburg to lose their remaining 2 matches and take all 6 remaining points available to themselves. It’s not a likely prospect, but with a trip to Fürth looming on the final day of the season, Düsseldorf aren’t out of things just yet.

Relegation

Things at the bottom of the table are even cloudier than at the top.

FC Würzburger Kickers v Hamburger SV - Second Bundesliga Photo by Christian Kaspar-Bartke/Getty Images

First things first: Würzburger was officially relegated after their Matchday 32 loss to Osnabrück. Their relegation had essentially been a foregone conclusion for much of 2021, but it was finally confirmed with two matches left.

That leaves 3 sides fighting for safety in the final 2 weeks. Here is how 15th through 17th in the table sits heading into Matchday 33:

15. Sandhausen – 31 points (-19 GD)

16. Braunschweig – 31 points (-24 GD)

17. Osnabrück – 30 points

I’ll give you a moment if those goal differential numbers make you want to vomit.

Alright, so at this moment, none of these three sides seem to have a leg up on the others when it comes to safety. Osnabrück are the only one of the three to have notched a win over the past 3 Matchdays, but again, that was against the only team in the league below them in the table. Sandhausen have the “best” goal difference, but it’s not impossible for Braunschweig to overcome that advantage with 2 matches left.

1. FC Heidenheim 1846 v SV Sandhausen - Second Bundesliga Photo by Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Schedule wise, we’ve mentioned how both Braunschweig and Osnabrück have matches left against Hamburg; at the same time, Sandhausen’s final match of the season is away to Bochum.

So Braunschweig’s other remaining fixture against already relegated Würzburger takes on even more importance. If Braunschweig manage to get a win there, and Osnabrück lose to Hamburg, as seems likely, it would guarantee Braunschweig would finish ahead of Osnabrück.

Sandhausen meanwhile, host Regensburg in their final home match of the season. Regensburg are safe, but they’re only 4 points ahead of Sandhausen and honestly aren’t that much better than them. A Sandhausen win isn’t an unreasonable expectation.

What this essentially means for Osnabrück is that they need to get some sort of result against Hamburg in order to have any realistic chance at getting up to 15th. More than likely, they need to win to have a chance.

No matter what, only one of these three sides will achieve safety. One will still have to face the relegation playoff against the third place finisher of the 3. Liga at the end of May.