COVID-19 enforced postponements have wreaked havoc with the 2. Bundesliga fixture list since the international break in late March. As a result, the promotion and relegation picture hasn’t come into focus until this coming week.
Now that we have an idea as to what will occur and which sides are likely to be involved at both ends of the table, let’s take a moment to set up the final 3 weeks of the season.
As of May 2, the top 4 positions in the table look like this:
1. Bochum – 60 points
2. Fürth – 57 points
3. Hamburg – 52 points
4. Kiel – 50 points
The first three sides have each completed 31 league matches. Kiel are included here because they have only completed 28 as a result of the aforementioned COVID-19 postponements.
Bochum are in the driver’s seat as far as promotion are concerned. They control their own destiny over their final 3 matches against the following sides:
Quite simply, if Bochum win these 3 matches and/or match Fürth results wise over the same timeframe, they will win the 2. Bundesliga and earn promotion back to the Bundesliga for the first time in over a decade.
Despite a loss from a winning position against Darmstadt in Matchday 31, Bochum should have enough points in the bag to finish at least second in the table if they stumble again.
Fürth are in a similar position. If they at least match the results of Hamburg and every other side behind them, they will be promoted, giving the Bundesliga a Franconian based side for the first time since 2019. Kleeblätter’s remaining fixtures are as follows:
This fixture list is on paper more difficult than the one Bochum has, but Fürth have actually outscored Bochum in the Rückrunde (28 points to 27). 3 points is certainly a gap that can be overcome at this juncture, so Fürth are still a serious contender for the league title.
This brings up to HSV, who have endured a third consecutive Rückrunde to forget. With only 3 wins in their last 14 matches, Hamburg have let what was once a solid lead slip from their grasp and now find themselves having to hang on to 3rd to have a chance at the promotion playoff against the Bundesliga’s 16th finishing side.
They’ll have to do it with a new manager, as Daniel Thioune was dismissed from his position just this weekend.
Hamburg’s remaining fixtures look like this:
Considering that their final two fixtures are against teams 16th in the table or lower, if Hamburg don’t finish 3rd this season, they will have only themselves to blame. Unless…
As mentioned previously, Kiel have 3 matches in hand compared to everyone above them in the table. They’ve essentially been playing twice a week ever since the squad came out of quarantine in late April.
This has obviously affected their recent form (a 5-0 drubbing in the Pokal semi-final was evidence enough of that), but based solely on their number of remaining matches, Kiel can’t be counted out of the promotion fight yet.
This is why Bochum cannot officially clinch promotion until Sunday, May 9 at the earliest.
The fight for third place in the league and a spot in the promotion playoff involves even more sides than the automatic promotion contest. As of May 2, there are 6 sides with a realistic, mathematical chance of finishing 3rd in the table at the end of the season:
3. Hamburg – 52 points
4. Kiel – 52 points
5. Düsseldorf – 49 points
6. Heidenheim – 48 points
7. St Pauli – 47 points
8. Karlsruher – 45 points
Hamburg and Kiel’s chances have previously been covered. So we’ll take a look at the other 4 sides with a decent chance.
Düsseldorf’s up-and-down season has nevertheless seen them in the thick of the promotion fight near the end. With a match in hand over Hamburg, Heidenheim, and St Pauli, Düsseldorf may be in one of the best positions if they win their make-up fixture with Karlsruher on May 3 because they’d then be level on points with Hamburg. Here are their 3 other remaining fixtures:
The Matchday 34 match-up against Fürth could be a big one for both sides.
Just a point behind Düsseldorf are Heidenheim, who need to snap a 2-match losing skid if they want to have any hope of another chance at the promotion playoff. Their final 3 fixtures are:
Heidenheim are a very good side at home, which plays into their hands the final 3 matches, but as previously stated, they’re already on 31 matches completed, which puts them at a disadvantage.
One point further back are St Pauli, who have likely been the league’s best side in the Rückrunde, scoring 10 wins and 31 points. For a side that was sitting in the relegation zone almost up to the midway point of the season, Kiezkicker’s performance in 2021 has been incredible.
The only problem is, this hot-run still may leave them just short of third place, based on their remaining fixtures:
Still, St Pauli are not a side anyone wants to face at the moment and if sides above them stumble, look out.
Finally, Karlsruher still have a mathematical shot to get up to third based on the fact that they, like Düsseldorf, have a fixture to make-up. Ironically, it’s against the aforementioned side, so whoever wins that match will put themselves in a much better position in the fight. Here are KSC’s remaining fixtures after their match with Düsseldorf:
Based on this, Karlsruher have easily the most difficult schedule left of anyone in the promotion fight. It will likely take at least 3 wins, and help from other quarters, for KSC to get up to third, but they still technically have a shot.
Compared to the fight at the top of the table, the relegation fight at the opposite end is fairly straightforward. There are 4 sides in realistic danger of relegation or being forced to play in the relegation playoff:
15. Sandhausen – 31 points
16. Braunschweig – 30 points
17. Osnabrück – 27 points
18. Würzburger – 21 points
Würzburger are all but assured of relegation, as they sit 9 points behind 16th placed Braunschweig with only 3 matches left.
Sandhausen, before losing to Fürth on Matchday 31, had won 3 straight, and appear to be in the best position to avoid relegation, as they have a match in hand on the three sides trailing them.
After a season in which they’ve been in-and-out of the relegation zone at times, a 15th place finish would be like a god-send for Sandhausen. Here are their remaining fixtures:
Sandhausen shouldn’t assume they’re safe however, with Braunschweig sitting just a point behind them. Braunschweig have been able to get points on a pretty consistent basis over the last two months, but most of these have come via draws as opposed to wins. That’s largely why Sandhausen have been able to overhaul them in the table.
Braunschweig have a tough fixture list left:
Braunschweig would love to play spoiler for either Düsseldorf or Hamburg in the final weeks because such a result would also go a long way toward keeping them in the second division for another year.
Finally, there’s Osnabrück, who have put together one of the worst half-seasons in recent memory. Lila-Weiß have just one win in the Rückrunde and have accumulated an astounding 5 points in 14 matches. That has seen them plummet from mid-table to near bottom at this point in the season, staring relegation squarely in the face.
They need to turn things around fast to avoid relegation. Here are their remaining fixtures: