Matchday 31 in the Bundesliga saw Bayern and Dortmund’s title battle continue while also seeing interesting developments in the fight against relegation. The battle for the European places also hotted up, but curiously all six teams from 4th down to 9th in the table lost. The question now in the race for Europe is ‘who wants it more?’
The Champions League
A resurgent RB Leipzig now look odds on favourites to take third spot in the table behind Dortmund and Bayern (although this season anything could happen). It seems like it is going to come down to a straight fight between Union Berlin and Freiburg for the fourth Golden Ticket. Both sides are on 56 points now, which for both clubs is a fantastic achievement, but with the promised land of Champions League football so close, it would be heart-breaking for either side to miss out.
Freiburg’s two defeats to Leipzig in the space of a week saw them knocked out of the DFB Pokal and handed a blow in their European aspirations. Union lost to Augsburg this past weekend and were leapfrogged by Leipzig. This next matchday will be a crucial point with Union Berlin hosting Freiburg at the Stadion an Der Alten Försterei, with the winners potentially emerging with a big advantage going into the final two games. This really could be a winner-takes-all moment for Urs Fischer or Christian Streich.
Bayer Leverkusen will be hoping of emulating Eintracht Frankfurt’s achievement last year by sneaking into the Champions League via the backdoor of winning the Europa League. A semi-final against Roma must be navigated first, before a potential final in Budapest against either Sevilla or Juventus.
As it currently stands, fifth place and the winners of the DFB Pokal will go into next season’s Europa League with the sixth place team going into the Conference League play-off. A seventh place would only come available should RB Leipzig beat Eintracht Frankfurt in the DFB Pokal final.
The ‘unfortunate team’ out of Union/ Freiburg are set to take the first Europa League place with the chasing pack of Leverkusen, VfL Wolfsburg, Mainz and even Eintracht Frankfurt all hoping for a late-season burst of wins to hopefully take them up into sixth/ seventh.
However, with all the teams involved losing at the weekend. None look clear favourites right now. Leverkusen have a two-point advantage over Wolfsburg, but have the added burden of their Roma ties to worry about. The Wölfe received a thrashing at the hands of BVB at the weekend so will be an injured beast.
Mainz did look like a side surging up the table on the home straight, but their run came to an end when losing to strugglers Schalke right at the death on Friday. Frankfurt look a club in turmoil and aside from their progress to the DFB Pokal, results in the league are not Europe-worthy with no win in their last ten.
Three games remain and the prize is in view. Who wants it more?