With one final round left to go, three Bundesliga clubs contest the 2020/21 relegation race. Only 1. FC Köln, currently sitting in the second automatic relegation spot, no longer have the chance to control their own destiny.
Despite a bitterly disappointing 0-2 loss to Augsburg, SV Werder Bremen can at least guarantee themselves the relegation playoff spot with a win against Borussia Mönchengladbach next week.
With it all coming down to the final day again for the second straight year, midfielder Leonardo Bittencourt and head-coach Florian Kohfeldt remain confident that they can do it again.
|Leonardo Bittencourt.||Photo: Silesia711, CC-by-SA 4.0|
June 27th, 2020. The scene at the Weserstadion could not have been more tense. Heading into the final matchday of the season, Florian Kohfeldt's Hanseaten sat in 16th place on 28 points. The team not only found themselves in the automatic relegation spot, but also needed a great deal of outside help.
Fortuna Düsseldorf sat two points above them. The only way the north German powerhouse could avoid relegation was if 1. FC Union Berlin upset Fortuna and the team won. If these circumstances unfolded, Bremen would live to fight another day in the relegation playoffs.
No fans would be on hand to cheer the team on. Bremen's PA team did their best to cast a superstitious spell. Nina Hagen's "Eisern Union" anthem rang out across the empty stadium prior to kickoff. Everyone kept their fingers crossed that Kohfeldt's lads could do their part against Markus Gisdol's poor-form FC Köln.
On that particular late June day, Bremen exploded for a 6-1 victory over Köln. Union ended up beating Düsseldorf 3-0. Aided by this bit of luck, Bremen pulled off the improbable feat of survival some days later by beating 1. FC Heidenheim on away goals in the aggregate playoff round.
Eleven months later, it's Köln that needs the luck. Friedhelm Funkel and die Geißböcke need to beat Schalke next week and hope that wither Bremen slip up against Borussia Mönchengladbach or Bielefeld falls to VfB Stuttgart. This time Werder is in the playoff spot.
The cathedral city club's hopes aren't without merit. Things are anything but encouraging for Bremen. Kohfeldt's Hanseaten remain winless in their last eight league fixtures. Today's result notwithstanding, the Effzeh have the much softer opponent in Schalke. Werder play Gladbach.
Marco Rose's foals constitute a very tough opponent for Kohfeldt and company. Reeling Werder may very well be relegated next week for only the second time in their history. Players and coach did their utmost to put on a brave face ahead of the daunting challenge ahead after Saturday's defeat.
Midfielder Leonardo Bittencourt had to assess his team's performance on this matchday first during his post-match interview. Asked how his team failed to score against an Augsburg side operating at a man disadvantage for a 36-minute stretch between Ruben Vargas' straight red in the 13th and Christian Groß' sending off on double-yellows in the 49th, the former Köln and Hoffenheim professional kept it straightforward.
"It sucked," the 27-year-old Bittencourt said of the wasted opportunity, "the killer instinct was missing. We threw everything in, but in the end you have to score a goal."
Bittencourt missed perhaps the best opportunity to equalizer late-on with a hit of the post in the 76th. Asked if he felt an unfair victim of bad luck, the Leipzig native shook his head and stressed that his team simply "provided too little." As to whether he believed that they would be able to provide more against a significantly better team next week, he remained steadfast.
"I have no fear," Bittencourt remarked brusquely. Reporters didn't get much out of the club's head coach after the match, either. Kohfeldt curtly promised that, for the second consecutive year, his squad would "manage it again."
|6||Jeffrey Gouweleeuw (C)|
|14||Jan Morávek ↩71|
|8||Rani Khedira ⚽|
|28||André Hahn ↩90|
|23||Marco Richter ↩70|
|7||Florian Niederlechner ↩75|
|11||Michael Gregoritsch ↪90|
|27||Alfreð Finnbogason ↪75|
|18||László Bénes ↪71|
|20||Daniel Caligiuri ↪70 ⚽|
|23||Theodor Gebre Selassie|
|21||Ömer Toprak ↩55|
|18||Niklas Moisander (C)|
|35||Maximilian Eggestein ↩90|
|10||Leonardo Bittencourt ↩81|
|9||Davie Selke ↩56|
|8||Yūya Ōsako ↪81|
|32||Marco Friedl ↪55|
|7||Milot Rashica ↪56|
|29||Patrick Erras ↪90|