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PREVIEW | Bundesliga – Week 33: Robert Lewandowski on the brink of history

There are now just two games left before the end of the season, but there is still plenty on the line in the Bundesliga. Here, we discuss five things to keep an eye on during matchday 33.

1 | Eintracht Frankfurt must beat Schalke

For the first time since the 19th matchday, Eintracht Frankfurt dropped out of the top four following their 1-1 draw with Mainz last weekend. Die Nullfünfer are no pushovers – only three sides, including Frankfurt themselves, have amassed more than their 29 points in the second half of the season – but the result didn’t do the Eagles’ hopes of Champions League qualification any favours. With two games left to play they trail Borussia Dortmund by one point.

The good news is, they have two winnable matches to come. First up, they travel to Schalke. The Königsblauen have mustered just two wins and 13 points all season – anything other than a comfortable Frankfurt victory would come as a huge shock. To end the campaign, they host Freiburg who, depending on results during matchday 33, may have nothing left to play for.

Adi Hütter’s decision to depart Frankfurt for Borussia Mönchengladbach at the end of the term, and the timing of his announcement in particular, has steered what previously appeared to be a solid ship off course. Over the next 180 minutes, he still has the opportunity to guarantee he leaves with the supporters’ best wishes.

2 | Arminia Bielefeld face favourable fixture

Frank Kramer’s arrival at the Bielefelder Alm has given Die Arminen hope of survival, but as it stands they remain in a precarious position. Under Uwe Neuhaus’ replacement, Bielefeld have picked up 13 points from 10 games, enough to see them into the relegation play-off spot. They trail Werder Bremen in 15th only on goal difference, but are just two points ahead of Köln – a win against Hoffenheim this weekend could end up being vital.

The good news for Kramer and co, though, is that they will be facing a Hoffenheim side who have already achieved their albeit underwhelming goals. During Sebastien Hoeness’ difficult first season at the club, Bundesliga survival ended up being the only aim – they achieved that with a 4-2 victory over Schalke last weekend despite trailing 2-0 at half-time.

While the fixture’s lack of importance does not guarantee Hoffenheim will fail to perform, they surely will not possess the same concentration and desire as their opponents. With a tricky Stuttgart to play on the final day of the campaign, this clash against Die Kraichgauer is Bielefeld’s best chance to pick up a crucial win.

3 | Freiburg may say goodbye to the Schwarzwaldstadion, Lewandowski on the brink of history

Although both sides come into this game with little in the balance, Saturday’s meeting between Freiburg and Bayern Munich could be a historical one for two reasons.

It is not yet confirmed, but Freiburg are expected to move in to their new stadium for the 2021/22 campaign, bringing an end to a 67-year stay at the Schwarzwaldstadion. The ground is one of the most picturesque in the Bundesliga, lying in the shadow of the forest with which it shares its name, but with a capacity of just 24,000, it is also one of the smallest. Their new home will be able to hold 34,700, far more befitting of the stable Bundesliga outfit Freiburg have become. That, however, does not mean the current ground will not be missed.

For Bayern, the Bundesliga title is already won, and a number of the playing squad will be thinking ahead to the European Championships and beyond. Robert Lewandowski, though, still has some unfinished business. Gerd Müller scored 40 goals during the 1971-72 season, a record which stills stands to this day, but Lewandowski, is just one strike behind Der Bomber after netting 39 with two games remaining. The Poland international has already scored six braces against Freiburg – one more would tie another record, that of the most braces against a single club, as well as beating Müller’s stunning tally.

The dedication and desire of Lewandowski suggest he will do all he can to write himself into the history books.

4 | Stuttgart still have a chance of European football

For a newly-promoted side to be challenging for a place in European competition is almost unheard of, but that is the situation in which Stuttgart find themselves. Granted, they face an uphill battle to do so. However, the fixture list at least gives them the best opportunity they could ask for.

This weekend they face Borussia Mönchengladbach, one of their two competitors for a spot in the inaugural Europa Conference League. In the previous Bundesliga meeting between the two this term, the points were shared after a thrilling 2-2 draw – that would not be enough for Stuttgart this time around, as they must win both of their games and hope neither Mönchengladbach nor Union pick up more than a point between now and the end of term.

Stranger things have happened in football. But even if Stuttgart do end up missing out, manager Pellegrino Matarazzo may be involved in European football next term if rumours of a move to Frankfurt are true. After the way he has got his side playing this season, it would be an opportunity he fully deserves.

5 | Can Hertha Berlin confirm Bundesliga survival?

Questions have been asked of Hertha’s ability to survive in the Bundesliga this season, and the pressure was intensified when a coronavirus outbreak, a subsequent postponement of three matches, meant they had to play five games in 13 days. However, while they have rarely been spectacular, Die Alte Dame’s run of seven games without defeat and two wins in little more than a week mean they are as comfortable as they have been in the top flight for a considerable amount of time.

Against Köln, a draw would suffice to avoid automatic relegation, while a win would see them move out of the grasps of the relegation play-off spot as well. An already bulging injury-list will be elongated by the name of Krzysztof Piatek, who fractured his ankle in the victory over Schalke in midweek, while Dodi Lukebakio will be absent following his red card against the same opponents. However, given the perseverance and doggedness of Hertha recently, they will unlikely be perturbed.

Survival, though, would only be a small victory. Over the past 18 months, Hertha have spent more than £100m on new players thanks to funds provided by investor Lars Windhorst, yet they have regressed rather than made strides to become the “Big City Club” they wish to be. There is a lot of work to done before next season if they want to make any real progress.

 

 

Jon Radcliffe

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