This past weekend the Bundesliga officially said tschüss to Nürnberg and Hannover and willkommen once more to FC Köln as we moved a step closer to everything being decided.
Köln have been crowned 2. Bundesliga champions a year after their relegation and will be joined in the automatic promotion spots by either Paderborn or Union Berlin.
Whichever misses out on the automatic spot will take on Stuttgart in a two-legged play-off.
Stuttgart’s recent improvement in form hasn’t been enough to see them move out of the relegation play-off position, but it has been enough to consign Hannover and Nürnberg to second division football next season.
It should also help the confidence of Die Schwaben ahead of those future-defining games against either Paderborn or Union Berlin.
So, while it’s all decided at the bottom of the table, there’s still plenty to play for at the other end.
Are you ready for the season finale❓
— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) May 6, 2019
In a dress rehearsal of the DFB Pokal final, Bayern München travelled to face RB Leipzig knowing that a victory would confirm them as champions.
It proved to be a tense affair with Bayern probing for a breakthrough as they searched for that all-important win. We did get drama, courtesy of VAR.
Leon Goretzka thought he had put the visitors ahead with a spectacular karate-kid style scissor kick strike.
But with all the players lined-up ready to kick off, the officials waited as VAR checked the replays and discovered the tightest of offside decisions against Robert Lewandowski, and the goal was chalked off.
The match ended goalless, meaning Borussia Dortmund needed to win at home to Fortuna Düsseldorf to ensure the title race went to the wire.
The Westfalenstadion said its goodbyes to Chelsea-bound Christian Pulisic and the American winger was clearly emotional as the occasion pulled on his heart-strings. Pulisic gave the Yellow Wall a farewell goal to give Dortmund the lead they needed.
Düsseldorf has impressed many this year and coach Friedhelm Funkel has done a fantastic job in leading them to the security of mid-table on a limited budget.
They’ve played with great heart and have troubled all the top teams, particularly on the transition. They demonstrated all these qualities against Dortmund and drew level early in the second half. The goal was credited to Oliver Fink, but really it was down to Marvin Hitz in goal, spilling a simple save.
It’s been something of a trend for Dortmund this season that has too often cost them points: unforced errors which have lead to goals.
Dortmund pressed on and Thomas Delaney capped a fine display with a goal to put the home side back in front.
A still unsettled Hitz compounded his rare outing with a moment of hesitation as the ball broke free in the area and resulted in a collision with Lukebakio after his shot went wide.
The referee decided it was a foul and awarded a penalty. Replays suggested it was a very harsh decision, but VAR didn’t intervene and the call stood. Up stepped Lukebakio, but his effort went wide and the Westfalen breathed a sigh of relief.
A nasty tackle by Adam Bodzek on Jadon Sancho saw the Fortuna man sent off late on and when Mario Götze adding a third goal for Dortmund in injury time, it seemed the game was sewn up.
The fact it wasn’t is both credit to Düsseldorf for not giving up, and also an issue that has plagued Lucien Favre’s team since the turn of the year.
Their inability to effectively manage games and see out two or three goal leads is likely to be what costs them the title this season.
Dawid Kownacki pulled another goal back for Düsseldorf deep into added time and this led to a nervous couple of minutes for Dortmund before the final whistle.
Ultimately, though, it was job done and on to the final day away to Borussia Mönchengladbach, who are chasing the final Champions League spot.
It should be a tremendous game with both sides needing a win. On top of that, Dortmund must hope that Eintracht Frankfurt, who are also chasing fourth place, can beat Bayern.
It means the last day will be dramatic as the destiny of the Bundesliga title and the final Champions League spot are inextricably linked.
We went into the past weekend with five clubs chasing down that final Champions League place. Defeats for Hoffenheim at home to Werder Bremen, and Wolfsburg away at Stuttgart means that it will now be one from three.
Bayer Leverkusen have been in great form and celebrated 40 years in the Bundesliga with a commemorative kit and got the familiar combination of Julian Brandt to Kai Havertz to open the scoring.
Rather than a Harlem Globetrotter performance, we got from Leverkusen last week. They remembered how fragile they can be and Guido Burgstaller fired Schalke level.
It was nearly worse when Kevin Volland foolishly struck Weston McKennie to concede a penalty, but Daniel Caligiuri was unable to take advantage as his shot was saved by Lukas Hradecky.
It ended 1-1, a good result for Schalke, but one that leaves Leverkusen’s Champions League aspirations hanging in the balance.
As already mentioned, Mönchengladbach host Dortmund on the final day of the season. Their form since the winter break has seen them go from challenging for the title to potentially dropping out of the Europa League places.
Results elsewhere have worked in their favour and a 4-0 win over relegated Nürnberg lifted them back into fourth. Could Dieter Hecking be handing his successor Marco Rose Champions League football?
A win on Sunday would have handed Frankfurt the advantage, but after another gruelling midweek European match — this time exiting the Europa League to Chelsea on penalties, it was clear Adi Hütter’s team were struggling physically.
Defeat at the semi-final stage of a remarkable European journey was heart-breaking for the Eagles, but they did themselves proud against an expensively assembled Chelsea team.
The side-effect to their memorable European campaign has been injuries to attackers Sebastien Haller and Ante Rebic, and weariness to a tight squad.
This has been reflected in recent Bundesliga performances and results; all of which was evident as they went down 2-0 at home to Mainz.
A much-needed week off and return to fitness of Rebic and Haller means Frankfurt have an opportunity to prepare themselves fully for their trip to the Allianz. A draw will be enough for Bayern, but Frankfurt must win and hope both Gladbach and Leverkusen drop points.
So, here we are. Heading into the final game-week with so much still to play for is good for the Bundesliga and, whatever happens, it’s sure to be a dramatic end to an intriguing season.