After the Bundesliga title race took another twist last weekend, we find matchday 31 quickly upon us and we await to see what the weekend has in store for those at the top and those struggling to avoid relegation. With four games left this season, there is still so much on the line.
Bayer Leverkusen v Köln
With Leverkusen’s Europa League semi-final coming up in midweek, their Bundesliga clash with local rivals Köln has been moved to Friday by the DFL to give the Werkself more time to prepare.
Last week’s goalless draw with Union Berlin extended their unbeaten run to fourteen, but the point wasn’t enough for them to close the gap on RB Leipzig and Freiburg and Xabi Alonso’s side remain in sixth place. If they want to break into the top four they need to start picking up three points and hoping their rivals drop points. A win over Rhine neighbours Köln would also set them up nicely for their trip to Rome.
The Billy Goats narrowly lost out to Freiburg last weekend ending their own run of four games without defeat and they will be aware of the challenge they face when travelling to the Bay Arena on Friday. Safe from relegation worries, but also not in the hunt for European places, Steffen Baumgart’s side are playing for league position and pride only.
Mainz v Schalke
The Nullfünfer’s Rückrunde charge stalled last week with an uncharacteristic 3-0 loss to Wolfsburg- their first defeat in ten matches, but they will still have their eye on finishing sixth or seventh and achieving European football next season.
Schalke meanwhile refuse to lie down and accept relegation and last week’s miraculous last-minute win over Werder Bremen must give them confidence going into the final stretch. The Königsblauen need to somehow generate the energy they get from the Veltins Arena crowd on their travels in order to get the wins they need.
Freiburg v RB Leipzig
As fate would have it Freiburg host Leipzig at the Europa Park again just days after their DFB Pokal semi-final thrashing. The big loss on Tuesday will have to be scratched from their minds and they will have to go into the Bundesliga clash with a clean slate as there is potentially a lot at stake. Christian Streich’s side held their top four position last weekend with their win at Köln, but the Roten Bullen are just two points behind them.
A second win in a week for Leipzig in the Black Forest could see Marco Rose’s side leapfrog Freiburg into fourth and the much sought-after Champions League spot. The Sachsen side’s performance in the Pokal was tremendous and they will be looking to repeat that again on Saturday. Freiburg on the other hand will want to show a different side as they look to bounce back.
Hoffenheim v Eintracht Frankfurt
Hoffenheim’s loss to Leipzig last weekend (their second in a row) saw them sucked back into the relegation fight. The Sinsheimer are just two points above Bochum in 16th and at this stage of the season, every point matters. There is a scenario this weekend in which TSG could end up in the bottom two, so they know just what is at stake when they host Frankfurt.
The Adler’s midweek Pokal win booked their place in the final and provided a little light where there had previously only been gloom. Winless in their last four league outings, the sinking feeling had set in. Whether the cup win will provide a springboard for an improvement in their league standing will be discovered at the PreZero Arena this weekend.
Borussia Mönchengladbach v VfL Bochum
After looking like they had earned a point last weekend away to Stuttgart, the Foals succumbed to a late penalty and left the Mercedes Benz Arena empty handed. They face another side embroiled in the relegation fight this weekend as they host Bochum and if they want a top ten finish this season, then three points would be most welcome.
Much like Schalke and Stuttgart, Bochum are showing enough character to suggest that survival could still be on the cards. They put a massive dent in Borussia Dortmund’s title bid last week with their 1-1 draw at home and they will need to summon up a repeat performance when they travel to Gladbach on Saturday.
Thomas Letsch’s side could finish as high as fourteenth this weekend or sink into the bottom two.
Augsburg v Union Berlin
The ‘R’ word is still not being spoken of at Augsburg, but the Fuggerstädter are still way to close to the drop zone to be able to relax. Winless in their last seven matches, Enrico Maaßen’s side just need a win to ease their worries, but they face a tough ask in Union Berlin.
The Eisernen still look a good bet for a top four finish and they blunted Leverkusen last weekend to cement their top four place. Still not mathematically out of the title race either, the trip to Bavaria to face Augsburg is important in itself as Union try to fend off the challenge they face from Freiburg and RB Leipzig.
Hertha Berlin v VfB Stuttgart
If there was ever a time to kick into gear and a launch a serious bid for Bundesliga survival, then this weekend would be it for bottom side Hertha. The arrival of ‘saviour’ Pal Dardai has so far brought two defeats, but with Stuttgart the visitors this weekend, we really have a ‘six-pointer’ on our hands at the Olympiastadion.
Hertha held their own for the first half against Bayern last week before succumbing to the inevitable. The last time they face a fellow relegation candidate, they were trounced by Schalke, so the time for action is now.
Sebastian Hoeneß suffered his first loss as Stuttgart coach in the midweek Pokal defeat to Frankfurt, but Bundesliga survival would take precedence and the Swabians know that a win in the capital will give them a huge boost in their bid to be playing in the top flight again next season. The formbook says Stuttgart, but then this is the Bundesliga relegation fight and anything is possible.
Werder Bremen v Bayern Munich
Back in the day this would have been a title-decider at the end of the season, and in a strange roundabout way, it still could be. Long gone are the days when Werder had title aspirations, but taking points off Bayern this weekend could have a big say in the title race this season.
Werder were hit by a sucker punch by Schalke last weekend and will probably go into the clash with Bayern without Niclas Füllkrug, although his partner in crime Marvin Ducksch is hitting a rich vein of goalscoring form. Werder haven’t beaten Bayern since 2008 so history is not on their side.
Thomas Tuchel got the result he needed last Sunday at home to Hertha if not the performance and for the first half the hosts found the going tough. A win at the Weser Stadion will up the pressure on Dortmund, who play on Sunday.
Borussia Dortmund v VfL Wolfsburg
The refereeing controversy of last weekend will still rankle BVB, but they have to now focus 100% on beating Wolfsburg and maintaining the pressure on Bayern. The fact that Sascha Stegemann subsequently admitted his error in not awarding a penalty won’t help the Schwarzgelben this weekend against a Wolfsburg side showing a cutting edge at the moment.
Niko Kovac’s side beat Mainz last weekend to follow up on their big win at Bochum. They still have European ambitions so travel to the Signal Iduna Park with real aspirations of their own rather than just going along for the ride.