Borussia Dortmund have been crowned German champions, but with two matches left to play in the Bundesliga, there is still plenty for the other teams to fight for.
It was no surprise that Borussia Dortmund were crowned German champions Saturday after beating Mönchengladbach 2-0 - that has been merely a question of when, not if, for some time now.
But below Dortmund, who have an unassailable eight-point lead on second-place Bayern Munich, there are a number of fights for position in the table that are keeping things in the Bundesliga interesting.
Schalke is one of the teams in a battle down to the wire. Coming into round 32 of the Bundesliga, Schalke were in third place with a one-point lead over Mönchengladbach. With Gladbach's loss to Dortmund, and the fact that Schalke was facing an Augsburg side that is barely above the drop zone, it looked like it would be a good weekend for the Royal Blues to defend their current position as automatic entrants in the Champions League.
But if Schalke came into the game taking the three points against Augsburg for granted, it only took six minutes to start taking the game more seriously. Augsburg's Marcel Ndjeng took a perfect corner that found Sebastian Langkamp wide open, who headed it in off the crossbar and in.
Schalke's Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar evened things up in the 38th minute, taking a long pass from Joel Matip and making a solo run at the goal, finally beating Augsburg's keeper, Simon Jentzsch, from near the penalty spot.
Schalke were off form for much of the night, and the club's coach, Huub Stevens, said it was a good thing they had Huntelaar or things could have been worse.
"With the way we played in the first half, there's no need to talk about third place," he added.
The score remained 1-1, which is good news for Gladbach. They are now two points behind Schalke for the third automatic Champions League spot. The team that ends up in fourth will be entered in the qualification round of the Champions League.
Fight for Europa
The final push for Germany's spots in the Europa League is in full swing as well. Only one team makes it into the tournament automatically, but two spots are available for teams to play in the qualification round. The automatic spot is a toss-up between fifth-place Stuttgart and sixth-place Leverkusen, and Leverkusen's 1-0 win against Hoffenheim closed the gap to just two points behind Stuttgart, who only managed a 1-1 draw with Cologne.
Seventh place and the final spot in the Europa League qualification round is an even more hotly contested battle. Hanover are currently in seventh and missed a chance to put distance on the rest of the field in their scoreless draw with Freiburg. Next week they have a key match against Leverkusen, who are three points ahead. The draw caused visible relief among Freiburg's team and coaches when the final whistle blew as they are no longer candidates for relegation.
Bremen, Hoffenheim and Wolfsburg all missed opportunities position themselves better as well, and the pack of four fighting for seventh place is separated by four points. Bremenled against Bayern Munich for 75 minutes of the match, only to suffer an own goal and then a late winner by Bayern substitute Franck Ribery to lose 2-1. Had Bremen managed at least a draw, Dortmund would have been crowned Bundesliga champs before even setting foot on the pitch.
Wolfsburg and Mainz played to a scoreless draw in Friday night's Bundesliga contest. For Wolfsburg, the dropped points hurt their chance to play in the Europa League, while the single point for Mainz means they have virtually guaranteed that they will avoid relegation.
Last-place Kaiserslautern were not so lucky, however. Despite winning 2-1 against Hertha Berlin in Berlin, the single point scored by Cologne against Stuttgart put any chance of Kaiserslautern emerging from the drop zone out of reach.
Hertha's loss against the league's last-place team was an opportunity missed to swap places in the table with Cologne, who currently occupy the relegation playoff spot. Augsburg's surprise draw with Schalke put them four points clear of Cologne and just one behind Hamburg.
Hamburg and Nuremburg were the only two teams not directly involved in a fight for positioning in the table. They drew 1-1, and Nuremburg have secured a safe, mid-table position. A win in the next two matches would guarantee Hamburg a spot in the Bundesliga next season.
Author: Matt Zuvela
Editor: Andrew Bowen