Bayern Munich are champions. SC Freiburg have been relegated. That so far is crystal clear in this year's Bundesliga, but many others aren't. The season may have just three games to run, but it is far from over.
Some fight for survival, others fight to play for Europe's big trophies
For those who thought the Bundesliga was over just because Bayern Munich picked up their 19th title last weekend, think again. Felix Magath’s team may be the champions and Volker Finke’s Freiburg may have been relegated, but there are still some important league positions to play for both at the top and the bottom of the Bundesliga.
Newly-crowned champions Bayern rounded off their title charge in fine form last Saturday with a 4-0 rout of Kaiserslautern but they were beaten in the high scoring stakes by their opponents this week. FSV Mainz 05 ran riot over a woeful VfL Bochum in the Ruhrstadion to record a massive 6-2 away win that secured their place in the top flight for another season.
With the job done in both Munich and Mainz, both teams could see the season out playing for pride. Mainz are safe but are way off the pace for the European places where the battle still rages.
Competition for European places gets fierce
One of the crucial clashes of the weekend in that respect is the Sunday game between Borussia Dortmund and dethroned champions Werder Bremen. Earlier in the campaign it looked as though Dortmund would be battling relegation come May but after picking themselves up since the winter break, the players of BVB have turned their season around and are angling for a UEFA Cup slot.
Bremen, however, have not only seen their title head south but also their chances of a Champions League place. While still in the hunt for third spot, Werder are two points behind VfB Stuttgart, the current holders of the last coveted place. Last week’s 3-0 win over Arminia Bielefeld may give the ex-champions some confidence but they face a Dortmund side willing their way towards respectability.
Stuttgart in danger of underachievement
VfB Stuttgart's coach Matthias Sammer was not a happy camper last weekend
Stuttgart caused their coach Matthias Sammer to blow a fuse last week as they crumbled to a 2-0 reverse to relegation candidates Borussia Mönchengladbach, throwing their own Champions League credentials into doubt. VfB could be in danger of becoming a team of underachievers after three seasons of great promise with little to show for their efforts so far.
A good win over Hanover 96 on Saturday would go some way to steady the nerves and get back on course. Hanover beat Nuremberg 1-0 last week and with a comfortable mid-table finish secure, their thoughts must be turning to next season. The onus therefore will be on Stuttgart to perform and get an important win with second placed Schalke 04 only two points ahead.
Schalke fighting off queue of usurpers
Schalke’s title dream ended three weeks ago but was confirmed with the 3-3 draw with Bayer Leverkusen last week which allowed Bayern to disappear into the distance carrying the championship shield.
The season is not over for Ralph Rangnick’s Royal Blues, however. A DFB Cup final against Bayern beckons and the fight will continue to hang onto the runners-up spot and a Champions League place. Schalke travel to Arminia Bielefeld with nothing less than victory in mind, with defeat carrying its own consequences with a queue of teams lining up behind them to hijack the second berth.