The final weekend of the Bundesliga season is upon us. It will be a thrilling Saturday as all nine games take place concurrently.
With the Meisterschale, fourth Champions League spot, last (guaranteed) European place, and relegation on the line, here are the permutations of Saturday’s action.
Title Race: Borussia Dortmund (70 points), Bayern Munich (68)
After a decade of dominance in the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich’s reign looks very likely to end.
Thomas Tuchel’s side sit two points behind Borussia Dortmund heading into Saturday. Die Schwarzgelben was the last team to hoist the Meisterschale before Bayern’s stranglehold on the trophy.
Both teams will face midtable opposition hoping to end their campaign in the top half. Dortmund host a disappointed Mainz side, who lost out on the race for Europe. A win and/or Bayern dropping points will seal the title for Dortmund.
As for Bayern, they travel to Köln needing a win there plus help from Mainz. The Bavarians have a better goal difference than their title rivals, meaning a win and a Dortmund draw would keep the Bundesliga title in Munich for yet another year.
Fourth place: Union Berlin (59), Freiburg (59)
There will be a German debutant in next season’s UEFA Champions League group stage. One of Union Berlin or Freiburg will be that team.
Both clubs head into the last day level on points, yet it is Union currently holding fourth spot on goal difference (+12 to +8).
For Freiburg to finish fourth, they would need to collect more points than Union on Saturday. They could also try to overturn the goal difference deficit by winning by at least four goals more than the capital club. Christian Streich’s men face Eintracht Frankfurt at the Deutsche Bank Park.
As for Union, who host Werder Bremen on Saturday, they know that a win will almost surely be enough for fourth spot. A draw will also do it if Freiburg don’t claim three points. If they lose, Freiburg must also lose, and not overturn the goal difference advantage held by Union.
Whichever of the two teams finish fifth will end up in the Europa League group stage for the second year running.
Final (guaranteed) European place: Bayer Leverkusen (50), Wolfsburg (49), Eintracht Frankfurt (47)
Three teams compete for sixth place, which will guarantee at least a Europa Conference League playoff round spot. It could become a Europa League place if RB Leipzig beat Eintracht Frankfurt in the DFB Pokal final next weekend.
Going into Saturday, however, it is Bayer Leverkusen with the advantage. Xabi Alonso’s side travel to relegation-threatened Bochum. A win will see them finish sixth. A point will be enough if Wolfsburg drop points.
Should they lose, they will have to hope that Wolfsburg also lose and that Frankfurt does not win by a margin large enough to overturn the goal difference of six. Finally, if Frankfurt and Wolfsburg finish level on points, goal difference and goals scored, then the latter will claim sixth spot on head-to-head away goals scored.
Wolfsburg welcome Hertha Berlin, who will finish last. A win will see Wolfsburg end the season in at least seventh. If they claim more points than Leverkusen, it will almost surely be enough for sixth spot.
As for Frankfurt, they take on Freiburg at home, needing a win of at least five goals, along with a Bayer Leverkusen defeat and a Wolfsburg draw or loss. That is not an easy task for last season’s Europa League winners.
If Die Adler finish seventh, a European spot is guaranteed since they face Leipzig in the cup final. They will play in the Europa League if they win the Pokal regardless of where they finish domestically.
Finally, it is worth noting that if Leipzig successfully defends the cup, then the sixth place team will enter the Europa League group stage along with Union Berlin or Freiburg. The team that finishes seventh will enter the Conference League’s playoff round.
Relegation: Augsburg (34), Stuttgart (32), Bochum (32), Schalke (31)
The battle to avoid the drop is on. Four teams are aiming to finish above 16th and maintain their Bundesliga status for 2023/24.
Augsburg has the simplest scenario: avoid defeat at Borussia Monchengladbach and they will finish at least 15th. It is virtually impossible for Bochum and Schalke to pass them due to their considerably worse goal difference. At worst, Augsburg will end up in the relegation/promotion playoff, which would happen if they lose while Stuttgart and Bochum both win.
As for Stuttgart, they host Hoffenheim, who they can still finish above. A win will keep Sebastian Hoeness’ side in the league for another season. A draw will be enough if neither Bochum nor Schalke win. The only way for Stuttgart to be directly relegated is if they drop points, Bochum avoids winning (or draw if Stuttgart lose), and Schalke wins. If one of the two scenarios happen, then Stuttgart will end up in the playoffs.
Bochum’s situation is similar to Stuttgart’s, but it is not fully in their hands. Sitting in 16th going into Saturday, a victory at home to Bayer Leverkusen will see them avoid direct relegation. If they earn more points than Stuttgart, and at least match Schalke in that regard, then they will remain in the Bundesliga for next season. Der Blau will go down if they lose and Schalke avoid defeat, or if they draw, Schalke win, and Stuttgart avoid defeat.
Trouble once again looms for Schalke, who are in the relegation zone. Defeat at Champions League bound Leipzig will see Die Königsblauen return to the 2. Bundesliga a year after returning to the top flight. A draw will not be enough if Bochum takes at least a point. However, if Schalke draw and Bochum are defeated, the former will end up in the playoffs. A win, along with dropped points from both Bochum and Stuttgart, is the only way for Schalke to guarantee their Bundesliga status for 2023/24.
It will be a fascinating weekend of football in the Bundesliga. There is something for everyone, with all nine games involving at least one club needing a result. By 17:30 CET Saturday, we will have all we need to know.
GGFN | David Parkes