With just two league games remaining for all of the Bundesliga’s teams, we edge closer to the European and relegation spots being sealed.
Since defeating local rivals Borussia Dortmund in the Revierderby, Schalke have stuttered to two consecutive draws, the second of which came this past weekend against Borussia Mönchengladbach. Although it was not the result Domenico Tedesco would’ve been hoping for, it could actually have been worse following the early red card for Schalke’s Nabil Bentaleb.
It means Schalke only require one point from their remaining two games to confirm a top four place and Champions League football for next season. It represents a huge step forward for the Royal Blues, and an impressive rate of progression, led by the highly rated Tedesco.
Behind them, Dortmund could also only manage a draw from their trip to the Wieserstadion against the improved Werder Bremen. The game saw another goal from Marco Reus as he continues to work towards peak form after a difficult few years with injuries.
Being a part of this summer’s World Cup with Germany will undoubtedly be on his mind, but helping to guide Dortmund to Champions League football will be his first priority. They need a win at home to Mainz on Saturday to confirm their place in next season’s competition.
The battle for fourth place has really taken a turn in recent weeks. Bayer Leverkusen looked on course to secure a surprise, but well deserved, top four finish.
A disappointing narrow defeat at home to Stuttgart came on the back of their four goal mauling in Dortmund last week, after they were emphatically knocked out of the DFB Pokal by Bayern. Perhaps that cup exit did more damage than anyone would’ve anticipated, especially given it was against the all-conquering Bayern.
Whilst this was happening, Hoffenheim were quietly closing in. Three consecutive victories, including the impressive dismantling of RB Leipzig and the dispatching of tricky Hannover, has seen Julian Nagelsmann and his side come back from being rank outsiders to sitting in prime position for fourth place.
With just one point separating the two clubs, it promises to be tight, despite Hoffenheim’s superior goal difference. Leverkusen make the tricky away trip to Bremen and Hoffenheim face an equally challenging away game at Stuttgart, who are still in with a shout of a Europa League place.
At the other end of the table, Köln are resigned to their fate of automatic relegation, but who joins them next season in 2. Bundesliga, is no longer looking quite so clear cut.
Hamburger SV were rock bottom a few weeks ago, but a sudden upturn in results has given them a chance of escaping the drop yet again.
10 points from their last five matches, including vital wins over fellow strugglers Freiburg and Wolfsburg, mean they are just two points adrift of the relegation play-off position.
That place is currently occupied by the team they vanquished this past weekend — Wolfsburg. A club that was riding high just a few years ago with a certain Kevin De Bruyne is now in very real trouble. They travel to a beleaguered Leipzig this weekend whilst Hamburg go to a Frankfurt side faltering since the announcement that their coach Niko Kovac would take over at Bayern this summer.
Speaking of Bayern, the fairy tale story of Jupp Heynckes once again bringing Champions League glory to the Allianz is over. They were unable to turn around the first leg deficit against Real Madrid and, despite earning a 2-2 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu, fell victim to the European Champions for the second successive season.
Frustratingly for Bayern, they created enough chances to win the tie, but their failure to convert cost them against their more ruthless opponent.
The bigger picture for Bayern must be how they can change this in the future. The Real Madrid team that narrowly ousted them might be ageing, but so are Bayern. Many of the star names are already in their thirties, with others not far behind. If Bayern are to transfer their domestic dominance into Europe then younger blood will be required.
In truth, Bayern would probably also benefit from stronger Bundesliga rivals to provide a stiffer test for them on a more regular basis. Bayern understandably want to win and dominate the Bundesliga every season and truthfully, which club wouldn’t? But a lack of viable competition domestically threatens to leave them undercooked in Europe. It’s an interesting conundrum, and one the Bundesliga and Bayern’s would-be rivals need to solve, but not one Bayern themselves are duty bound to.
The Bayern story will have an intriguing new chapter this summer, with a new coach and the injection of fresh talent needed if they are to achieve their European ambitions.
Elsewhere in the Bundesliga there are still stories to be written at both ends of the table and game week 33 promises to be a pivotal one.