It’s crunch time for Thomas Tuchel and Bayern Munich.
Saturday’s game against Champions League-chasing Leipzig could help crown Bayern as the Bundesliga champion once again or put Borussia Dortmund in the driver’s seat with one more game to go.
Bayern has a one-point advantage over Dortmund in the standings, so a win over Leipzig would be enough for the title if Dortmund loses to Augsburg a day later. Given Bayern’s big 19-goal advantage in goal difference, only a win will realistically do for Dortmund.
Leipzig is a tricky opponent for Bayern and got a 1-1 draw in their last game in January. Third-place Leipzig and coach Marco Rose have won seven of their last eight games in all competitions and know that a win over Bayern would guarantee Champions League qualification for next season.
There are plenty of links between the two clubs, with former Leipzig players Dayot Upamecano in the Bayern defence and Joshua Kimmich in midfield. Former Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann may have been replaced by Tuchel nearly two months ago, but his influence still shapes the way Bayern plays, and Leipzig midfielder Konrad Laimer is reportedly close to agreeing to move to Bayern when his contract expires at the end of the season.
Chasing a record-extending 11th consecutive title, Bayern has got back on form with three straight wins since the 3-1 loss to Mainz last month which briefly handed Dortmund the lead in the standings. Not all has gone smoothly for Bayern this week, though.
Goalkeeper Yann Sommer, himself a stand-in for the injured Manuel Neuer, missed training on Wednesday with what the club called “a stomach complaint,” potentially opening the way for third-choice Sven Ulreich to get a game Saturday. The future of Sadio Mané remains unresolved after a largely disappointing season for the Senegal forward.
At first glance, Augsburg might seem an ideal opponent for Dortmund. Likely safe from relegation in 13th, Augsburg may have little to play for but has raised its game against Germany’s top teams all season.
In its last game against Dortmund, Augsburg levelled the score three times before Gio Reyna finally scored the winning goal in a 4-3 victory for Dortmund. Augsburg stunned Bayern in a 1-0 win in September and went down fighting in a dramatic 5-3 loss in March.
This weekend could decide the relegation fight, too.
Anything but a win against Bochum will doom Hertha Berlin to relegation from the Bundesliga, a final humiliating blow after the team spent much of the last decade dreaming of becoming a “big city club” in the Champions League, putting Berlin on par with European capitals like London, Paris and Madrid.
To make matters worse for Hertha, the city of Berlin could be getting a Champions League club next season — Union Berlin. Hertha’s cross-city rival could secure a spot in Europe’s top competition with a draw against Hoffenheim on Saturday if Freiburg loses to Wolfsburg the day before.
Stuttgart also could be relegated, but only if it loses to Mainz on Sunday and Schalke, Hoffenheim and Bochum all win their games.
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