Andy Brassell On European Football: Bundesliga set for final day drama
The Bundesliga's big boys are sure of their fates but there are some high stakes elsewhere in the table ahead of Saturday's season finale, writes Andy Brassell.
Gladbach all over
Borussia Mönchengladbach did what they needed to do in the race for the top four last week, knocking over bottom team Paderborn, but they hadn't dared dream of the assist that they received from Hertha Berlin. The capital club beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-0, with some style, to catapult Gladbach back into the Champions League places with one game to go.
Many neutrals believe that it would fair reward for coach Marco Rose's evolution of the team into one of the most entertaining in the Bundesliga. After being hamstrung by recent injuries to star attackers Alessane Pléa (who is unlikely to make it for the weekend) and Marcus Thuram (who has undergone surgery this week), they deserve their rub of the green.
The one sliver of hope for Leverkusen? It's that Gladbach face Hertha, who have been one of the star teams of the Bundesliga's resumption, on the final day. Peter Bosz's team are now7.00 to reach the top four and though they have a straightforward looking task themselves, facing now-safe Mainz, the nine-goal gap in goal difference in Gladbach's favour means that Leverkusen realistically need Hertha to win at Borussia-Park.
Back Borussia Mönchengladbach and Hertha to draw at5.90
Werder face uphill task to avoid drop
It may have been the penultimate game of the season but last week's defeat for Werder Bremen at Mainz had the feeling of being a full stop. Even their normally ebullient coach Florian Kohfeldt, full of beans in the second half of the season as others connected to the club hung their heads, said he felt "empty." They are stuck in the bottom two, two points behind Fortuna Düsseldorf with a worse goal difference by four.
Sporting director Frank Baumann, who led the Werder team that won the double in 2004 but is now under the microscope for the squad's personnel issues, has underlined that his side must control the controllables on Saturday afternoon against Köln. They need help, certainly, and will probably need Union Berlin to beat relegation rivals Fortuna, the current third-bottom side and thus set to head into the two-legged relegation/promotion playoff against the third-placed team from the second tier.
Yet as Baumann says, any assist is useless is Werder can't take three points themselves. The visitors maybe be horribly out-of-form under Markus Gisdol, but the fact remains that Werder have not won at their Weserstadion home since September 1st. With this in mind, and that they have played four, lost four, scored one and conceded nine, it's little wonder that even Kohfeldt struggles to find reasons to be cheerful.
Back the draw between Werder Bremen and Köln at 4.30
Hamburg set to miss out again?
The famous clock in the Volksparkstadion, ticking away to represent Hamburg's proud unbroken stint in the Bundesliga, has been mothballed since May 2018, when they finally tumbled out of the top flight for the first time. In light of recent events and ahead of the final weekend in Bundesliga 2, it appears unlikely to be recommissioned in the near future.
Despite a series of recent wobbles, Hamburg were still set for at least the playoff. That was until the very final minute of stoppage time in last Sunday's trip to Heidenheim, when they were devastated by Konstantin Kerschbaumer's dramatic winner, which saw the hosts not only all but hand promotion to Stuttgart but leapfrog HSV into third place.
Coach Dieter Hecking was brought in to make the team more businesslike, but the same old neuroses have surfaced. Since the resumption alone, Hamburg have now squandered a mind-bending 12 points from winning positions, and facing a home game with modest Sandhausen, must better Heidenheim's result, while Frank Schmidt's side travel to champions Arminia Bielefeld. Failing that, the 1983 European champions will face an unprecedented third straight season in the second tier.
Back Arminia Bielefeld and Heidenheim to draw at 3.50