At Schalke there is a fear of further relegation, Hamburger SV is threatened with painful déjà vu, and at Hertha BSC the frustration over the bitter cup exit runs deep.
The three traditional clubs that were still highly valued at the start of the season are ahead in terms of average attendance in the 2nd Bundesliga, but they hardly live up to their sporting demands. The fact that FC St. Pauli and SpVgg Greuther Fürth will play the top game as first and second in the table on Saturday (1 p.m./Sky) fits into the picture of the weakening Bundesliga dinosaurs.
The seven-time German champions from Gelsenkirchen are particularly frustrated. Only the slightly better goal difference separates the 15th place in the table. from a direct relegation spot. If the basement duel with Eintracht Braunschweig on Saturday (1 p.m./Sky) is lost, there is a risk of alarm. According to midfielder Ron Schallenberg, the senses of all professionals are sharpened: "No one has to worry that we don't know what it's about. The team has understood the seriousness of the situation. We're not stupid."
But in the 1:4 defeat in Kaiserslautern on the last match day, Schalke did not give the impression that they were prepared for a passionate fight to stay in the league. This may have been because after the positive impressions at the winter training camp in Portugal, everyone involved was looking more upwards than downwards. After the false start to the second half of the season with two defeats against HSV (0-2) and in Kaiserslautern, mental games about catching up to the top of the table are a thing of the past.
New sports director, new hope
The engagement of club legend Marc Wilmots as sports director during the winter break provided new hope, but not the hoped-for turnaround. “It will most likely be a relegation battle until the end,” admitted Schallenberg, “we have to face that.”
A further crash would dramatically worsen the already difficult situation of the heavily indebted club. Media reports about an opposition group and a possible return of long-time supervisory board chairman Clemens Tönnies have recently caused unrest. Only a win can help smooth things over. Coach Karel Geraerts hopes that his professionals can cope with this tricky starting position and slow down the recent highs of the penultimate team from Braunschweig, who have won four times recently: "The mental aspect is the most important thing on Saturday. We can't be afraid of the pressure, we can't panic and don't have to question everything."
Skepticism is also growing at HSV. Finally, there are increasing signs that the same story is repeating itself. Since relegation in 2018, the former Bundesliga giant has been on the verge of returning to the top flight five times, but in the end always remained second-class. After only three wins from the last seven league games, the team slipped out of the promotion places. A defeat on Saturday (8.30 p.m./Sky) at Hertha BSC could further weaken Tim Walter's position. But the football teacher is relaxed: "Because we are within striking distance, are not unassailably behind, but only have one point over the top places, I am still relatively calm."
The fact that the game between HSV and Hertha is considered the “top game” of the week has more to do with the great tradition of both clubs than with the table. Ultimately, Hertha has to be content with a place in the gray middle. After the sudden death of President Kay Bernstein, the club is still reeling from this tragedy. This also became clear in the 1:3 defeat in the cup quarter-finals against Kaiserslautern. "It hurts that we can't look at the sky and say: For you we've progressed a round today," complained goalkeeper Marius Gersbeck to Sky after the game. A win over HSV would help alleviate the frustration over the cup trauma.