BERLIN: Borussia Dortmund had hoped to be Bundesliga title contenders this season but instead the Ruhr valley club find themselves locked in a battle to salvage a Champions League qualifying place, with Bayer Leverkusen also out for a top-four finish.
Both teams have been overtaken by VfL Wolfsburg, third on 38 points, and Eintracht Frankfurt, who have 36 in fourth ahead of Leverkusen on 35 and Dortmund with 32 after 20 matches.
While the Wolves, led by their top scorer Wout Weghorst, are on a four-game winning run and Eintracht have won seven of their last eight matches with Andre Silva taking his season tally to 17 goals, things are going from bad to worse for Dortmund.
Edin Terzic's team have managed to win one of their last five league games and have dropped to sixth, with their hopes of Champions League football next season in serious doubt.
"Obviously I ask myself constantly what I can do that will improve the team," he said on Thursday ahead of their home game against Hoffenheim. "But what is needed now is to use this training week well in order to be successful on Saturday."
The consistency issues have not gone away with the sacking of coach Lucien Favre, and Terzic is unlikely to be around next season if they fail to make the top four and miss out on revenue of potentially tens of millions of euros from European football.
"We are not satisfied with the current situation," said Dortmund sports director Michael Zorc.
"We have won too few points. There are two teams and several points between us and a Champions League spot. But we have faith in our team and we think it is strong enough to reach that goal at the end of the season."
Leverkusen have also been struggling. A 5-2 win over VfB Stuttgart last week was their second in eight matches with Peter Bosz's team having been top of the Bundesliga a few weeks ago.
But they hope they have turned the corner, with 17-year-old Florian Wirtz in superb form and the youngest player to have scored five goals in the Bundesliga.
Leverkusen's new Dutch defender Timothy Fosu-Mensah signed from Manchester United was ruled fit, after being substituted last week, as they prepare to host Mainz 05 on Saturday.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Ken Ferris)