There's an almighty battle in prospect as title chasers Bayern Munich entertain European hopefuls Eintracht Frankfurt on the final day of the 2018/19 Bundesliga season. - © 2018 DFL
There's an almighty battle in prospect as title chasers Bayern Munich entertain European hopefuls Eintracht Frankfurt on the final day of the 2018/19 Bundesliga season. - © 2018 DFL

Bayern Munich vs. Eintracht Frankfurt: five key battles that could decide the title race

In the red corner: record 27-time Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, out to lift a seventh consecutive Meisterschale by clinching the crown at the Allianz Arena for the first time. And in the white corner: UEFA Europa League semi-finalists Eintracht Frankfurt, dreaming of a first qualification for the UEFA Champions League since losing the final in 1960.

It promises to be a sensational battle between Die Roten and Die Adler, who have already met three times over the past year. Bayern coach Niko Kovac was still in the Frankfurt dugout when his underdogs stunned Jupp Heynckes's league winners in last May's DFB Cup, but since taking over in Bavaria the Croatian has twice returned to haunt his former side at the Commerzbank-Arena, thrashing them 5-0 in the Supercup and easing to a 3-0 victory in December's reverse fixture in the Bundesliga.

The stakes couldn't be higher going into Matchday 34, when everyone of a Borussia Dortmund persuasion will also be praying for a Frankfurt victory at the Allianz. As the clock ticks down to Saturday's skirmish, takes a closer look at the key battles that could decide the outcome of the game – and consequently the title race.

Watch: The Bundesliga Saisonfinale - Drama to the end

1) Lewandowski vs. Hasebe   

Robert Lewandowski clearly needs no introduction, and Frankfurt fans won't have forgotten his hat-trick in the one-sided Supercup back in August. With 22 league goals this season, the Bayern striker is on the verge of securing his fourth top scorer's cannon, a feat that only all-time record goal-getter Gerd Müller (with seven Torjägerkanonen) has previously achieved in Bundesliga history. Even if he has only netted once in his last five outings, the 30-year-old remains the Bavarians' biggest attacking threat, and as he showed with braces in both of this season's Klassikers against Dortmund, he has a habit of popping up with important goals in the crunch games.

One of the men tasked with containing Lewandowski will be veteran Japan international Makoto Hasebe. A defensive midfielder by trade, the 35-year-old has been one of the Eagles' unsung heroes in central defence this season, covering for injury-hit captain David Abraham at the heart of a three-man backline. With the Argentine's return to fitness Hasebe has been restored to his preferred sweeper role, but he will still play a major part in keeping the Bayern frontline quiet. A wily operator with an innate sense of positioning and a helpful tendency to clear opposition efforts off the line, Hasebe's composure will no doubt be key as the visitors attempt to weather the storm at the Allianz. A Bundesliga champion with Wolfsburg in 2008/09, he also knows a thing or two about handling the big occasions.

Robert Lewandowski's hat-trick inspired Bayern to a resounding 5-0 win over Frankfurt in the 2018 Supercup. - 2018 DFL

2) Süle, Hummels and Boateng vs. Haller, Jovic and Rebic

While you would expect Bayern to dominate possession on Saturday, their defence will also have their hands full against one of the most potent attacking trios in Europe. Kovac is spoiled for choice in central defence, with three of the continent's best at his disposal: Niklas Süle, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng. At just 23, man mountain Süle has emerged as the bedrock of the Bavarians' backline this term, and will likely be paired with one of the 2014 FIFA World Cup winners as the Bundesliga leaders try to keep a 13th clean sheet of the campaign. If seeking inspiration, they can look back to the reverse fixture, when Süle and Boateng dealt comfortably with Sebastien Haller and Luka Jovic as Bayern ran out 3-0 winners in Frankfurt.

This time around, though, Haller and Jovic should be joined by Ante Rebic as Adi Hütter redeploys his razor-sharp attacking trident for the first time since the end of March. The injury-enforced absence of Haller has been keenly felt in recent weeks, with Frankfurt winning just two of eight games in all competitions without him. Between them, the trio have had a hand in 49 of Die Adler's 59 Bundesliga goals, and you can all but guarantee that if the visitors do end up spoiling Bayern's title party, the Frenchman, the Serbian and the Croatian will have had something to do with it.

Watch: How does Jovic score so many goals?

3) Kostic and da Costa vs. Kimmich and Alaba

Frankfurt will also be relying on their wing wizards Filip Kostic and Danny da Costa as they go in search of a first-ever victory at the Allianz Arena. The former has been irrepressible down the left flank this season, more than playing his part in the Eagles' successes with six goals and 10 assists – only three men have laid on more in the Bundesliga in 2018/19. Nobody has provided more crosses in the league than the Serbian (157), while his pinpoint set-piece deliveries could also prove vital for the visitors as they probe for weaknesses in the Bayern defence. The turbo-charged da Costa, meanwhile, has had a hand in six goals from out on the right, and across the division only Wolfsburg's Wout Weghorst has clocked more sprints (1,024) and intensive runs (2,649) than the 25-year-old.

The Frankfurt wide men will also have to keep a close eye on their opposite numbers, who are among the best full-backs in world football. Joshua Kimmich is one of the trio of players who boast even more assists than Kostic – he has 12, two fewer than Dortmund's Jadon Sancho but one more than Bayer Leverkusen's Julian Brandt. The Germany international has been ever-present for Bayern this term, playing every single minute in the Bundesliga and covering almost 7.5 miles per game, not to mention popping up with goals against Hannover and Wolfsburg. Alaba's contribution has been more modest – two goals and two assists – but the Austrian remains one of the first names on Kovac's teamsheet, and is on the cusp of conquering an eighth Bundesliga title at the age of just 26.

Watch: Joshua Kimmich under the tactical microscope

4) Ulreich vs. Trapp

The goalkeepers will also have a central role to play in Saturday's decisive showdown at the Allianz, with Sven Ulreich gearing up for his ninth outing of the season in the absence of Manuel Neuer. The 30-year-old proved that he was able to fill the Bayern captain's sizeable gloves in 2017/18, when he kept 12 clean sheets in 29 league games as the Bavarians romped to the title by 21 points. His opportunities have been more limited this term, but a calf injury sustained by Neuer in April means that Ulreich has been tasked with getting the reigning champions over the line. They have only lost one of the eight games so far with their No.2 in net, away to Leverkusen in February.

Voted IFFHS World's Best Goalkeeper on four consecutive occasions between 2013 and 2016, Neuer has not been spared by injuries in recent years, and thoughts have naturally turned to the 33-year-old's potential successors. Could one of them be standing between the sticks at the other end of the pitch on Saturday? Kevin Trapp has long been third in the Germany pecking order behind Neuer and Marc-Andre ter Stegen, but the 28-year-old has enjoyed a sensational campaign with Frankfurt after returning on loan from Paris Saint-Germain last summer. His 12 clean sheets in all competitions have provided a solid foundation for his side's Champions League push, as well as helping them reach the Europa League semi-finals. If the Eagles can keep Trapp's door shut at the Allianz, expect German national coach Joachim Löw to sit up and take notice.

Goalkeeper Kevin Trapp, who played for Frankfurt between 2012 and 2015, has been one of their standout performers this term after returning on loan from PSG. - 2019 DFL

5) Kovac vs. Hütter

The Matchday 34 title decider will also see two of the Bundesliga's shrewdest tacticians pit their wits against each other. Kovac and Hütter first crossed swords in the Austrian second division in 2009/10 – when the latter guided SCR Altach to three wins over the former's Red Bull Salzburg reserves – but things have gone very much the Bayern coach's way this term, with Hütter's Frankfurt suffering 5-0 and 3-0 defeats on home soil. After helping the Eagles lift their first trophy in 30 years in last year's DFB Cup showpiece, Kovac will now be looking to get the better of his former employers for a third time this season and secure the first championship crown of his coaching career.

Hütter has advocated a more attacking approach than his predecessor at the Commerzbank-Arena, which has made for an exciting campaign but often failed to bear fruit against the top teams, in particular the record champions. To some extent, the Austrian is also battling history at the Allianz; Frankfurt haven't beaten Bayern in 15 Bundesliga meetings, failing to even score in 11 of them. They have lost on their last nine league visits to Munich, and have in fact only won three of their 47 away games against Bayern, most recently in November 2000. If Hütter can mastermind a rare triumph for the Eagles in Bavaria and even land them a long-awaited ticket to the Champions League, he could find himself vying with Kovac for a place in the Frankfurt faithful's affections.