bundesliga.com summarises the biggest stories to emerge from Matchday 31...
After a mini-crisis (two defeats and a draw, their worst run in the league since 2010), FC Bayern have rediscovered the knack of winning a Bundesliga game, even if their performance was perhaps one to forget. The Reds “hardly put two or three passes together” in the words of Pep Guardiola in Saturday’s 2-0 win at bottom club Eintracht Braunschweig, but have at least experienced that winning feeling ahead of perhaps their biggest game of the season: away to Real Madrid CF in the UEFA Champions League next Wednesday.
With three games left, Borussia Dortmund are the second Bundesliga club to secure their place in next season's Champions League group stages after a 4-2 victory over 1. FSV Mainz 05 that opened up an 11-point lead over fourth placed Bayer 04 Leverkusen with only nine left to play for. The remaining objectives for Jürgen Klopp’s are to finish above Ruhrpott rivals FC Schalke 04 and crown the campaign with a trophy by beating Bayern in the DFB Cup final.
Three clubs took a huge step towards survival this weekend. SV Werder Bremen are, to all intents and purposes, clear of the relegation mire after a 3-1 victory over 1899 Hoffenheim that leaves them nine points clear of the play-off spot, while SC Freiburg can also dare to look ahead to next season in the top flight after an emphatic 4-2 win over Borussia Mönchengladbach took them eight points clear of 16th. And Hannover 96 also secured three important points by beating Eintracht Frankfurt 3-2 in last Thursday’s rearranged game gave them a seven-point cushion in the standings.
Heading in the opposite direction, it seems, are Hamburger SV. Sky co-commentator and Hamburg native Stefan Effenberg claimed he had never heard HSV's supporters so quiet after the Red Shorts' 3-1 defeat to VfL Wolfsburg, a result that left them in 16th. Worse still, rivals VfB Stuttgart won on Sunday evening, meaning Mirko Slomka’s team are now four points adrift with three games to go. Time is certainly ticking on HSV’s 51-year stay in the German top flight.
Indeed, Stuttgart were the big winners in the relegation battle this week. With each team below them losing, VfB capitalised by beating FC Schalke 04 3-1 to go four points clear of Hamburg and give the fans concrete hope of safety. Central to what was a massive victory was the contribution of Cacau, the 33-year-old leading the line with passion and endeavour and scoring his first league goal in 574 days. It was perhaps the most significant strike in his 11 years at the club to date, and his 80th in the top-flight for the Swabians, moving him ahead of Jürgen Klinsmann.