We have reached the penultimate matchday of the 2022-23 Bundesliga season and unusually nothing is yet decided at either end of the table. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund are still locked in a head-to-head battle for the Meisterschale, the European places are still up for grabs, while the relegation battle could take another twist this weekend. Here’s what the weekend has in store…
Freiburg v VfL Wolfsburg
Last weekend’s loss to Union Berlin means that a first-ever Champions League qualification will require those above Freiburg to drop points and the Breisgauer to win their remaining games. The fact that Christian Streich’s side are still be spoken of as contenders at this stage of the season is testament to the superb season Freiburg have had. That said, to miss out would be hard to take.
Wolfsburg responded in the ideal way to their heavy defeat at Dortmund with a 2-1 win over Hoffenheim last week to claim sixth place. European football is a distinct possibility for Niko Kovac’s side, which must have seemed a wild dream back at the start of the season when the Wölfe made an abysmal start to the season and there was talk of Kovac’s job being under threat.
Hoffenheim v Union Berlin
Hoffenheim at this late stage of the season still find themselves very much still mired in the relegation fight with last weekend’s loss to Wolfsburg leaving them just two points above Schalke in 16th and the relegation play-off berth. A win this weekend is vital if they are not to go into the final weekend still unsure of their Bundesliga future.
Union’s win last weekend against Freiburg handed them the advantage in the fight for a top four finish and they know that another win at the PreZero Arena on Saturday could clinch their place in next season’s Champions League (yes Union fans this is now your reality).
Hertha Berlin v VfL Bochum
This really is the last-chance saloon for Hertha, who know that anything other than a win will see them relegated for the first time since 2012. The arrival of Pal Dardai as saviour hasn’t brought about he miracle recovery that was hoped for and it really does not seem just a matter of time before the Old Lady is finally retired from the top flight. Last week’s heavy defeat at Köln saw them looking like a team, who knew the inevitable was coming.
Bochum will arrive at the Olympiastadion also needing the points to avoid the drop. Both Stuttgart and Schalke are still close enough to overtake the Ruhr side so they will be going all-out against Hertha to keep their Bundesliga status. Their home form has kept them going, they just need to replicate it when on the road this weekend.
Schalke v Eintracht Frankfurt
Schalke must have expected to lose last week at the Allianz Arena with all eyes realistically on this weekend’s clash at home to Frankfurt seen as the potentially key fixture in their bid to avoid relegation. Going into the weekend the Königsblauen occupy the play-off spot in 16th, but have the opportunity to overtake both Bochum and Hoffenheim with a win. They have won their last two at the Veltins Arena so will be looking to make it three on the bounce. Key man Marius Bülter however will not be available after picking up a ban-inducing yellow card last week at Bayern.
The Adler had a good win against Mainz last week to keep alive their remote hopes of European football next season, although the DFB Pokal is their best bet for a route back into Europe this season. They might be a little more free in their approach now that all the speculation surrounding coach Oliver Glasner has finally been decided and good end to the season could see him sent off with a flourish.
Werder Bremen v Köln
After giving Bayern a good test the week before, Werder looked to have done enough to earn a point last week at RB Leipzig only for Christopher Nkunku’s to unleash some late brilliance to set up Dominik Szoboszlai for a stoppage time winner. Werder’s final home game of the season is sure to generate a great atmosphere and after steering themselves clear of trouble this season will want to end the campaign on a high.
Köln are also in the process of ending the season on a high with last weekend’s 5-2 win over Hertha the latest in a series of good results. The Billy Goats have won four of their last seven with just a single narrow loss to Freiburg. They are looking for a top ten finish and with Gladbach just two points behind them, they still need to collect the points to ensure this.
Bayern Munich v RB Leipzig
In terms of a Championship decider, this could be it! Bayern have kept their one-point lead over Borussia Dortmund by beating Hertha and Werder in recent weeks, but the visit of RB Leipzig to the Allianz Arena in the Topspiel on Saturday will provide a serious test for the Rekordmeister. With all respect to their previous opponents, the visit of Leipzig will be a considerable step-up in quality and Thomas Tuchel’s side will have their mental strength tested.
Die Roten Bullen travel to Bavaria in fine form with key players starting to rediscover their top levels (Nkunku and Olmo in particular). They have won seven of their last eight in all competitions and their only blip was a defeat to Leverkusen in a game they played really well in. Much as there is a lot of antipathy towards RB, on Saturday every Dortmund fan (and many more besides) will be supporting them.
Mainz v VfB Stuttgart
The wheels have come off Mainz’s European hopes after three consecutive losses to Wolfsburg, Schalke and Frankfurt so Bo Svensson will be looking to get his side back on track in their final home game of the season at the Mewa Arena. The reverse fixture saw a 1-1 in Bruno Labbadia’s first game back in charge.
The Swabians’ draw last week at home to Bayer Leverkusen wasn’t enough to see them out of the bottom two and was a huge opportunity missed as they didn’t take full advantage of the fatigue that was clearly affecting their opponents after their midweek European trip to Rome. Wins are what count right now for Stuttgart, but they are at the stage now, where they are hoping that teams above lose to help them out.
Augsburg v Borussia Dortmund
By the time this match kicks-off on Sunday Borussia Dortmund will know how Bayern did against RB Leipzig, so the complexion of the game will depend very much on that result. Should the Bavarians fail to take all three points, then BVB will have the chance to go back to the top of the table and go into next week’s final game with one hand on the Meisterschale. Should Bayern win, the Schwarzgelben will still be under pressure to do the same to take the title race to the wire. The goals and the performances are flowing right now for Edin Terzic, so confidence is high going into their final away trip.
Enrico Maaßen will of course want to see his side win, but having come from the BVB second team to the Fuggerstadt, he will inwardly want Dortmund to win the Bundesliga title at Bayern’s expense. Augsburg are still not mathematically sage from relegation so they need the points just to get themselves over the line.
Bayer Leverkusen v Borussia Mönchengladbach
The final match of the weekend sees Bayer Leverkusen hosting Mönchengladbach and much will depend on the outcome of the Werkself’s Europa League semi-final with Roma. Fatigue (both emotional and physical) could play a part as the Rhine club look to overtake Wolfsburg into sixth place.
The Foals were hammered last week by Dortmund and time and patience looks to be running out for coach Daniel Farke. No moves will be made at this late stage to replace him, but another poor display at the Bay Arena could speed up any decision to search for a new coach.