The closest Bundesliga title race for years ends on the final day of the season on Saturday when Borussia Dortmund or Bayern Munich will be crowned champion.
Dortmund leads by two points and needs to beat Mainz at home to be sure of ending Bayern’s 10-year reign, while Bayern will be hoping for a Dortmund slip-up as it visits Cologne at the same time.
Bayern’s goal difference is better than Dortmund’s so a draw won’t be enough for Dortmund if Bayern beats Cologne.
“We have to win once more. That’s all that counts,” Dortmund sporting director Sebastian Kehl said.
It would be Dortmund’s first German league title since Jürgen Klopp led the “black and yellows” to back-to-back triumphs in 2011 and 2012. Bayern has won every season since.
The fact that the Bavarian powerhouse doesn’t have the title already wrapped up means the season will be considered a failure – even if Mainz does Bayern a favour and causes an upset on Saturday.
Bayern’s total of 68 points is the lowest its had at this stage of the season since 2011, when interim coach Andries Jonker led the team to third place after Louis van Gaal was fired.
Bayern also fired its coach this season, when Julian Nagelsmann made way in March because the club felt its targets in the Champions League, German Cup and Bundesliga were in danger. Bayern was subsequently knocked out of the first two under new coach Thomas Tuchel, but he may yet salvage some lost pride if his former team Dortmund fails to beat Mainz – where he started his senior coaching career.
Dortmund’s 70 points are just one more than it managed last season, when it finished 10 points behind Bayern. The story of the Bundesliga this season is one of Bayern’s decline, rather than any huge leap made by Dortmund – though the team has developed a new resilience under coach Edin Terzić.
“It means everything to him,” Kehl said of what would be Terzić’s first Bundesliga title.
Leipzig is assured of third place regardless of its result at home to Schalke, but fourth – the last qualification spot for Europe’s premier competition – is still in contention between Union Berlin and Freiburg.
Both teams are level on points, with Union ahead by four goals’ difference. Union can book its Champions League place with a win at home over Werder Bremen, or by matching Freiburg’s result at Eintracht Frankfurt – provided Freiburg doesn’t score four goals more than Union.
It’s already a remarkable achievement for Union and Freiburg – both clubs of modest resources – to be in this position going into the final round.
EUROPA LEAGUE/EUROPA CONFERENCE LEAGUE
One of Union or Freiburg will finish fifth and qualify for the Europa League.
Sixth-placed Bayer Leverkusen and seventh-placed Wolfsburg hope to join, depending on what happens in the German Cup final on June 3 between Leipzig and Eintracht Frankfurt.
Because the cup winner gets a European qualification spot, Leverkusen and Wolfsburg will be cheering for Leipzig in the final. If Leipzig successfully defends its title, it will free another Europa League qualification spot (sixth in the Bundesliga), because it has already qualified for the Champions League. If Frankfurt wins, then the sixth-placed finisher goes to the Europa Conference League.
Leverkusen visits Bochum on the final day. Wolfsburg is just a point behind Leverkusen and can be confident of taking three more against already-relegated Hertha Berlin. Frankfurt, three points behind Leverkusen, has only a slim chance of finishing sixth.
FIGHTING FOR SURVIVAL
Augsburg, Stuttgart, Bochum and Schalke are all still playing for survival on the final day. The bottom two are relegated and the team that finishes above them goes into a two-leg relegation-promotion playoff against the second division’s third-placed finisher to see which plays in the Bundesliga next season.
All of the final round’s matches are played at the same time on Saturday.
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