Bundesliga big guns flirting with relegation
Almost midway through the Bundesliga season, things have sprung to life. Unsurprisingly, Bayern Munich leads the way despite their early struggles, with RB Leipzig and Schalke 04 in close company. At the foot of the table, however, lies the real shock. Four teams with a combined 17 league honours are seemingly on a precipice, sweating over their top-flight status.
Relegation isn't unusual among Deutschland's elites, though, considering just one team - Hamburg - has remained glued to the premier division since inception 53 years ago. Dortmund can't say the same, neither can record 27-time champions, Bayern. It becomes a cause for concern, however, the moment the core traditional clubs, present on August 24, 1963, when it all began, is thoroughly affected. Barring a miracle, two of these pioneer teams may likely kiss the top-tier goodbye come May. Stuttgart, Hamburg, Werder Bremen and FC Cologne make up the quartet.
Here, we take a closer look at each side's laborious journey thus far.
One team in dire need of any sort of revival is Cologne. After 16 games, the Billy Goats are winless and rooted to bottom with just three points. Dismally, they've shipped in more goals and notched the fewest in the league this campaign.
Already, the team from West Germany have parted company with its long-serving coach, Peter Stoger, responsible for their fifth-place finish last term. But it hasn't always been this dreadful for Cologne. They were the maiden Bundesliga champions, a feat they repeated in 1978.
Author's odds of survival: 10%
Cologne's case is indeed critical, but they're not alone. Next door to the Billy Goats is Werder Bremen, who managed five dismal points from its opening 11 fixtures. That's a four-time Bundesliga and six-time DFB-Pokal champion we are talking about.
Alexander Nouri expectedly received the axe, replaced by Florian Kohfeldt back in October. And that appears to have slightly turned things around at the Weserstadion. The Green-Whites are on the rise again with three victories in five games. Most notably an outstanding 2-1 triumph at Dortmund last weekend.
Author's odds of survival: 70%
Like a cat with nine lives, Hamburg has continually dodged the chop, albeit hitting the self-destruct button on a number of occasions. Even in the deepest peril, Die Rothosen came out unscathed. That they have done steadily since the end of World War II.
And yet again, the club finds itself in familiar terrain this term. With a pitiful 15 points after16 games, HSV is third from bottom - just one point above Northern neighbours, Bremen. In short, the six-time champions are on a rough winless patch, which stretches to November.
Author's odds of survival: 20%
If nothing drastic is done, Hannes Wolf's team could make an instant return to the second-tier. Stuttgart had sealed swift promotion in fascinating fashion just one year after going down.
Five-time champions, VfB, however, haven't been anywhere up to scratch so far. They are currently 14th on the table with 17 points. More worrying, the side from Neckar have stuttered horribly against fellow strugglers, prominently in clashes with Bremen and Hamburg.
Author's odds of survival: 20%