Munich - Surprise package Eintracht Frankfurt have qualification for Europe in their hands in what promises to be a high-voltage finale to the 2012/13 Bundesliga season on Saturday, with all nine encounters kicking off at 15:30 CET.
Eintracht Frankfurt - VfL Wolfsburg
Meanwhile, the tension could hardly be higher at the bottom with three teams still grappling against the drop. bundesliga.com looks ahead to the action...
A draw at home to Wolfsburg is likely to be enough for Frankfurt to secure a shot at next season's UEFA Europa League group stage, with the sixth-placed side two points clear of Hamburger SV and with a far superior goal difference heading into the final day. A best-case scenario could even see the Eagles clinch a UEFA Champions League play-off spot in fourth.
Despite that promising prospect, however, veteran goalkeeper Oka Nikolov preferred to soft-pedal ahead of the Commerzbank Arena encounter, stressing that "there's still work to be done, we need to snatch one more point". The 38-year-old, who joined the Hessians 22 years ago, could prove every bit as crucial as top scorer on 15 goals Alexander Meier and fellow striker Sdrjan Lakic, who has scored in each of his last two outings.
Olic keen to help HSV
Visitors Wolfsburg have little left to strive for in their 2012/13 finale, yet striker Ivica Olic is determined do his former club Hamburg a favour: “First and foremost we are playing for ourselves, but I would like to see HSV make it into Europe."
Last week's 3-3 draw at home to Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund and a string of nine unbeaten Bundesliga matches have certainly boosted the Wolves' confidence. "If we play the way we did over long periods against Dortmund," added Olic, "then we have a good chance of getting a win in Frankfurt."
Hannover 96 - Fortuna Düsseldorf
Düsseldorf know victory in Hannover would all but secure their Bundesliga status for another year, yet Norbert Meier's men are still within the clutches of relegation play-off place and even automatic relegation if results don't go their way, with FC Augsburg level on points and 1899 Hoffenheim trailing by two.
Having experienced a similarly nerve-jangling finale last season when Fortuna won promotion against Hertha BSC, the play-off could prove to his side's advantage, according to Meier: "Our team is used to matters not being decided until the final Matchday. We have a certain coolness, even though we admittedly failed to show it in Frankfurt and against Nuremberg." The Rhineland side lost both those recent encounters and haven't managed a single win from their last 11 outings.
"Taking it seriously"
Hannover's run hasn't been quite as poor, but a mere two victories from their last ten matches have seen Mirko Slomka's side slip down to ninth, spoiling their hopes of a third European berth in three seasons.
Aware of their crucial role in this year's fight against the drop, however, the 96ers were quick to clarify that the points won't be up for the taking on Saturday. “We want to win the game, that much is clear," said five-time goalscorer Konstantin Rausch, who will be wearing the Hannover colours for the last time before joining VfB Stuttgart in the summer. "It’s not about helping or not helping in the relegation battle. We're playing for us alone and we're taking the game very seriously.”
FC Augsburg - Greuther Fürth
Augsburg are aiming to climb out of the relegation zone and crown their second half of the season revival with survival, but the Bavarians have five goals to make up on Fortuna Düsseldorf if they are to assume 15th place or above for the first time since Matchday 3.
"We have been working hard to maintain our chance of avoiding the drop until the final Matchday," said head coach Markus Weinzierl, who also stressed he would be satisfied a play-off spot given that a worst-case scenario could even see his side drop behind Hoffenheim into 17th.
Weinzierl will be relishing the return of long-term injury absentee Ja-Cheol Koo, who could make his first-XI comeback, potentially leaving the club's top goalscorer Sascha Mölders spectating from the bench.
The guests at the SGL arena, Greuther Fürth, may already be relegated, but the Clover Leaves' head coach Frank Kramer made it clear the cellar-dwellers would not be taking their final Bundesliga fixture for at least another year lightly. "We're fully focused and realise everyone in Germany is watching," the 41-year-old clarified. "For Augsburg, this one game might decide whether or not their entire season has been a success."
VfB Stuttgart - 1. FSV Mainz 05
With little at stake in the Bundesliga, Stuttgart will see their final fixture of the season at home to Mainz as an opportunity to round off a turbulent campaign on a positive. Despite their lowly position in the table, the Swabians have already secured a place in Europe for next term by way of their mere presence in the DFB Cup final, for which this match provides a final competitive prelude.
"It's going to be difficult to find a sparring partner anywhere in Europe with similar abilities to Bayern Munich," said head coach Bruno Labbadia in reference to his side's opponents in Berlin on 1 June. Not that his charges will be focusing on that game just yet, of course: "There are no games in the Bundesliga which don't mean anything."
It almost comes as a surprise to see Mainz, who were battling for a place on the continent themselves a matter of weeks ago, below Stuttgart in the table heading into the final day. Their previous record at the Mercedes-Benz-Arena (no wins, one draw from six visits) hardly bodes well either, although coach Thomas Tuchel is relishing the trip.
"Stuttgart, for me, are what the Bundesliga is all about," said the 39-year-old, who remains without injured top scorer Adam Szalai (back), Jan Kirchhoff (groin op) and the suspended Bo Svensson. "They have a very passionate crowd there and we're going to have to raise our tempo to match Stuttgart."
1. FC Nuremberg - SV Werder Bremen
For the first time in 14 years, Thomas Schaaf will not be sitting on the Werder Bremen bench after the head coach and the club mutually agreed to part company in midweek, leaving assistant coaches Wolfgang Rolff and Matthias Hönerbach in charge for the Green-White's finale.
4,500 fans are expected to travel to Franconia for Bremen's final 2012/13 outing after the 2004 champions secured their top-flight status last week. Bremen will have to do without the services of Greek international defender Sokratis, as well as Aaron Hunt, Philipp Bargfrede and Özkan Yildirim. Not only for the fans' sake does "the team intend to finish the season on a positive and at last celebrate a win after 12 games without a victory", according to stand-in chief Rolff.
Like Werder, there is little on the line for Nuremberg, yet head coach Michael Wiesinger stressed that "we stuck hard at our task in training. We want to perform well in the last game and go into the summer in a positive manner”.
The 40-year-old will have to improvise when naming his starting line-up in the absence of a number of key players. Hiroshi Kiyotake and Mike Frantz are both likely to miss Saturday's encounter at the Grundig Stadion alongside long-term absentees Timothy Chandler, Timo Gebhart Adam Hlousek and Marcos Antonio.