The Bundesliga is a bit upside down this season.
Instead of Bayern Munich running away with the title while several teams fight against relegation, there is excitement at the top of the standings while four teams trail well below the rest at the bottom.
Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich and even Borussia Moenchengladbach are the ones keeping the title chase alive. Nuremberg, Hannover, Stuttgart and Augsburg are at the other end — the only hope for any of them is that the others have looked just as bad.
Two teams get relegated automatically at the end of the season, while the team just above them goes into a two-leg playoff against the team that finishes third in the second division.
Last-place Nuremberg has looked hopelessly out of its depth since its return to the Bundesliga after an absence of four years. The team was routed 7-0 in Dortmund, 6-0 in Leipzig and is currently on a run of 13 games without a win.
Michael Koellner will become the first Nuremberg coach to go 14 games without a win if his team doesn’t secure three points against visiting Werder Bremen on Saturday.
Hannover, just ahead of Nuremberg on goal difference, fired Andre Breitenreiter as coach after its eighth game without a win on Saturday – a 5-1 loss in Dortmund – and appointed Thomas Doll in his place.
Doll, back in the Bundesliga after 11 years coaching abroad, is still remembered for attacking the media in a news conference while Dortmund coach.
“Everything’s blah blah blah,” the former Germany midfielder raged.
Doll’s bid to save Hannover begins Friday at home against Leipzig.
“II think the team has enough quality to get away from the bottom,” Doll said in contrast to Breitenreiter, who had been calling for reinforcements.
Stuttgart, which is only three points ahead of Hannover and Nuremberg, decided early on for a coaching change, bringing in former Schalke coach Markus Weinzierl for Tayfun Korkut. But the change hasn’t had the desired effect. Stuttgart has lost its last four games.
“The belief in Markus Weinzierl is there. He’s doing a good job and is very focused,” Stuttgart sporting director Michael Reschke said after last weekend’s 4-1 loss in Munich. “We believe we’ll get back on track.”
Reschke, whose team next faces decisive games against Freiburg and Fortuna Duesseldorf, backed Korkut in much the same way before firing him.
Of all the four clubs facing relegation, the turmoil appears greatest at Augsburg. Caiuby was released after returning late after the winter break. The 30-year-old Brazilian midfielder was also late in the summer and had been agitating for a move away from the club.
Meanwhile, Augsburg coach Manuel Baum is losing the players’ backing.
“I can’t say anything positive about him and also won’t say anything negative,” Augsburg defender Martin Hinteregger said of Baum after the 2-0 loss in Moenchengladbach last weekend.
The Austrian was promptly suspended and fined for his comments.
Augsburg appointed former Germany goalkeeper Jens Lehmann as assistant coach on Tuesday to help Baum achieve the turnaround. Baum managed it in similar circumstances two years ago.
All four struggling teams can look to Duesseldorf for inspiration. Promoted as second-division champion last season, Duesseldorf eased its relegation worries with four wins in a row before last weekend’s 4-0 slipup at home against Leipzig.
“We’ll also lose in the next weeks, it happens in soccer,” said Duesseldorf coach Friedhelm Funkel, whose team already has 10 points more than fellow promoted side Nuremberg. “The important thing is that we learn the right lessons and deliver different performances in Hoffenheim, at Schalke and against Stuttgart.”
The top three face tricky games on Saturday. League leader Dortmund visits Eintracht Frankfurt, Bayern plays at Bayer Leverkusen and Gladbach visits Schalke for the late game.