With five rounds of matches remaining, the battle to avoid relegation from the German top tier intensifies as tensions rise on the training grounds for the five teams involved.
Hertha coach Pal Dardai’s drastic exclusion of midfielder Ivan Sunjic may be just one example of frayed nerves.
The quest to at least reach the relegation play-off is pushing these five teams to their limits.
HERTHA (22 points)
The warm-up was still underway when Hertha coach’s comments were caught by TV cameras. “What do you think? Go away,” the 47-year-old ranted.
“The mental block in the players’ heads seems bigger than I expected. We must overcome it,” Dardai said.
Facing Bayern, relegation rivals Stuttgart and Bochum, Cologne, and Wolfsburg poses a challenge. “You have to see team spirit on the pitch, but I saw none,” the coach revealed.
The financially struggling side has unsuccessfully worked with a mental coach. “I have to try to be persistent; the team needs help,” Dardai said.
Relegation might be manageable with the support of a new sponsor but would require a complete overhaul of the squad and coaching staff.
The most pressing problem is the team’s weakness in away games, with only one victory in the last 42 games. Winning the two remaining home matches (Bremen, Frankfurt) doesn’t seem enough to change their fortunes.
The improvement after the winter break has stalled, and only a miracle seems to help. Losses against Hoffenheim and Freiburg overshadowed the progress made in catching up to other bottom teams. Three away games in Mainz, Bayern, and Leipzig seem like a heavy burden.
Sebastian Hoeness, the club’s fourth coach this season, appears to have ignited new optimism after securing five points in three league matches and reaching the Cup semis.
Besides a renewed tactical approach, the struggling 2007 German champions face a challenging road, with matches against Gladbach, Hertha, Leverkusen, Mainz, and Hoffenheim.
The nephew of former Bayern president Uli Hoeness seems to have found a way to stabilize his team’s mentality and performance.
The former Hoffenheim coach has gained significant acceptance among his new squad, backed by positive results. However, starting with only 20 points, the road to success is long.
The team has the worst defensive record (66) in the top tier. Solid support from their fans provides a sense of optimism. Expectations seem low around the club, as fans appear accustomed to disappointment.
Bochum looks like a mixed bag, and survival is within reach if “we keep our fighting spirit,” as coach Thomas Letsch put it.
Despite having the best starting position, Pellegrino Matarazzo’s team faces the most challenging schedule, with matches against Leipzig, Frankfurt, Wolfsburg, Union, and Stuttgart.
A negative streak could lead to a significant setback, while one victory might resolve the issue. ■