Never Mind The Ballacks

Which firemen will douse the flames of relegation?

Never Mind The Ballacks

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When spring is in
the air, struggling Bundesliga clubs have a habit of calling on Die
Feuerwehrmänner - 'firemen' coaches hired to stave off the catastrophe that is
relegation to the second division.

The season ends
this weekend and three firemen are in the spotlight: Christoph Daum of
Eintracht Frankfurt, Borussia Monchengladbach's Swiss coach Lucien Favre and
Felix Magath (pictured) of Wolfsburg.

Come Saturday
night, one will be a hero, one a villain and one left biting his nails for
another 10 days to come.

The three clubs
had high hopes for this season so it's a surprise to see them all in such a
sorry state.

St. Pauli have
already been condemned to life in the second division next season and Frankfurt
are favourites to join them.  One place off the bottom, the Eagles face a
Borussia Dortmund side that has already wrapped up the title. Juergen Klopp's
men might take things easy before collecting the trophy, but 30 goals in 33
matches so far doesn't give Frankfurt much hope. Daum needs a minor miracle to
avoid the drop.

Meanwhile, the
Foals of Borussia Moenchengladbach are on the up. They are one place and one
point above Frankfurt and playing out of their skins. In fact, with three wins
and three clean sheets on the bounce, Favre's team is currently the best in
Germany and will be confident of getting three points at mid-table Hamburg.

Like Borussia Moenchengladbach,
Wolfsburg have 35 points, albeit with a better goal difference.

Magath's Wolves
looked safe after beating Cologne and Werder Bremen in the back end of April.
But it all went horribly wrong at home to Kaiserslautern on Saturday, when they
scored early but lost 2-1 after their expensively-assembled defence showed the
fragility that led to the sacking of Steve McClaren.

The only man who
looked more bemused than Magath at the VW Arena was Kaiserslautern forward
Srdjan Lakic. In January, the Croat signed a deal to leave the
then-struggling Kaiserslautern in order to join Wolfsburg at the end of
the season, saying that he had ambitions to play European football. Lakic's
goal might yet condemn his new side to the second division.

So how do the
records of the three firemen stack up?

Daum took over
from Michael Skibbe on March 22 with Frankfurt in 14th place. Record pre-Daum:
31 points from 27 games (1.1 points per game). Under Daum: three points from
six games (0.5 points per game).

Verdict: ''When they brought in Daum, it's as
though they thought they hired Elvis Presley. But it's not about big names,
football is about winning matches and a coach who does not win is not a good
coach,'' said former player and Norwegian international Jan Age Fjortoft.

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Favre took over
on 14 February when Moenchengladbach were rock-bottom. Record pre-Favre: 16
points from 22 games (0.7 points per game). Under Favre: 19 points from 11
games (1.7 points per game).

Verdict: ''No one gave us a chance. But we as
a team will show the experts, and that is the greatest feeling,'' said striker
Mike Hanke.



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Magath replaced
caretaker Pierre Littbarski on March 18 with Wolfsburg in 17th place. Pre-Magath:
27 points from 27 games (one point per game). Under Magath: eight points from
six games (1.3 points per game).

Verdict:  "You brewed the soup, now
eat it," Magath told his players after the match.

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So this weekend
professional pride is at stake for all three coaches. Daum was favourite to
take over the German national team a decade ago before being embroiled in a
drugs scandal that overshadowed his career. He feels his coaching methods
(which have included ordering players to walk over burning coals to boost
confidence) merit the Champions League, but another loss at Frankfurt might bookend
his Bundesliga career.

Favre was perhaps
hard-done-by at Hertha Berlin, who sold key players behind his back after a top-four
finish in the Bundesliga then sacked the coach himself.

Magath is still
fuming after being ousted from Schalke. The biggest triumph of his career came
in 2009 when he won the title at Wolfsburg and he wants to silence the critics
all over again.

Three firemen,
but only two will have the chance to set the first division alight next season.

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