After 33 games and over 26,000 minutes of swashbuckling action, the 2018/19 Bundesliga season draws to a close on Saturday afternoon, with the title race promising to go down to the very last kick of the campaign.
Reigning six-time champions Bayern Munich are in the driving seat as they welcome Eintracht Frankfurt to the Allianz Arena, with a two-point lead over Borussia Dortmund and a 17-strikes better goal difference. But BVB could still snatch top spot with a little help from the Eagles, provided they also claim victory on the road at Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Ahead of what promises to be a thrilling finale, bundesliga.com looks at five factors that could sway the destination of the Meisterschale…
1) Bayern's Allianz hoodoo
Remarkably, given how often they have won the Bundesliga in recent years, Bayern have never secured the title in front of their own fans at the Allianz Arena. The 75,000-seater stadium was opened in 2005 and the record champions have since added nine league crowns to their trophy cabinet, but they have always managed to get over the line away from home. The only exception was in 2014/15, when a Wolfsburg defeat in Gladbach confirmed Bayern as champions 24 hours after they had beaten Hertha Berlin on home soil.
In fact, the Bavarians have not celebrated conquering a title at home since way back in 1999/2000, when they overturned a three-point deficit to Bayer Leverkusen on the final day. While their failure to strike gold at the Allianz is perhaps just a curious quirk of fate, there have been no fewer than five occasions when the Bundesliga leaders have been knocked off their perch on the final day. Bayern were the beneficiaries in 1986 and 2000, but in 1971 they were overhauled by Gladbach, showing that there is hope for Dortmund yet.
2) Frankfurt's Champions League dream
On paper, Bayern will be clear favourites when they take on Frankfurt this Saturday, given that they have only lost one of their last 22 league outings and the Eagles are winless in five. But similar predictions were made before last season's DFB Cup final, which Frankfurt ended up winning 3-1 thanks to late goals from Ante Rebic and Mijat Gacinovic.
Adi Hütter's side have endured a tough couple of weeks, missing out on the UEFA Europa League final after a penalty shoot-out loss to Chelsea, and losing their grip on fourth spot in the Bundesliga after defeats to Leverkusen (6-1) and Mainz (2-0). But with Gladbach and Die Werkself just a point above them in the table, Die Adler still have a chance to achieve their long-cherished dream of reaching the UEFA Champions League for the first time since 1960.
When they take to the field at the Allianz on Saturday, it will be 59 years to the day that Frankfurt were beaten 7-3 by Real Madrid in the European Cup final. What better way to honour their glorious ancestors than by reaching the modern format of the continent's elite competition for the very first time?
Watch: Luka Jovic analysed by Tifo Football!
3) Friends reunited
As they battle the weight of history and the fervour of the Allianz – not to mention Bundesliga top scorer Robert Lewandowski and Co. – Frankfurt will need all the help they can get. And there has been one major silver lining among the clouds in the past week, with Sebastien Haller returning to full fitness after six weeks out with an abdominal strain. After encouraging appearances off the bench against Chelsea and Mainz, the 24-year-old is in line for a return to the starting line-up on Saturday.
Along with Rebic and 17-goal top scorer Luka Jovic, the Frenchman is a key member of Frankfurt's formidable attacking trident. In his absence, Die Adler managed just two wins in eight outings in all competitions, and his 14 goals and nine assists in the Bundesliga have powered their charge for a top-four finish. On Saturday, Hütter could start with his three-man frontline for the first time since a 3-0 win over VfB Stuttgart at the end of March.
Haller's powerful build, pace and excellent movement make him a serious handful for defenders, even those of the stripe of Niklas Süle, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng. And crucially, he acts as the perfect foil for Jovic, whose killer instincts have been somewhat diminished in the Frenchman's absence; the 21-year-old hasn't netted in the Bundesliga in five games. That could all be set to change as Frankfurt's goalbrokers look to prise open the Bayern vault and bring Champions League football back to Europe's financial capital.
Watch: Franck Ribery's brace inspired Bayern to a 3-0 win vs. Frankfurt earlier this season!
4) Reus, Gladbach's torturer-in-chief
While they will obviously be keeping a close eye on proceedings in Bavaria, Dortmund still need to get the job done at Gladbach, who will be fighting tooth and nail to keep hold of fourth place. The Foals thrashed relegated Nuremberg (4-0) last time out to move back above Frankfurt and Leverkusen, and they will be determined not to let a place in the Champions League slip through their fingers. Ironically, BVB's biggest weapon could well be a player who came of age at Gladbach, helping them achieve a top-four finish in 2011/12.
Marco Reus certainly needs no introduction at the Borussia-Park, especially given his habit of returning to haunt his old club in recent years. The Dortmund captain has scored on his last three visits to Gladbach, and his record against the Foals is impressive: 10 games, eight wins, seven goals and five assists. The 29-year-old has even struck the winner in the last two meetings between the clubs, and will be champing at the bit as he returns after a two-match suspension.
The Battle of the Borussias has also tended to go Dortmund's way in recent years. The Black-and-Yellows are currently enjoying a seven-game Bundesliga winning streak over the Foals, with their last defeat coming at Borussia-Park in April 2015. Lucien Favre, another ex-Gladbach man, will have to make sure he masterminds a fourth win in five career outings against his former side to give BVB any chance of landing a sixth Bundesliga title.
Watch: Reus' first 100 Bundesliga goals (skip to 9:33 for his strike vs. Gladbach last season)
5) A glorious swansong for Pulisic?
Reus boasts a stellar supporting cast for the season finale in Gladbach, with Christian Pulisic in particular looking dead set on going out with a bang. The 20-year-old American will play his final game for Dortmund before his summer switch to Chelsea, and if his recent performances are anything to go by, the Foals should be very worried indeed.
The USA star put BVB ahead with a stunning solo effort against Werder Bremen at the start of May, before breaking the deadlock the following week in their vital win over Fortuna Düsseldorf, which made sure the title race went down to the final day. After saying an emotional farewell to the Signal Iduna Park, Pulisic will now be hoping for a perfect send-off against Gladbach, a side he has beaten in all four of his career meetings.
Jadon Sancho is also likely to prove a handful as he attempts to finish the season as the Bundesliga's top assist provider – the Englishman currently has 14 – and you wouldn't bet against him adding to his 11 goals either. Crazy things do happen on the final day, though, such as when Gladbach crushed BVB 12-0 to round out the 1977/78 campaign, in what remains the biggest win in Bundesliga history.
Dortmund certainly go into Matchday 34 as the underdogs, but it ain't over till it's over, and there could be any number of twists in the tale as Bayern attempt to conquer their seventh straight league title, and BVB their first since 2012. Either way, make sure you cancel any plans you might have for Saturday afternoon!