The last Bundesliga Matchday is almost upon us and with so much to look out for in the final round of games in this 2016/17 season, bundesliga.com offers you some of the choicest cuts to chew upon as we get set for a dramatic and emotional finale to what has been a memorable campaign.
Champions League group-stage charge
After Matchday 32, the issue appeared settled: Borussia Dortmund were on course for next season’s UEFA Champions League group stage after downing nearest challengers Hoffenheim 2-1.
Yet with Julian Nagelsmann’s charges subsequently serving up a spectacular 5-3 win at Werder Bremen while Die Schwarz-Gelben were held by Augsburg, things are up for grabs once again! “We want to beat Werder at home …. we don't want to play in the qualifying rounds," BVB’s Marco Reus said ahead of his third-placed team’s last game of the season. “If you’d have said to us at the start of the season that we’d finish fourth, then we’d all have taken it. But now we want to finish third; that would be the optimum,” Pavel Kaderabek countered, his Hoffenheim side set for Augsburg on MD34. The contenders are level on points, with Dortmund currently four goals better off.
All aboard the Europa League train!
With fifth and sixth-place finishers guaranteed UEFA Europa League entry, Hertha Berlin [on 49 points, and hosting Bayer Leverkusen] and Freiburg [48 points and finishing at Bayern Munich] are currently sitting pretty. Yet both will be nervously looking over their shoulders at the chasing pack, keen to swipe one of those European berths.
How many #Bundesliga teams would love to have @herthabsc star @vedad.ibisevic in their corner? The striker has the capital club knocking on Europe's door. Wie viele Bundesliga-Clubs würden es lieben, @herthabsc-Star @vedad.ibisevic auf ihrer Seite zu haben? Der Stürmer hat den Hauptstadtclub in eine aussichtsreiche Position im Kampf um Europa geschossen.
Cologne and Werder Bremen are still in contention while further back, Borussia Mönchengladbach will be aiming to win while hoping for a Dortmund victory against Eintracht Frankfurt in the DFB Pokal final to open up a possible seventh-spot route to European qualification. It’s complicated, for sure, but we’ll leave the last word to Hertha coach Pal Dardai to sum up each team’s final push: “We must give absolutely everything we have; this should be a real festival of football.”
Watch: Hertha's Salomon Kalou happy to be among the MD33 goals:
Race for the Torjägerkanone - or top scorer
A final day battle between the Bundesliga’s busiest goalscorers will be brilliant, we promise. The already legendary Robert Lewandowski leads the TorjägerkanoneTorjägerkanone standings with 30 goals, the Bayern forward followed closely by Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on 29. It will take a dramatic goalscoring extravaganza from Anthony Modeste [on 25] to catch those two, but don’t bet against the busy Frenchman trying when his Cologne team entertain Mainz.
Former champs hoping to avoid down time
It’s been the mother of all basement battles in the Bundesliga this season and - with Darmstadt and Ingolstadt already doomed - it would appear that things have come down to one game: Hamburg versus Wolfsburg. Neither Augsburg nor Mainz are technically safe either, but this pair of former German top-flight champions going head to head at the Volksparkstadion on Saturday afternoon has the feel of a pre-relegation play-off, play-off.
“We have a chance to save ourselves with a home win; we must remain focused,” HSV coach Markus Gisdol said ahead of the visit of a Wolfsburg side just two points better off than Saturday’s hosts, who sit in 16th spot. “I believe we will get the job done," was Wolves’ coach Andries Jonker’s take on his team’s trip to Germany’s second-largest city, where bitten fingernails are certain to litter the streets in the lead-up to kick-off.
Leipzig target record finish
Not since the days of King Otto [Rehagal, that is] has the Bundesliga been hit with such a thunderbolt. Under their charismatic coach, Kaiserslautern created history when winning the Bundesliga as a newly promoted team in 1998. RB Leipzig may have fallen just short of emulating that memorable feat this term, yet the upstarts from Saxony could best the Red Devils’ haul of 68 points – the record tally for a promoted team – with victory away to Eintracht Frankfurt at the weekend. “Everything is down to everyone at the club giving their all and putting blood, sweat and tears into their work,” Leipzig tactician Ralph Hasenhüttl told bundesliga.com recently, and his young, UEFA Champions League group stage-bound team – on 66 points – will need all that endeavour to down the DFB Cup finalists on Saturday.
Time to say goodbye
Watch: Farewell Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, a Bundesliga legend:
At neighbouring Ingolstadt, meanwhile, Schalke’s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar will feature in his last match for the Royal Blues before departing for pastures new in the summer. "I want to remember football and everything it’s given me. All careers come to an end,” Lahm said of his departure from the game. “I wanted to end my career still at the highest level, and Bayern is the highest level,” Alonso explained of his decision to call it quits. Both will grace the Allianz Arena turf one final time with Freiburg in town on Saturday. Handkerchiefs at the ready, folks.