Bundesliga: Battle to avoid the drop dominates this weekend's action
Last Updated: February 22, 2013 9:25am
The battle to avoid the drop dominates this weekend's agenda in the Bundesliga, with the bottom three clubs all desperate to show signs of recovery before it becomes too late.
Hoffenheim, Augsburg and Greuther Furth are within four points of each other, with a gap of 10 points between 16th-placed Hoffenheim and safety, meaning the fight for the one relegation play-off berth, rather than direct relegation, is likely to involve just these three clubs.
And on Saturday 17th-placed Augsburg host Hoffenheim in a match which could go a long way to deciding both teams' fates.
"Personally, I really love playing games like the one against Augsburg. You've really got to fight and give it everything you've got." said Hoffenheim's Kevin Volland.
Hoffenheim currently lie a point ahead of their opponents and a win would be a big step away from the automatic relegation places.
Bottom-placed Furth have taken action to try and avert an immediate return to the second division by sacking coach Mike Buskens on Wednesday.
Reserve team coach Ludwig Preis and the club's director of sport Rouven Schroder have been placed in temporary charge of the first team, starting with Sunday's clash with Bayer Leverkusen.
The first game this weekend is between two sides who, at least before the season started, were expected to be fighting for their lives at the bottom of the table.
Instead, the winner of Freiburg's clash with Eintracht Frankfurt tomorrow night will end the weekend in fourth place, a qualification berth for the Champions League next season.
Bayern Munich, who host Werder Bremen, and Borussia Dortmund, who travel to the Borussia Monchengladbach, are both likely to take two of the
Bundesliga's other Champions League berths with Leverkusen also on course for a return to Europe's top club competition.
The battle for Europa League places is as intense as ever, though, with northern rivals Hannover and Hamburg meeting at the Niedersachsenstadion and Mainz hosting Wolfsburg with sixth place the focus of their attentions.
Likewise, Schalke will be keen not to lose further ground on the top six when they host Fortuna Dusseldorf on Saturday.
Finally, Stuttgart will be looking to build on their first win of 2013 against Hoffenheim when they host Nurnberg.