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Hamburg face Mainz in ‘do-or-die’ battle Schalke need pt to seal CL spot

BERLIN, May 9, (AFP): Thirty-one years after they were crowned champions of Europe, Hamburg could suffer the embarrassment of a first relegation from the Bundesliga on Saturday. The 127-year-old club head into the final weekend and a trip to Mainz in third from bottom place on 27 points, one ahead of Nuremberg and two in front of basement club Eintracht Braunschweig. The bottom two sides will be relegated automatically with the third-bottom side facing a relegation play-off against the third-placed side in the second division. It’s all a far cry from Hamburg’s glory days when Felix Magath, now the manager of relegated English Premier League side Fulham, grabbed the only goal in the German side’s 1-0 final win over Juventus to lift the European Cup in 1983.

That was a side coached by legendary Austrian Ernst Happel, the man who led the Dutch to the 1978 World Cup final in Argentina and who won league titles in four different countries. In stark contrast, the Hamburg of 2013/2014 are already on their third coach after Mirko Slomka took over in February. In a reflection of the instability, Thorsten Fink had only lasted until September while Bert van Marwijk, the former Dutch national team coach, was axed after the winter break. Slomka, who has won just three of his 12 games in charge, is used to flirting with last-moment success and failure.

At Schalke in 2007, he just missed out on the Bundesliga title while, three years later, he secured Hanover’s top-flight status on the final afternoon of the season. The best he can hope for Saturday is the relegation play-off after their hopes of climbing out of the bottom three were dashed in a 4-1 defeat by champions Bayern Munich last weekend. “We have to reproduce our first-half performance against Bayern for the full 90 minutes in Mainz,” said Slomka, whose side trailed by just one goal at the interval last week.

Slomka has warned his side that Mainz will be a dangerous proposition as their opponents need a win to clinch seventh spot and a place in the Europa League next season. “They are tactically variable and are a force at home and want to play in Europe next season”, Slomka told the Hamburg website. “But we are going there to win and not look at what others might be doing.” Slomka hopes striker Pierre-Michel Lasogga will be fit while defender Johan Djourou should also be ready to start. Lasogga, on loan from Hertha Berlin, is Hamburg’s top scorer with 12 goals but has missed the last five matches, four of which his team have lost. If Hamburg lose, then they will need third-placed Schalke and mid-table Hoffenheim to do them favours against Nuremberg and Braunschweig respectively.

At the other end of the table, Bayern will be presented with the championship trophy in their home game against Stuttgart. Second-placed Borussia Dortmund go to Hertha having also made sure of Champions League football next year. Schalke, in third spot, host Nuremberg with a three-point lead over Bayer Leverkuson in fourth, so the Royal Blues need a point to seal an automatic spot in the Champions League. Leverkusen welcome Werder Bremen knowing victory will guarantee a play-off spot in Europe’s elite club competition, but a slip-up would open to the door to either Wolfsburg or Borussia Moenchengladbach, who meet each other.

Saturday (16:30 local)
Bayer Leverkusen vs Werder Bremen, Bayern Munich vs Stuttgart, Augsburg vs Frankfurt, Hanover 96 vs SC Freiburg, Hertha Berlin vs Borussia Dortmund, Hoffenheim vs Eintracht Braunschweig, Mainz vs Hamburg, Schalke vs Nuremberg, Wolfsburg vs Borrusia Moenchengladbach.

Note: Bundesliga matches are shown live on Dubai Sports for free.

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