AP – The closest Bundesliga title race for years ends on the final day of the season tomorrow when Borussia Dortmund or Bayern Munich will be crowned champion.
Dortmund lead by two points and need to beat Mainz at home to be sure of ending Bayern’s 10-year reign, while Bayern will be hoping for a Dortmund slip-up as they visit Cologne at the same time.
Bayern’s goal difference is better than Dortmund’s so a draw won’t be enough for Dortmund if Bayern beat Cologne.
“We have to win once more. That’s all that counts,” Dortmund sporting director Sebastian Kehl said.
Bayern’s total of 68 points is the lowest they had at this stage of the season since 2011, when interim coach Andries Jonker led the team to third place after Louis van Gaal was fired.
Bayern also fired their coach this season, when Julian Nagelsmann made way in March because the club felt their targets in the Champions League, German Cup and Bundesliga were in danger. Bayern were subsequently knocked out of the first two under new coach Thomas Tuchel, but he may yet salvage some lost pride if his former team Dortmund fail to beat Mainz – where he started his senior coaching career.
Dortmund’s 70 points are just one more than they managed last season, when they finished 10 behind Bayern.
The story of the Bundesliga this season is one of Bayern’s decline, rather than any huge leap made by Dortmund – though the team have developed a new resilience under coach Edin Terzić.
Leipzig are assured of third place regardless of their result at home to Schalke, but fourth – the last qualification spot for Europe’s premier competition – is still in contention between Union Berlin and Freiburg.
Both teams are level on points, with Union ahead by four goals’ difference. Union can book Champions League place with a win at home over Werder Bremen, or by matching Freiburg’s result at Eintracht Frankfurt – provided Freiburg doesn’t score four goals more than Union.
It’s already a remarkable achievement for Union and Freiburg – both clubs of modest resources – to be in this position going into the final round.
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One of Union or Freiburg will finish fifth and qualify for the Europa League.
Sixth-placed Bayer Leverkusen and seventh-placed Wolfsburg hope to join, depending on what happens in the German Cup final on June 3 between Leipzig and Eintracht Frankfurt.
Because the cup winner gets a European qualification spot, Leverkusen and Wolfsburg will be cheering for Leipzig in the final. If Leipzig successfully defends their title, it will free another Europa League qualification spot (sixth in the Bundesliga), because they have has already qualified for the Champions League. If Frankfurt wins, then the sixth-placed finisher goes to the Europa Conference League.
Leverkusen visit Bochum on the final day. Wolfsburg are just a point behind Leverkusen and can be confident of taking three more against already-relegated Hertha Berlin.
Frankfurt, three points behind Leverkusen, has only a slim chance of finishing sixth.