By Jamie Agar.
With just five games left in the Bundesliga season, there is fierce competition for the Europa League places, and five teams will be looking to secure one of those final continental qualification spots.
With Hertha Berlin and Schalke experiencing contrasting form, there could be a few surprises in store between now and the end of the season, with the following clubs joining the pair in that race for 6th.
Sixth-place Wolfsburg are firm favourites to claim this seasons last Europa League place. With 42 points in 29 games.
They have no problems on the goal-scoring front, with 41 goals so far this season. However the same can’t be said for their defensive record, having conceded 36 goals this term.
It’s fair to say Wolfsburg haven’t been able to make the Volkswagen arena a fortress this season, with just four home wins, but their away record is superior with seven wins in fourteen on the road.
Maximilian Arnold has been a pivotal player for Die Wölfe this season. The central midfielder has four goals and eight assists in the league this campaign. The German’s primary position is central midfield, but due to Wolfsburg’s frequent formation changes, we’ve also seen him play in the holding midfield role, as well as in attacking midfield.
Arnold is a one-club man, with 272 appearances for Wolfsburg since his first-team debut in 2011. Approaching his prime years, will he make a move to a ‘bigger club’, or stay true to Wolfsburg?
Another standout performer for Wolfsburg this season is Wout Weghorst. The Dutch behemoth has 11 goals and three assists in the Bundesliga this season. Weghorst arrived at the club in July 2018, since then has made 75 appearances, scoring 34 goals.
Weghorst could be described as a poacher, with all 11 goals this season coming inside the box. Despite his 6 ft 6 in frame, only two of his goals this season have been headers.
One of the team’s biggest areas for improvement this season has been finishing. They have created 51 big chances but missed 43 of them, but goals from set-pieces have often saved them, and have scored 12 from dead-ball situations.
Head coach Oliver Glasner took charge of Wolfsburg in July 2019. He isn’t the most experienced manager in the Bundesliga, but has previously managed two Austrian teams; SV Reid and LASK Linz.
It’s fair to say Wolfsburg have a tough run-in, with their last 3 fixtures consisting of Borussia Monchengladbach, Schalke, and Bayern Munich, which could give their Europa League qualification rivals a chance.
Freiburg are seen as more of a dark horse in this season’s race for Europe. They have accumulated 38 points in 29 games, currently sitting four points adrift of 6th.
Nils Peterson has been critical for the club this season. The German target man is Freiburg’s top scorer this season, with nine goals.
Whilst many fans may expect a higher number of goals from their main striker, Peterson has scored some important goals for his team.
He netted the winner against Frankfurt in the 77th minute back in November, and scored two in Freiburg’s clash with Werder Bremen, the second of those coming in the 94th minute. He has also scored goals from the bench, and a particular highlight would be his 90th-minute strike against Leipzig to secure all three points.
Nicolas Hofler is another player who has been essential for Freiburg this season. The central midfielder is the most consistent performer in the Freiburg squad. He has created 15 chances, and also contributed on the defensive side of the game with 42 clearances and 59 interceptions.
Hofler’s best performance so far has to be in Freiburg’s clash with RB Leipzig. He scored on the brink of half time firing Freiburg ahead, and his side then went on to win the game 2-1 with Hofler boasting a pass success of 95%.
Head coach Christian Streich is part of the furniture at the club, having managed Freiburg’s U19s from 1995 to 2011. During this time Streich was also appointed assistant manager, and was appointed as head coach in 2011 and has been their manager ever since.
Freiburg’s run-in is a mixed back, as they face a resurgent Hertha Berlin, league leaders Bayern, before ending the season against out-of-form Schalke 04.
With 42 points in 29 games, Hoffenheim are looking like second-favourites for the final Europa League spot.
Hoffenheim have a poor home record this season with just six wins in 15 at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena, but their away record certainly compensates for that with just three loses on the road.
Robert Skov has been outstanding for Hoffenheim this season. The left midfielder has four goals and five assists, and has created a phenomenal 50 chances.
Andrej Kramaric has also been a standout performer. The Croatian has seven goals and two assists in just 14 matches, but is currently injured and is not expected to return until mid-June. Hopefully, we’ll see him make a return before the season draws to a close.
Alfred Schreuder is in just his second season as a head coach having been assistant manager of Hoffenheim between 2015 and 2017, before being appointed as manager in the summer of 2019.
Hoffenheim have arguably the easiest run-in of the lot, but have to face Borussia Dortmund as well as two winnable games against Augsburg and Union Berlin.