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Bundesliga – Week 33 – CL, EL and Relegation matters

5 May

Title bagged, now tightest defence ever?

23 year-old Schmelzer has played minute in a defence that has conceded just 19 goals

Borussia Dortmund deservedly wrapped up their fourth Bundesliga title and seventh German Championship last Saturday with a 2-0 over Nürnberg. Having conceded a paltry 19 times all season, Dortmund are still on course to beat Bayern Munich’s 06-07 season record of 22. With 14 clean sheets and only one side (Bayer Leverkusen in week 1) managing to put two past BVB’s youthful back four, it is more than likely the Bavarians’ record will go.

The Champions League

Despite their 2-0 loss at local rivals Köln, Bayer Leverkusen (2nd, 64 pts) bagged a place in next year’s Champions

Thomas Müller scored twice as Bayern demolished weary looking Schalke

League as Hannover 96 (4th, 57 pts) slipped up at home to ‘Gladbach. This week, die Werkself can make sure they don’t have to go through the qualifiers with a home win against Hamburg.

Bayern Munich (59 pts) took advantage of 96’s disastrous slip to reclaim 3rd with a comprehensive 4-1 win at home to Schalke. With two games to play, it’ll be a real shock should Bayern not be playing in Europe’s premier club competition next season. They travel to St. Pauli this Saturday knowing a win coupled with any Hannover slip-up at Stuttgart would see them home.

Final two fixtures:

  • Bayern Munich – St Pauli (A), Stuttgart (H) – 3rd, 59 pts, +33
  • Hannover 96 – Stuttgart (A), Nürnberg (H) – 4th, 57 pts, +3

The Europa League

It’s all gone wrong for Nürnberg (6th, 47 pts) these past two weeks. A win against Mainz in week 31 would’ve put them in the driving seat for 5th. As it happened, Mainz 05 (5th, 52 pts) came away with a well-earned point, then demolished local rivals Eintracht Frankfurt last week whilst Dieter Hecking’s side were being steamrollered by Deutscher Meister Dortmund.

Mainz need just two points from their last two games to ensure they’ll be playing European football in their new Coface Arena next season:

  • Mainz 05 – Schalke (A), St Pauli (H) – 5th, 52 pts, +10
  • Nürnberg – Hoffenheim (H), Hannover 96 (A) – 6th, 47 pts, +5

The Relegation Battle

Mathematically, 10 teams in the Bundesliga can still go down. It’d be a miracle if any of Hoffenheim, Schalke or Kaiserslautern dropped but they still all need a point for the DFL to note their names next to ‘Bundesliga 2011/2.’

  • Hoffenheim – Nürnberg (A), Wolfsburg (H) – 9th, 40 pts, +1
  • Schalke – Mainz 05 (H), Köln (A) – 10th, 40 pts, -3
  • Kaiserslautern – Wolfsburg (A), Werder Bremen (H) – 11th, 40 pts, -5

Only three teams have picked up more points than Stuttgart (12th, 39 pts) since the turn, and all three occupy the Champions League spots with two to play. At Christmas, with only 12 pts, the Swabians looked relegation certs. Travelling to fortress Köln in week 30, they sat just two points above 17th. Three wins on the spin later and Bruno Labbadia’s side are effectively, because of their positive goal difference, just a point away from survival. With their form, they are more likely to affect the Champions League places than the relegation battle with games against Hannover and Bayern to come.

  • Stuttgart – Hannover (H), Bayern Munich (A) – 12th, 39 pts, +1

Following Stuttgart come two teams on 38 pts – Werder Bremen (13th) and Köln (14th) – who both saw a reversal in form last weekend. After an eight game unbeaten run (including four 1-1 draws and three 3-1 away wins), Thomas Schaaf’s side were beaten 1-0 and dragged somewhat back into the scrap by a resurgent Wolfsburg side. On the other hand, Köln, now under the leadership of Volker Finke, won the Rhein derby to end a miserable run of heavy defeats. This week both can end all relegation fears with a win. Bremen host champions Dortmund whilst Köln face a key match at Frankfurt that they daren’t lose. Losses could see them both sweating on the last day, should Wolfsburg also get a result.

  • Werder Bremen – Dortmund (H), Kaiserslautern (A) – 13th, 38 pts, -15

    Still sweating - both Werder Bremen and Wolfsburg need points

  • Köln – Eintracht Frankfurt (A), Schalke (H) – 14th, 38 pts, – 18

As mentioned, Wolfsburg (15th, 35 pts) have been resurgent in recent weeks. Their win at Bremen last week was straight on the back of a 4-1 win at home to Köln. A win this weekend could see them safe should Frankfurt slip up. Felix Magath’s side have a relatively favourable run in, facing two sides almost certainly safe.

  • Wolfsburg – Kaiserslautern (H), Hoffenheim (A) – 15th, 35 pts, -6

Eintracht Frankfurt (16th, 34 pts) have been the worst Bundesliga side this calendar year – collecting a measly 8 points in 15 games. They have only scored SIX goals in 2011. If it wasn’t for their best first half performance since three points for a win began, they’d be long gone. Their free-falling spring term finally saw them drop into the bottom three after last weekend’s derby loss at Mainz. Christoph Daum needs to use every last one of his motivational clichés for the Eagles’ last two fixtures else they could be back in the second tier after six top flight seasons.

  • Eintracht Frankfurt – Köln (H), Dortmund (A) – 16th, 34 pts, -14

Despite three wins and two, maybe harsh, definitely late, defeats to Europe-chasing sides in their last 5, Borussia M’gladbach (17th, 32 pts) are still on the verge of relegation this weekend. A defeat to Freiburg on Saturday, together with positive results for Eintracht and Wolfsburg would see them down. A win would set up a tense last day with up to five sides involved.

  • ‘Gladbach – Freiburg (H), Hamburg (A) – 17th, 32 pts, -19

With Pauli’s run in, not too many would back them finishing above their now customary top flight spot, 18th, having finished there in ’97 and 2002. Not since 1996 have they finished above 18th – avoiding the drop in 15th. St. Pauli (18th, 29 pts) have the unenviable task of beating Bayern Munich to keep their ever-slimming chances of avoiding the drop alive. Even then they are reliant on Frankfurt losing at home to Köln.

  • St. Pauli – Bayern Munich (H), Mainz (A) – 18th, 29 pts, -25

Bundesliga – Week 32 – Who can clinch what?

28 Apr

The Title

Borussia Dortmund (1st, 69 pts) will win their 7th German Championship with a win over Nürnberg if Bayer Leverkusen (2nd, 64pts) fail to win at Köln.

The Champions League

Leverkusen can guarantee themselves Champions League football next season by beating Köln.

Hannover 96 moved a point above Bayern Munich (4th, 56 pts) last week and can consolidate 3rd with a home win against an upbeat ‘Gladbach side this weekend. Bayern host fierce rivals Schalke needing a win to stay within touching distance of 96. Ralf Rangnick faces a difficult dilemma of what side to pick on Saturday evening – does he sacrifice the rivalry game in order to prioritise Wednesday’s semi-final in Manchester?

Already assured at least a Europa League spot, die Roten will be participating in European competition for the first time since 1992 next season. If they win and Bayern lose, one win from their final two matches would see them into Europe’s premier club competition for the first time in their history.

Final two fixtures:

  • Hannover 96 – Stuttgart (A), Nürnberg (H)
  • Bayern Munich – St Pauli (A), Stuttgart (H)

The Europa League

With either Hannover or Bayern Munich extremely likely pick up 4th, only one spot remains. With Hamburg now out of the picture, Mainz 05 (5th, 49 pts) and Nürnberg (6th, 47 pts) are left to battle it out for 5th.

A 0-0 draw between the two last Sunday evening kept Mainz in pole position, and a win for 05 (at home to Eintracht

Can Nürnberg catch Mainz?

Frankfurt) coupled with a Nürnberg loss (at Borussia Dortmund) would almost, but not quite, clinch European football for Thomas Tuchel’s side.

Final two fixtures:

  • Mainz 05 – Schalke (A), St Pauli (H)
  • Nürnberg – Hoffenheim (H), Hannover 96 (A)

The Relegation Battle

St. Pauli (18th, 29 pts) and Borussia M’gladbach (17th,29 pts) could both be all but mathematically relegated should they lose at the weekend and:

  • Wolfsburg and Eintracht Frankfurt both win, Köln pick up a point.

Pauli travel to Kaiserslautern (12th, 37 pts), who can confirm safety with a win, on Friday night desperately seeking three points. Last Saturday ‘Gladbach moved off the bottom to give their rather sore shoulders a rest by surprisingly beating Dortmund at home. They had been propping up the rest since week 13. They’ll have to win again, this week in Hannover, to retain any hopes of escaping the bottom three.

Can 'Gladbach defy the odds again and win at Hannover?

Werder Bremen (11th, 38 pts) did themselves a huge favour last week by winning at now-bottom St. Pauli. They can dispel all fears of relegation by beating play-off incumbents Wolfsburg (16th, 32 pts) tomorrow night. Defeat would reduce their cushion to just three points with two to play.

Felix Magath’s side, who picked up a vital three points against Köln last Sunday, could jump out of the play-off spot with a win if either Eintracht or Köln lose. They could, however, find themselves five points adrift of safety should they lose, that pair win and Stuttgart pick up a point.

Only a huge defeat and a big ‘Gladbach or Pauli win would see Wolfsburg drop into the bottom two.

Köln (14th, 35 pts) have had a disastrous few weeks culminating in the immediate resignation of Frank Schäfer. Three big defeats to teams below them have dragged them back into the scrap. Hosting Bayer Leverkusen, the Bundesliga’s form side, is not really what they need knowing a defeat could see them drop to 16th.

Despite picking up a valuable point at home to Bayern last weekend, Eintracht Frankfurt (15th, 34 pts) slid closer to the play-off spot as Wolfsburg won. Frankfurt came within a minute of beating Bayern – a win that would’ve given them significant breathing space. As it is, if Wolfsburg win again and Köln aren’t beaten, even if the Eagles pick up a point at Mainz, Frankfurt will occupy 16th going into the final two weekends.

Stuttgart (13th, 36 pts) scored three for the second week running pick up another three points last weekend. A win and a Wolfsburg loss sees them safe.

Bundesliga – Week 31 – What’s to play for?

22 Apr

The Title

Getting closer...

Borussia Dortmund (1st, 69 pts) will win their 7th German Championship on Saturday should they win at ‘Gladbach and Bayer Leverkusen (2nd, 61 pts) fail to beat Hoffenheim.

The Champions League

Leverkusen themselves can move within a win of guaranteed Champions League football next season should they beat 1899.

Hannover 96 moved two points above Bayern Munich (4th, 55 pts) and into 3rd, at least for the time being, with a comfortable 3-1 win at Freiburg on Thursday night. Bayern can retake the 3rd Champions League spot with victory at Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.

Final 3 fixtures:

  • Hannover 96 – Gladbach (H), Stuttgart (A), Nürnberg (H)
  • Bayern Munich – Schalke (H), St Pauli (A), Stuttgart (H)

The Europa League

Mainz battled to a 3-0 win in November

With either Hannover or Bayern Munich almost certain to pick up 4th, only one spot remains. Hamburg and Freiburg have a fallen away in recent weeks which means it’s effectively another straight shoot out – this time between Mainz 05 (5th, 48 pts) and Nürnberg (6th, 46 pts).

This Sunday evening, both teams face-off in Nürnberg. The home side knows it must avoid defeat, whilst knowing a win would put them in pole-position. A draw would definitely suit Mainz,  who won the reverse 3-0 in week 14, the better.

Final 3 fixtures:

  • Mainz 05 – Eintracht Frankfurt (H), Schalke (A), St Pauli (H)
  • Nürnberg – Borussia Dortmund (A), Hoffenheim (H), Hannover 96 (A)

The Relegation Battle

Werder Bremen (11th, 35 pts) and Köln (12th, 35 pts) could rubberstamp survival this weekend with wins at St Pauli and Wolfsburg respectively. Defeat for either or both would close the gap to the bottom three, and necks would again begin to moisten in Bremen and particularly Cologne who have hit an alarming slump. In contrast, St Pauli (17th, 29 pts) and Wolfsburg (16th, 29 pts) will be targeting their home games and the weekend provides a real opportunity to tighten things up at the bottom. All four sides should look for all three.

Köln coach Frank Schäfer is to step down

Kaiserslautern (13th, 34 pts) would all but guarantee a second season of Bundesliga football should they win at Schalke on Saturday. The home side may have an eye on Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final against Manchester United, so Marco Kurz’s side may fancy their chances in Gelsenkirchen.

14th place Stuttgart (33 pts) were buoyant after Saturday’s 3-1 win at Köln saw them move 4 points clear of the bottom three. This Saturday they welcome Hamburg to Swabia, and Bruno Labaddia’s charges know they will go a long way to survival with a win. It won’t be easy – Stuttgart have the 3rd worst home record in the league (something I put down to the redevelopment of an end at the Mercedes-Benz Arena).

Bayern Munich are the visitors this weekend for Eintracht Frankfurt (15th, 33 pts). The Eagles will still be smarting from their defeat to Hoffenheim last time out, whilst the Bavarians will no doubt be on a high after thumping Leverkusen 5-1 in Andries Jonker’s first game. Frankfurt could be within a point of the drop zone should results not go their way.

Finally, Borussia M’Gladbach will be playing in front of a sell out 54,000 capacity crowd on Saturday evening with around 20,000 Dortmund fans expected to make the trip. ‘Gladbach need an unlikely three points to retain any hopes of avoiding the drop. A loss, coupled with wins for Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Kaiserslautern would mathematically kill any chance of escaping the bottom three.