The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Hamburger SV hosts reeling Bayern Munich in key Bundesliga match to escape relegation
FRANKFURT - Bayern Munich is reeling from its crushing 4-0 defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinals and now travels to Hamburg for what could be a decisive match for the hosts' desperate attempt to escape relegation in the last matches of the season.
Stuttgart, the only club that could be caught by Hamburg, hosts Wolfsburg and can make sure of staying in the top flight with a victory.
Eintracht Braunschweig and Nuremberg can still catch Hamburg in 16th place, which means a relegation playoff against the third-place team from the second division.
Here are five things to know about Saturday's matches:
Hamburg's disastrous season is at a crucial stage: if it beats champion Bayern Munich, it could still hope to escape relegation for the first time since the founding of the Bundesliga 51 years ago. The only thing that speaks for the tradition-rich club is that Bayern is reeling after its stunning loss in the Champions League. Bayern has two losses in the Bundesliga since it won the title one month ago.
But in the last six meeting, Hamburg has conceded 27 goals against Bayern while scoring four in earning only one draw.
Hamburg is five points behind Stuttgart and one and two points ahead of Nuremberg and Braunschweig, respectively.
"We can't afford to hope for help from others. We have to help ourselves finally," defender Marcell Jansen said.
While it technically needs one point from the last two matches to stay ahead of Hamburg, Stuttgart also has a much better goal difference.
"It's all in our own hands," managing director Fredi Bobic said. "We have to win against Wolfsburg to be sure."
But Wolfsburg is not going to be a pushover. The club still has a chance of clinching a place in the Champions League and coach Dieter Hacking says his team will try to win by all means.
NUREMBERG AND BRAUNSCHWEIG DOOMED?
Nuremberg and Braunschweig looked doomed a few weeks ago but Hamburg's steady decline has offered them some hope to reach at least the relegation playoff place.
Braunschweig hosts Augsburg, which still has a small chance of reaching the last Europa League place. Nuremberg is at home to Hannover.
Nuremberg, facing a record eighth relegation, has lost five straight. Interim coach Roger Prinzen, who took over for the dismissed coach Gertjan Verbeek, also could not stop the losing streak last week.
"We still have not been relegated. In our club, you can never rule out anything, not even a win against Hannover," Prinzen said.
After a see-saw season, Schalke has established itself in third place and is looking at another Champions League season. But Leverkusen is three points behind and theoretically it can still get past Schalke, while even Wolfsburg and Moenchengladbach still have some hopes.
Schalke travels to Freiburg, which has saved itself from relegation by collecting 17 points from the last eight matches.
"We are not running out of gas, I am sure we'll get the necessary points," Schalke's managing director Horst Heldt said.
With second place safely under its belt, Borussia Dortmund can now prepare calmly for the May 17 German Cup final against Bayern.
Dortmund hosts Hoffenheim, but neither team has anything to play for.
Instead, Dortmund will be using the end of the Bundesliga season to hone its attack for the cup final.
Dortmund earlier this month took apart Bayern in Munich 3-0 almost as ruthlessly as Madrid.
The final two Bundesliga matches are striker Robert Lewandowski's chance to win the scorer's title. He currently shares the lead with Bayern's Mario Mandzukic at 16 goals. Lewandowski is joining Bayern next season.
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