With just five matchdays left in the season, the race for continental qualification is heating up.
Title dreams and European schemes will be in the balance in Matchday 30 and no more so when Bundesliga league leaders FC Bayern München head to UEFA Champions League hopefuls Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Saturday to form the headline act of the round.
Bayern’s Klassiker win over Borussia Dortmund gave the reigning champions a handy seven-point lead at the top of the table and was a major step towards an eighth successive Meisterschale. Their destruction of struggling Fortuna Düsseldorf last weekend was another as Robert Lewandowski eased onto 29 goals from just 27 top-flight matches this season; the potent Pole will need to be at his clinical best again with victory at the BayArena far from a foregone conclusion.
Leverkusen got the upper hand against SC Freiburg last weekend thanks to Kai Havertz’s record-breaking 35th Bundesliga goal — the prodigy is the first to reach the milestone before his 21st birthday. With the race for a place in the top four and next season’s UEFA Champions League group stage uncomfortably tight, Peter Bosz’s men will be looking for a third consecutive victory against Hansi Flick’s side.
Leverkusen will hope Freiburg won’t hold a grudge, and will help them out: the Black Forest outfit host Borussia Mönchengladach in Friday evening’s curtain-raiser. With the fourth-placed Foals only ahead of Havertz & Co. on goal difference, a home win would be the icing on the (Black Forest) cake for Bosz’s side.
RB Leipzig, on the other hand, will be looking for a leg up from Bayern. Leverkusen are just two points behind Julian Nagelsmann’s men, and with bottom side SC Paderborn the visitors to the Red Bull Arena on Saturday afternoon, a Bayern win would give Die Roten Bullen a chance to cement its spot in the top four if they can overcome a side swept away 6-1 by Borussia Dortmund last weekend.
Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho-inspired show was not without its downsides. Dortmund were indeed held goalless in the opening half by the spirited strugglers. Lucien Favre will expect and need his men to produce their best form over the full 90 minutes with in-form Hertha Berlin, who have picked up 10 points from their last four games, the visitors to Signal Iduna Park in Saturday evening’s encounter.
VfL Wolfsburg and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim — locked together on 42 points respectively — are duelling it out for Germany’s last UEFA Europa League qualifying spot. Wolfsburg have the initiative for now, but their weekend loss to Eintracht Frankfurt and their rival’s victory over 1. FSV Mainz 05 means Hoffenheim will leapfrog the Wolves into sixth, albeit perhaps only temporarily, if they record a third successive triumph by winning in Düsseldorf. Wolfsburg — who travel to struggling SV Werder Bremen on Sunday — will be watching the game with interest.
Mainz will also be taking note, though they could boost their survival hopes with victory over Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday to claim their first maximum points haul since the restart. 1. FC Union Berlin host FC Schalke 04, whose miserable winless run of 11 games with just three goals scored suggests the capital club are more likely to register their first win since Matchday 23 and push on towards top-flight survival.
That would up the stakes for FC Augsburg and 1. FC Köln, both of whom could be looking very nervously over their shoulders when they bring down the curtain on Matchday 30 at the WWK Arena on Sunday evening.