Bundesliga: Hoffenheim and Borussia Dortmund in Champions League showdown | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 10.05.2018
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Bundesliga: Hoffenheim and Borussia Dortmund in Champions League showdown

After months of highs, lows and hard work, one match could decide Borussia Dortmund and Hoffenheim's fate, as the two duel for a Champions League spot. Lower down, Hamburg and Wolfsburg are out to avoid the drop.

The pressure is well and truly on. For more than half of the Bundesliga's teams, success or failure will be defined almost entirely by what happens between 15:30 and 17:15 on Saturday.

Stakes are high across Germany but no team, with the possible exception of Hamburg, will come under more scrutiny than Borussia Dortmund and their boss Peter Stöger should they fail.

After blowing the chance to secure Champions League football early with a tame surrender at home to Mainz last weekend, Stöger's men travel to face Hoffenheim - three points and one place behind BVB - needing a point to ensure another season dining at Europe's top table.

Stöger was in relaxed mood at his press conference on Thursday, brushing off questions about his future and claiming he enjoyed his team being the hunted, rather than the hunter.

Read more: Dortmund target Lucien Favre 'the opposite of Klopp'

"[We're confident] because of having the best position," he said. "Hoffenheim will have to take some risks in their play as well." 

Strong late season form gives Hoffenheim hope

That isn't a daunting proposition for Julian Nagelsmann's side, who will not even need a point if Bayer Leverkusen lose and RB Leipzig fail to win. Naglesmann described having the chance to qualify for the Champions League for the second successive season as an "extraordinary achievement" while his goalkeeper Oliver Baumann pointed to the club's remarkabale turnaround in the second half of the season as a reason for optimism.

"It’s a great position to be in. We're going into the last game of the season and we have the chance to qualify for the Champions League – not a lot of people would have backed us to do that back in the winter. Now we have this incredible opportunity to do it,” said the 27-year-old.

While Hoffenheim may feel they have little to lose, the same cannot be said of BVB, who will require Champions League football to aid a re-building process that doesn't seem likely to include Stöger.

Hoffenheim haven't picked up a win against Dortmund since the last day of the 2012-13 season, when BVB had their minds on the upcoming Champions League final. Baumann is still wary of Saturday's visitors, despite this season's struggles.

Injuries mount in Dortmund's defense

"Marco Reus is still Marco Reus, regardless of whatever’s going on behind the scenes at Dortmund. We’re going to be up against players with a huge amount of individual quality who will stretch us to the limit. But I also think that we're long overdue a win against BVB."

If Hoffenheim take the three points, they will make the group stages of the Champions League for the first time, with the four German teams now qualifying directly. That means they'll avoid the heartbreak of losing in the qualifiers, as they did to Liverpool in August.

But they will have to do so without three of their key men, with Serge Gnabry, Kerem Demirbay and Lukas Rupp all picking up season-ending injuries in recent weeks.

Dortmund also have injury concerns, particularly at center back, where Ömer Toprak is a major doubt and Sokratis is suspended. French teenager Dan-Axel Zagadou could start but Stöger says there's no chance of Julian Weigl being pressed in to service at the back.

Elsewhere on Matchday 34

Bildkombo Christian Titz Bruno Labbadia (Imago/Revierfoto//Imago Picture Point LE)

Chrstian Titz and Bruno Labaddia will try to guide Hamburg and Wolfsburg to safety

- At the other end, it's d-day yet again for Hamburg. A failure to beat Borussia Mönchengladbach at home will see the Bundesliga's only ever-present team relegated for the first time. Even three points won't be enough if Wolfsburg pick up something at home against already-relegated Cologne. A draw is almost certain to be enough for Bruno Labaddia's side to book a second successive relegation playoff, this time against Holstein Kiel. But that's about the best the 2009 champions can hope for.

- Bayer Leverkusen and RB Leipzig will both be desperately hoping for a Dortmund win. Leverkusen will qualify for the Champions League once again if they better Hoffenheim's result while Leipzig's only chance of a qualifying for a second successive year rests on both Hoffenheim and Leverkusen falling to defeat.

- There will be beer showers and celebrations at the Allianz Arena when Bayern Munich are awarded the Bundesliga shield for the sixth season in a row after they play Stuttgart. Jupp Heynckes is unlikely to allow his players too much slack though, the Bayern boss, who turned 73 this week, will aim to finish his career with another German Cup win on May 19 against the man who'll take his job next season - Niko Kovac. 

Matchday 34 fixtures (All games Saturday 15:30 CEST)

Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hannover

Bayern Munich vs. Stuttgart

Freiburg vs. Augsburg

Hamburg vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach

Hoffenheim vs. Borussia Dortmund

Hertha Berlin vs. RB Leipzig

Mainz vs. Werder Bremen

Schalke vs. Eintracht Frankfurt

Wolfsburg vs. Cologne

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Hamburg's last chance to avoid first relegation

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