Bayer Leverkusen are narrow leaders of a 10-team pack battling it out for a place in Europe next season. - © © imago
Bayer Leverkusen are narrow leaders of a 10-team pack battling it out for a place in Europe next season. - © © imago

From Bayer Leverkusen to Hertha Berlin: 10 Bundesliga teams involved in epic European battle royale


Scour the top-flight standings in England, Spain and Italy, but you will not find a European rat race anywhere near as competitive or compelling as in the Bundesliga - that's a promise.

A single point is all that separates second-placed Bayer Leverkusen and sixth-in-the-table Borussia Dortmund at present. Even Hertha Berlin - five points adrift of the top six in 11th - cannot be ruled out of the continental running with 15 rounds of fixtures still to play.

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Bundesliga Matchday 19 was typical of the 2017/18 campaign's nip-tuck battle for one of four automatic UEFA Champions League places - realistically three given pacesetters Bayern Munich's sizeable 16-point advantage over the chasing pack - one direct Europa League and one Europa League qualifying berth.

Leverkusen began the weekend in fifth, three points behind last season's runners-up RB Leipzig (second) and only one clear of their seventh-placed hosts Hoffenheim. By the close of play, thanks in no small part to a Leon Bailey-inspired 4-1 rout, Die Werkself had assumed the role of Bayern's nearest pursuers - on goal difference.

Watch: Leon Bailey's majestic backheel goal against Hoffenheim

Despite going down 2-1 at Freiburg and slipping to fourth as a result, Leipzig remain level on 31 points with Leverkusen and third-in-the-table Schalke - the current top nine's only non-movers this past weekend following their 1-1 draw with 10th-placed Hannover – a promoted side no less.

Dortmund fell from fourth to sixth following a 1-1 draw in Berlin, while Borussia Mönchengladbach moved up a place to fifth after getting the better of Augsburg (currently eighth).

All told, there were no less than seven positional changes from second through ninth on Matchday 19.

So how does the European status quo in the Bundesliga compare with some of the division's continental counterparts?

Taking runaway English Premier League leaders Manchester City out of the equation, only Manchester United (53pts), Chelsea (50pts), Liverpool (47pts), Tottenham Hotspur (45pts) and Arsenal (42pts) can be considered genuine contenders for a top-four finish. Leicester City are some eight points off the pace in seventh, while 11th-placed West Ham - the EPL's equivalent to Hertha, if you will - have 14 points to make up on sixth-placed Arsenal.

A similar scenario is being played out in and around La Liga's top four. In Barcelona's wake sit Atletico Madrid (43pts), Valencia (40pts), Real Madrid (35pts, with a game in hand), Villarreal (34pts) and Sevilla (32pts). After that, there is a clutch of sides separated by three points - outside contenders for the Europa League, but extremely unlikely to mount a late challenge for the Champions League places.