Dortmund still battling for Champions League qualification
BERLIN (AP) Borussia Dortmund can end what has been a deeply frustrating season on a positive note by clinching Champions League qualification on the final day on Saturday.
The last round of the Bundesliga also has Hoffenheim, Bayer Leverkusen and Leipzig scrapping to squeeze into Europe’s top competition.
The quartet is chasing third and fourth place. Bayern Munich has already been crowned champion for a sixth consecutive year and Schalke runner-up for the first time in eight years.
For the first time, the top four in Germany has a direct route into the Champions League group stage, without anyone requiring a playoff.
The climax to the season has produced a meeting of third and fourth as Dortmund travels to Hoffenheim on Saturday when all nine games are played at the same time.
Third-place Dortmund has a three-point lead over Hoffenheim and Leverkusen. A draw would guarantee a Champions League place for Dortmund but it can even afford to lose by one goal at Hoffenheim to finish third.
Dortmund should have secured qualification already, but losing at home to relegation-threatened Mainz last weekend was symptomatic of the inconsistency since Peter Stoeger replaced fired coach Peter Bosz in December. The side has not won consecutive games since February.
”We’d have taken this position in mid-December. Then it would have been a wonderful story,” Stoeger said ahead of what will likely be his last game in charge. Former Borussia Moenchengladbach coach Lucien Favre is tipped to leave French side Nice to replace Stoeger.
To finish third, Hoffenheim needs to beat Dortmund by at least two goals. A win will be enough to finish at least fourth, assuming Leverkusen fails to win its game against Hannover by more than four goals.
A draw against Dortmund will be enough for Hoffenheim to finish fourth if Leverkusen or Leipzig fails to win. Even a loss will be enough as long as Leverkusen also loses and Leipzig fails to win. Eintracht Frankfurt’s goal difference means it has only a mathematical chance of catching Hoffenheim.
Leverkusen, which is behind Hoffenheim on goal difference (three), needs to better Hoffenheim’s result against Dortmund to finish fourth. If Hoffenheim wins, Leverkusen needs to beat Hannover by scoring four more goals to finish third.
”A 5-0 win is utopian of course,” Leverkusen coach Heiko Herrlich said. ”But on the other hand we won 4-1 in Leipzig and (Charles) Aranguiz had the big chance to make it 5-1. In football everything is possible.”
A defeat would also be enough for Herrlich’s side if Leipzig fails to win and Hoffenheim loses by five goals more than Leverkusen.
Sixth-place Leipzig needs Hoffenheim and Leverkusen to lose to keep alive its hopes of qualification with a win at Hertha Berlin. Leipzig’s goal difference means it would need an extraordinarily high-scoring win (16 goals) to qualify if Hoffenheim and Leverkusen draw. If Leverkusen draws and Hoffenheim wins, Leipzig would need to win by 13 goals.
Should it implode, Dortmund is assured of at least a Europa League spot. A host of teams apart from the Champions League contenders including Eintracht Frankfurt, Stuttgart and `Gladbach still have hope of finishing among the top six. The German Cup winner also qualifies for the Europa League, but that place will go to the seventh-place finisher in the Bundesliga if Bayern beats Frankfurt.
Hamburger SV, Wolfsburg and Freiburg are battling for survival. Last-place Cologne is already relegated.
Hamburg hosts `Gladbach in a must-win game to stave off its first ever relegation from the top flight, while it is also banking on a favor from Cologne against Wolfsburg so it can take the relegation playoff place.
If Wolfsburg claims a point, Hamburg would need to beat `Gladbach by 10 goals.
”We still have a chance to get the relegation playoff spot and all our focus is on that,” Hamburg coach Christian Titz said.
Freiburg just needs a point against visiting Augsburg to be sure of survival.