Düsseldorf could benefit from rival as Bundesliga ends

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              Duesseldorf's Rouwen Hennings, left, celebrates with Valon Berisha after he scores his side first goal during the German Bundesliga soccer match between Fortuna Duesseldorf and FC Augsburg in Duesseldorf, Germany, Saturday, June 20, 2020. (Marius Becker/Pool via AP)
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DÜSSELDORF, Germany (AP) — Fortuna Düsseldorf is a fierce rival of nearby club Cologne. Now it could do with Cologne’s help.

Going into the last day of the Bundesliga season Saturday, Düsseldorf is two points above Werder Bremen and the automatic relegation places.

Four-time champion Bremen must beat Cologne — whose survival is already assured — to stand any chance of staying in the top division and relegating Düsseldorf.

Either Düsseldorf or Bremen will go down automatically. Whichever team finishes higher must still face a playoff against a club from the second division.

Düsseldorf and Cologne are near neighbors on the Rhine river in western Germany. The two cities have been commercial and cultural adversaries for centuries, with a rivalry that extends even into the cherished German realm of beer.

Cologne takes pride in its pale, straw-colored Kölsch beer, served in small, narrow glasses and ideal on a hot day. Many Düsseldorf locals barely consider that to be beer at all and prefer Altbier, a darker, malty style. Düsseldorf has bragging rights as the state capital, but Cologne’s historic cathedral draws visitors from around the world.

The two cities’ rivalry on the soccer field has been a stop-start affair. Cologne has three German titles to one for Düsseldorf, which spent much of the last few decades in the lower divisions and dropped as low as the fourth tier in the early 2000s.

Düsseldorf coach Uwe Rösler, a former Manchester City player, would prefer not to rely on any help from Cologne.

“We have to deliver,” he said Thursday in comments reported by German agency dpa. Rösler said he’ll be keeping an eye on the scores in the second half.

Fortuna can secure a spot in the relegation playoff with a draw away at Union Berlin, as long as Bremen doesn’t win its game by four goals or more. A draw would fit the trend since Rösler took over in January. Since then the team has played 14 Bundesliga games and drawn nine of them.

That leaves Werder on the verge of being outside the top division for the first time since the 1980-81 season. Last-place Paderborn is already relegated.

Arminia Bielefeld is already assured of promotion from the second division as champion, and only a spectacular final-day collapse could deny Stuttgart second place. Heidenheim and Hamburg are fighting over third and the right to face either Düsseldorf or Bremen in the playoff.