Champions-elect Bayern Munich have already confirmed their participation in the Champions League next season, as have Borussia Dortmund. RB Leipzig need four points from their last three games to confirm their spot outright.
The battle for the remaining fourth spot is between Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach, currently separated by one point in fourth and fifth respectively. Leverkusen came out on top when the two sides squared off in the second game after the restart, but both teams have picked up just four points from the four games since.
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Leverkusen arguably have the easier remaining schedule; they face Cologne, Hertha Berlin and Mainz, all sides currently in the bottom half of the table — though Hertha have experienced a renaissance of sorts under Bruno Labbadia. Gladbach have a crucial matchup against sixth-placed Wolfsburg on Tuesday before finishing with bottom-side Paderborn and Hertha.
– DW’s top four prediction: Bayern, Dortmund, Leipzig, Leverkusen
Given the double-digit gap between them and the rest of the pack, whichever of Leverkusen and Gladbach miss out on the top four will take fifth and qualify automatically for Europe’s second-tear international club competition. And because Bayern and Leverkusen are squaring off in the German Cup final, the team that finishes seventh in the standings will be entered into qualification for the Europa League.
The main contenders for the remaining two spots up for grabs are Wolfsburg, Hoffenheim and Freiburg, the teams currently in sixth, seventh and eighth respectively. Of those three, Wolfsburg are in the best form, picking up 10 points from the six games since the restart, but arguably have the toughest remaining schedule with games against Gladbach, Schalke and Bayern.
Wolfsburg are in strong position to return to the Europa League
Hoffenheim are three points behind Wolfsburg and are hoping for a late push after replacing Alfred Schreuder with academy coach Marcel Rapp. They have two games against bottom-half sides Augsburg and Union Berlin before finishing the season in Dortmund.
Freiburg, a model for Bundesliga consistency, are just four points behind Wolfsburg and one point behind Hoffenheim, but have won just one of their games since the restart. Their remaining fixtures include home games against Hertha and Schalke, with a trip to Munich in between.
Schalke, Hertha and Eintracht Frankfurt, a Europa League participant this season, all have an outside chance of sneaking in as they sit within five points of Hoffenheim in seventh. Frankfurt, who vanquished Hertha 4-1 over the weekend, perhaps have the best chance, but a Hoffenheim win over the next three games would all but eliminate them from contention.
– DW’s Europa League prediction: Gladbach, Wolfsburg, Freiburg
Bremen is in position to pull off a great escape with three games remaining
Cologne, Augsburg and Union Berlin are all on 35 points and have effectively confirmed Bundesliga football for next season. Meanwhile, Paderborn’s relegation was effectively sealed at the weekend and will be mathematically complete should they fail to beat Union on Tuesday.
Thus the relegation battle comes down to three teams: Mainz, Düsseldorf and Werder Bremen. Mainz are currently three points outside the drop zone in 15th, while only one goal separates Düsseldorf in 16th, the promotion/relegation playoff spot, and Bremen in 17th, the second automatic relegation spot.
Mainz’s point advantage is mitigated by the fact that they still have to play top-four sides Dortmund and Leverkusen away from home, not to mention a crucial game against Bremen at home. Düsseldorf’s remaining fixtures also aren’t easy, with two trips east to Leipzig and Berlin, where they face Union on the final day of the season, left on the schedule.
That gives resurgent Bremen, who have collected 10 points since the Bundesliga restart, hope that they can pull off a great escape. A loss to Bayern on Tuesday may already be penciled in, but their remaining fixtures against Mainz and Cologne are terrific opportunities to rise off the bottom.
If they perform the way they did in their 5-1 rout of Paderborn at the weekend, the momentum could be in Bremen’s favor.
As for the potential opponents in that relegation/promotion playoff, the third spot in the 2. Bundesliga is still very much up for grabs. Former Bundesliga giants Hamburg and Stuttgart seem to be doing everything they can not to get promoted, while Heidenheim also still have a chance.
– DW’s relegation prediction: Paderborn and Düsseldorf relegated automatically, Mainz in the playoff, Bremen safe.