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Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Former champions in battle for Bundesliga survival

Reuters , Thursday 12 May 2016
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Views: 555

Werder Bremen and VfB Stuttgart are with their back to the wall going into the final match on Saturday with relegation looming large over the former Bundesliga champions.

With Bayern Munich having secured the title, Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen qualified for the Champions League group stage and Borussia Moenchengladbach all but assured fourth spot, attention has shifted to the other end of the table.

Werder, the 2004 Bundesliga champions, are on the relegation playoff spot on 35 points and take on Eintracht Frankfurt, a point above them in 15th place.

Victory will guarantee Werder safety, leapfrogging past their opponents and leaving Frankfurt on the relegation playoff spot.

Coach Viktor Skripnik will welcome back Werder top scorer Claudio Pizarro, who returned to training on Wednesday, having recovered from injury.

"We have everything in our own hands," said Werder's 35-year-old captain Clemens Fritz, who will retire after Saturday's showdown. "We will approach the game with the necessary lightness otherwise we could end up playing too tight."

"We know we have to deliver a performance that in the end will give us three points. Anything else does not matter"

Frankfurt, however, have flourished under new coach Niko Kovac, having won their last three league games and even a point is enough to see them to safety.

Kovac will have his own top scorer back, with Alexander Meier preparing for Saturday's crunch match and sounding confident Frankfurt will get the necessary point.

"It is great to be back in team training," said Meier, back from a 10-week injury break. "We have seen in the past few games that the team is in good form. We will not let off because everyone can read the standings."

Meier, who has scored 12 goals this season, is unlikely to be in the starting lineup but could come on as a substitute.

"What matters is to get that one point. Nothing else," said the forward.

Stuttgart, who secured their last of five German league titles in 2007, are in a far worse position, two points behind Werder on 17th place.

Even a win over at VfL Wolfsburg may not be enough to rescue Juergen Kramny's team, with Stuttgart needing a Werder defeat at the same time to finish on the relegation playoff spot and avoid joining last-placed Hannover 96 into the second division.

Stuttgart set a marker this week with captain Christian Gentner and Daniel Ginczek both extending their contracts irrespective of the division they will be playing in next season.

But pressure on Kramny and sports director Robin Dutt has not eased off after fans entered the pitch after last week's defeat to Mainz 05 to confront players and coaching staff.

More frustration should be expected among Stuttgart fans if one of the Bundesliga's founding clubs goes down for the first time since 1975.

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