Not since the Bundesliga began back in 1963 have the bottom four teams in Germany’s top flight earned so few points between them.
“It’s not a snail’s race – it’s still life,” commented ex-Germany international Thomas Berthold in magazine Kicker.
After 23 rounds of matches, the bottom four clubs — Augsburg (18), VfB Stuttgart (16), Hanover (14) and Nuremberg (13) — have just 61 points.
The record for the lowest amount of points achieved by a side who managed to avoid relegation is 27 by Hamburg in 2013/14.
The bottom two teams are certain to go down but there is also no guarantee of survival for finishing 16th — where Stuttgart currently sit.
Third from bottom on May 18 when the season ends means a knife-edge two-legged relegation play-off against the team who finishes third in the second division.
“We want to win ‘pole position’ in this four-way fight and therefore our own title race,” said Stuttgart’s ex-Germany striker Mario Gomez.
– ‘Getting drunk might help’ –
Bottom side Nuremberg, who managed a goalless draw at home to leaders Dortmund ten days ago, are winless in their last 17 league games and five points from safety.
“If things go well for us, it will remain exciting until the last day of the season,” said Nuremberg’s chairman of the supervisory board Thomas Grethlein optimistically.
Amazingly for a side involved in the knock-out stages of the Champions League, Schalke are 14th, with a five-point buffer to Augsburg who face Dortmund on Friday.
Schalke face a mountain to climb in the return leg of their Champions League, last 16 tie at Manchester City on March 12 after 3-2 to Pep Guardiola’s side at home.
However, even after one of the worst league seasons in the club’s history, relegation thoughts bother only the most pessimistic of Schalke fans with the Royal Blues seven points from the bottom three.
Augsburg, who forced defending champions Bayern to equalise twice against them before losing 3-2 a fortnight ago, are hoping to also make life uncomfortable for Dortmund.
“The fans want to see that you fight and push on,” said manager Stefan Reuter.
“The crucial thing is the reaction on the pitch.”
A glance at the league table is sober reading, leaving goalkeeper Gregor Kobel to suggest an unusual approach to combat relegation tension.
“Maybe a night getting drunk together might help us,” offered Kobel after Augsburg was thumped 5-1 by mid-table Freiburg last Saturday.