In just a few more weeks, it’ll all be finished.
Despite the long break between matchdays 25 and 26 and what felt like a never-ending football void, we are just four more matchdays and a few weeks from the end of the 2019-20 season. Sure, other leagues are going to start up to keep us from being completely without our favorite game, but none of them can really hope to fill the Bundesliga-sized hole in our weekends.
As close as we are to the completion of the season, we have yet to be able to write club names in ink beneath the 2019-20 headers of “Champions” or “Relegated” or any of the other season-end season outcomes. Granted, some of them are written in thick, heavy pencil lead and hardly need the ink, but nobody’s ultimate fate has been clinched just yet.
Let’s take a gander at what can be wrapped up by the end of matchday 31.
Bayern can clinch their eight-consecutive title with a win over Borussia Mönchengladbach and a Borussia Dortmund loss at Fortuna Düsseldorf. A Bayern win would also officially eliminate Leipzig from title contention.
The top four teams in the table at the end of the season will qualify for the group stage of the 2020-21 Champions League season. Currently, only Bayern has secured their spot in the competition. Only five teams remain in contention for the other three slots.
Dortmund can clinch their spot with a win at Düsseldorf and a loss by either Mönchengladbach (at Bayern) or Bayer Leverkusen (at FC Schalke 04).
VfL Wolfsburg will be eliminated from top-four contention if they drop points in their visit from SC Freiburg. Even if Wolfsburg takes all three points, however, they will be out of Champions League contention should either Mönchengladbach or Leverkusen win over the weekend.
Mönchengladbach and Leverkusen enter the matchday level on points, with goal-differential currently making the difference between fourth place and Champions League (Mönchengladbach with plus-21) and fifth place and Europa League (Leverkusen with plus-16).
The fifth-place finisher at the end of the season gains a spot in the group stage of the 2020-21 Europa League season. Sixth place comes with entry into the second qualifying round of the competition.
A third Europa League spot could become available pending the results of the DFB Cup, as the winner of that competition is awarded entry into Europa Leagueś group stage. Should the DFB Cup winner already be qualified for Champions League by table position, that DFB Cup-winner spot in the group stage would be awarded to the sixth-place finisher. The qualification spot would then go to the team that finishes seventh. Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen have reached the semifinals of this seasonś DFB Cup.
There is currently an eleven-point gap between fifth and sixth places in the table. The team that gets edged out of the top-four race will likely take the automatic group-stage berth. Wolfsburg is the only club outside the current top-five with a mathematical chance to get to fifth, but if they drop points this weekend or both Leverkusen and Mönchengladbach win, they will be solely focused on sixth and probably pulling for Bayern to win the DFB Cup. The current top-five club that gets left out of Champions League can do no worse than sixth and will therefore be, at worst, in the second round of qualifying for Europa League.
The race for sixth is a more-compelling battle, with TSG Hoffenheim, Freiburg, Hertha BSC, Schalke, Eintracht Frankfurt, and 1. FC Köln all closer to Wolfsburg than the twelve points available to each of them.
Wolfsburg can eliminate Eintracht and Köln from the race for sixth with a win over Freiburg on Saturday. Three more points from Wolfsburg would also potentially eliminate Hertha BSC (home vs. Eintracht) and Schalke (home vs. Leverkusen) should they also lose this weekend.
Freiburg and Hoffenheim remain in the chase regardless of results this weekend, but should Wolfsburg lose to Freiburg, itĺl be Hoffenheim that will have benefitted, as long as they were able to win their Friday night match with Leipzig.
Bonus Europa Spot
By the time we know whether there is an additional spot in Europa League available through the DFB Cup final result, we will know who holds the spot. You can naturally assume teams will pursue seventh once they cannot reach sixth, in the hopes it will bring extra UEFA competition and money.
Of course, all the teams in the mix for sixth place can also still reach seventh. Remarkably, you can add FC Augsburg, 1. Union Berlin, and 1. FSV Mainz to the list of teams with mathematical chances of reaching Europe. In case you´re not keeping track, that gets us all the way through 15th place in the table. There are enough variables here to make listing them somewhat Quixotic. Suffice to say that the closer to the bottom three any of these contenders are currently, the more they need to win out and hope everyone above them drops nearly every available point.
Teams finishing in the bottom three of the Bundesliga are in the relegation zone. The bottom two automatically are heading to the second division. The 16th-place finisher gets to defend their spot in the top flight in a two-legged home-and-home battle with the 2. Bundesligaś third-place side, which this year is increasingly likely to be either VfB Stuttgart or Hamburger SV. Though Bundesliga sides have a clear advantage in the ¨relegation playoff,” you need to look no further back than last year to see that sometimes, the second-division side pulls off the upset. Union Berlin earned their first Bundesliga season by defeating Stuttgart in last yearś playoff round.
Just by numbers, the top eight clubs in the table have already clinched their spots in next yearś league, leaving ten still theoretically eligible to make the drop this summer.
Paderborn currently sits at the table bottom, with only the slimmest of chances at not returning to the 2. Bundesliga after a single season in the top flight. Paderborn faces current 17th-place side SV Werder Bremen on Saturday in a proverbial ¨relegation six-pointer.¨ If Paderborn drops any points against Werder, they will clinch a bottom-three spot. Even if they win the rest of their matches, they would need a big swing in their goal-differential and a lot of help elsewhere the rest of the season to climb out of the bottom three.
Werder, on the other foot, could use a win to pull level on points with Fortuna Düsseldorf, current holders of 16th and the playoff spot. They would hope that Fortuna loses their home match with Dortmund, preferably by a significant number of goals, as Werder is also looking to close a six-goal deficit in goal-differential, the first tiebreaker for positioning in the table.
If Fortuna manages the upset against Dortmund on Saturday, they would pull level on points with Mainz and hope Mainz loses the following day to Augsburg. With a four-goal gap in differential heading into the weekend, however, they would likely remain in the playoff spot.
Hertha and Schalke can finish no worse than 16th in the table, which might seem a relief to Schalke fans considering their current run. Both can ultimately clinch their safety with a win or a Fortuna loss. A draw would suffice for either club if paired with a Fortuna loss.
Fortunaś fate also features in the weekend outlooks of Eintracht and Köln. Should Fortuna lose, both Eintracht (at Hertha) and Köln (home vs. Union) could secure the retention of the class with victories.
Union and Augsburg cannot clinch their safety this weekend, but can assure they would do no worse than the playoff by winning their matches, if Werder loses to Paderborn.
Mainz will simply be in the picture for at least another week, regardless of what happens to them and the teams around them.