MUNICH (Reuters) - Former Bundesliga champions VfB Stuttgart and Hamburg SV will make what could be their last roll of the dice to remain in the top division when they face each other in the penultimate match of the season on Saturday.
Former European champions Hamburg have gathered some momentum under new coach Bruno Labbadia with two wins and a draw in his four matches in charge, moving up from last place and into 14th on 32 points.
However, with last-placed Stuttgart just two points behind, Hamburg are far from safe as they bid to remain the only team that has played in every Bundesliga season since its foundation in 1963.
“We have managed to put our fate in our own hands,” said keeper Rene Adler, who has been reinstated as number one under Labbadia.
“We want to win at Stuttgart so that we can have a final at home against Schalke 04 on the last matchday.”
Labbadia is the fourth coach this season after Mirko Slomka, Joe Zinnbauer and interim coach Peter Knaebel but his arrival could not have been timed any better with the team battling to protect Hamburg’s storied top flight status.
“Stuttgart are a tough opponent but for us it is a huge chance to take that next step,” sporting director Dietmar Beiersdorfer said. “We now have a good starting position and I am confident that we will have a happy ending.”
Stuttgart, champions as recently as 2007, have also shown signs of life recently to close the gap on the sides above but defeat against Hamburg could prove fatal.
Should they lose and Freiburg, Paderborn and Hanover 96 win it would seal their relegation.
Huub Stevens’ team have picked up four points in their last three matches and last week’s victory over Mainz 05 left Stuttgart sporting director Robin Dutt imploring fans not to get too excited.
“It is not impossible to expect to win against Hamburg,” Dutt said. “We believe we can stay up but we must not become complacent.”
“Before the Mainz game we were mired in doom and gloom but now we are heading towards the other extreme.”
Borussia Dortmund will look to continue their climb up the table and secure a Europa League spot when they face Cup final opponents VfL Wolfsburg, who are sitting in second place and have already secured a top three finish.
Borussia Moenchengladbach will seal their maiden Champions League group stage spot if they beat Werder Bremen or if fourth-placed Bayer Leverkusen drop points against Hoffenheim.
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann