After 297 matches in this year’s Bundesliga, come Saturday, the final day of the season, amazingly only two matches are rubber ducks with the remaining seven fixtures left to decide the championship, Champions League and Europa Cup qualification, and the relegation dog-fight.
The title and the Champions League
Playing host to Werder Bremen, Wolfsburg have their first ever German title in their sights. (Wolfsburg are 1/10 to win the league.) The equation is simple for the Wolves – win and be champions – and although speculation is rife about “the day after tomorrow” when manager Felix Magath is set to leave the club alongside Edin Dzeko, Grafite and Zvjezdan Misimovic, for now all that matters is the three points on Saturday. Werder, likely to be carrying a UEFA Cup final hangover and still without Diego and Hugo Almedia, should prove cannon-fodder.
Hanging onto Wolfsburg coattails are second-placed Bayern Munich (6/1 for the title) and third-placed Stuttgart (20/1 for the title), who meet at the Allianz Arena knowing that the victor can snatch the title should Wolfsburg lose to Werder. While the title remains a long shot though, of far more pressing importance is the knowledge that the winner will be guaranteed at least second spot, and the promise of Champions League football next season.
Stuttgart are the form team with eight wins and one draw from their last nine outings, although their statistical advantage over Bayern is wafer-thin, with Munich also boasting an impressive recent record save for their 1-nil home defeat to Schalke back at the end of April. As such, there is a strong possiblility that the sides could cancel each other out, and a draw (3/1) could leave both sides on tenterhooks come the fulltime whistle.
Also with a Champions League berth locked in their radar is fourth-placed Hertha Berlin, who head to Karlsruhe with a guarantee of finishing the season in the top three positions if they can emerge victorious.
Several weeks back, when Andriy Voronin (5/1 to be the first goalscorer) was scoring goals for fun and Karlsruhe were seemingly cut-off from the league in last spot, an away win on Sunday would have been considered a foregone conclusion. But Edmund Becker’s side have dug deep in recent weeks, coming back from the dead with a 3-1 win away at Werder and 1-nil win away at Bayer Leverkusen in recent weeks. Fighting for their Bundesliga lives, Karlsruhe will prove no pushovers for Hertha. (Karlsruhe are an attractive 3/1 to win.)
The relegation dog-fight
A win for Karlsruhe though, cannot save their Bundesliga bacon in-and-of-itself. At best Karlsruhe will end the season third from bottom – a position that forces a relegation/promotion playoff. But should Energie Cottbus beat Bayer Leverkusen and/or Hannover lose at Arminia Bielefeld, then Karlsruhe’s relegation will be out of their control.
Both second-from-bottom Cottbus (11/8 to win) and third-from-bottom Arminia (4/6 to win) will be encouraged that their respective opponents, both holding down midtable positions, will have little to play for on the final day of the season. Yet, that is about as good as the omens get, with Arminia having failed to win in their last nine matches (including six defeats), whilst Cottbus’ form barely any better with a pitiful nine defeats in their last 12 outings.
The Europa League qualification
Outside of Bayern, Stuttgart and Hertha (who are all guaranteed either Champions League or Europa Cup football next season), Borussia Dortmund and Hamburg are left to duke it out for sixth spot.
Dortmund, currently in pole position, have come from nowhere at the business end of the season, chalking up an incredible eight wins from their last nine league games to propel them into the European places. Credit must go to Alexander Frei, Nelson Valdez and Sebastian Kehl for hitting top form at just the right time, and spirits will be high before their trip to Gladbach, who themselves remain in relegation danger should they lose heavily on Sunday, and Arminia and/or Cottbus win big.
Knowing that Gladbach will be fighting tooth and nail for the one point (the draw is 5/2) they need to guarantee their survival, Martin Jol’s Hamburg can steal into sixth spot with a win (4/7) at Eintracht Frankfurt. Frankfurt appear to given up on the season already, losing four of their last five matches, and it will be of little surprise to see an away win in this match.
With so many ifs, buts and maybes, it is almost impossible to predict how the final day of the season will play out. But one thing is for sure – it is going to be fun!
Full odds for the final day of the Bundesliga season can be found here.