PREVIEW | Will Borussia Dortmund’s priorities lie with finishing fourth or winning the Champions League?

On matchday 27 of this Bundesliga campaign, Bayern Munich tightened their grip on the Bundesliga title with a 1-0 victory over RB Leipzig, Eintracht Frankfurt did the same for their Champions League ambitions with a 2-1 defeat of Borussia Dortmund and Union and Hertha played out a 1-1 draw in the Berlin derby. What is there to look forward to this weekend? GGFN look at five of the biggest talking points.

1 | Borussia Dortmund to rotate against Stuttgart?

Die Schwargelben’s defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt was a crushing blow to their hopes of reaching the Champions League next term. With seven games left to play, they trail the Eagles by seven points – a considerable mountain for Edin Terzić and Co. to climb.

As such, winning Europe’s premier club competition this time around may be their best chance of qualifying for the next edition. Defeating runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City over two legs is arguably the biggest challenge Dortmund could have faced, but a vital away goal in a 2-1 loss at the Etihad Stadium gives them a fighting chance of causing a shock next week.

That clash against Pep Guardiola’s men, though, required a monumental effort, and many of Dortmund’s players were out on their feet in the final minutes. Back in the Bundesliga, they face one of Germany’s most energetic sides in Stuttgart – a lot more running will be required.

Terzić now has to decide where his priorities lie. A place in the top four is not out of reach, but a full-strength starting XI could take the wind out of their sails ahead of the Citizens’ visit. However, a rotated side this weekend would be putting all of their eggs in the Champions League basket. A big call awaits the inexperienced head coach.

2 | Bayer Leverkusen vs Hoffenheim – historic

Considering the form of the two sides this campaign, Bayer Leverkusen against Hoffenheim is unlikely to capture the attention of many on paper. After going the first 13 matches of the league campaign unbeaten, Leverkusen have fallen apart in their descent to sixth place, with manager Peter Bosz sacked along the way. Die Kraichgauer, meanwhile, find themselves in 12th place after qualifying for the Europa League last time out and are closer to relegation than repeating last term’s feat.

It is the date that makes this game historic. The 20.30 kick-off on Monday is to be the last of its kind, at least for the foreseeable future after the DFL removed the time slot from the schedule following pressure from fans across the country to do so.

If anyone is looking for an example of the power supporters in Germany possess, this is it. Perhaps in envy of the Premier League’s commercial success, the Bundesliga decided to introduce Monday matches in an attempt to attract more fans across the weekend. This, though, was met with plenty of resistance, and protests popped up at games across the country. Given how important the ambiance in stadiums is to the image of German football across the planet – outside of coronavirus times, of course – the DFL could not afford 45-minute atmosphere boycotts which became widespread. Even though fans in Germany claim their voices are not heard by those in charge, they are clearly able to wield influence their counterparts in other countries can only dream of.

3 | FC Köln vs Mainz, a true six-pointer

While the title race appears to be all but over, the fight for survival is as tense as ever. With just 10 points from 27 matches, Schalke are a lost cause, but any one of four sides could be joining them in the second tier. This weekend, two of these teams, Köln and Mainz, meet in an affair that could have huge implications.

As we mentioned last week, Mainz have struggled to pick up points against those around them despite a big improvement in fortunes under Bo Svensson and the 1-1 draw with 17th-placed Arminia Bielefeld did little to dispel that theory.

Köln come in to this game on the back of just one win in eight matches. However, one-goal defeats to Union Berlin and Wolfsburg and a draw with Dortmund in their last three outings indicate they remain committed to the cause. Currently in the relegation play-off spot, a win would see them move out of the bottom three and one step closer to safety. 

Markus Gisdol’s side also have the easiest run-in on paper with Schalke, Hertha BSC and Augsburg still to come. While Mainz also face the Berlin outfit, they will also play against three of the top four, as well as Dortmund. Three points here could give them more room for error going into the final few weeks.

4 | Eintracht Frankfurt vs Wolfsburg: the surprise Champions League competitors

If you had said at the start of the season that both Eintracht Frankfurt and Wolfsburg would be closing in on a spot in next term’s Champions League, you would have been met with a few raised eyebrows. The two sides finished ninth and seventh respectively last term and were at least 16 points away from the top four.

Now, Frankfurt are seven points above Dortmund in fifth, while Wolfsburg are a further four in front. Barring any big collapses, both sides will be competing amongst the continent’s elite next term, a reward both have earned.

This clash will pit a glorious attack against a sturdy defence. Only Bayern have scored more than Frankfurt’s 55 goals in the Bundesliga as André Silva and Filip Kostić have shone, while no team has conceded less than Wolfsburg’s backline, which includes one of the signings of the season in French youngster Maxence Lacroix. Adi Hütter’s men are perhaps slightly more in need of a win to stay out of the grasps of Dortmund and Leverkusen, but both teams should be able to perform without crippling pressure. 

5 | Kramer aims to turn around Bundesliga home record

Given that Bielefeld have the lowest market value of any team in the Bundesliga, as well as one of the smallest budgets, it is somewhat of a surprise to see them remain in the fight for survival in the top flight. As it stands, they are 17th and will be automatically relegated if nothing changes between now and the end of the season, but they are level on points with Köln just above them and just two behind Mainz.

If only their home form this term had been stronger. Die Arminen have already lost a club-record nine matches at Bielefelder Alm, their home ground, and they face Freiburg this Friday as they aim to turn things around. Whether Frank Kramer is the man to do it, though, is up for debate. Albeit with limited experience in the top flight, the former Germany youth manager is yet to win at home in the Bundesliga, with this his third job in the top flight after short spells with Hoffenheim and Greuther Fürth. 

History, though, may be on Bielefeld’s side – they have prevailed in their last three home matches against Freiburg at this level. With Augsburg, Schalke and Hertha to come in the next four matches following this one, three points against Christian Streich’s men could give Bielefeld the boost they need to escape the drop.

Jon Radcliffe

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