The closest Bundesliga title race for years ends on the final day of the season on Saturday when Borussia Dortmund or Bayern Munich will be crowned champion.
Dortmund lead by two points and need to beat Mainz at home to be sure of ending Bayern’s 10-year reign, while Bayern will be hoping for a Dortmund slip-up as they visit Cologne at the same time.
Bayern’s goal difference is better than Dortmund’s so a draw won’t be enough for Dortmund if Bayern beat Cologne. “We have to win once more. That’s all that counts,” Dortmund sporting director Sebastian Kehl said. It would be Dortmund’s first German league title since Juergen Klopp led the “black and yellows” to back-to-back triumphs in 2011 and 2012. Bayern have won every season since.
The fact that the Bavarian powerhouse doesn’t have the title already wrapped up means the season will be considered a failure — even if Mainz do Bayern a favour and cause an upset on Saturday.
Bayern’s total of 68 points is the lowest they had at this stage of the season since 2011, when interim coach Andries Jonker led the team to third place after Louis van Gaal was fired.
Bayern also fired their coach this season, when Julian Nagelsmann made way in March because the club felt their targets in the Champions League, German Cup and Bundesliga were in danger. Bayern were subsequently knocked out of the first two under new coach Thomas Tuchel, but he may yet salvage some lost pride if his former team Dortmund fail to beat Mainz — where he started his senior coaching career.
Dortmund’s 70 points are just one more than they managed last season, when they finished 10 behind Bayern. The story of the Bundesliga this season is one of Bayern’s decline, rather than any huge leap made by Dortmund — though the team has developed a new resilience under coach Edin Terzic.
“We’re ready to take the last step together — as a team, as a club, as a city,” Terzic said.
Battle for fourth spot
Leipzig are assured of third place regardless of their result at home to Schalke, but fourth — the last qualification spot for Europe’s premier competition — is still in contention between Union Berlin and Freiburg.
Both teams are level on points, with Union ahead by a four-goal difference. Union can book their Champions League place with a win at home over Werder Bremen, or by matching Freiburg’s result at Eintracht Frankfurt — provided Freiburg don’t score four goals more than Union.
One of Union or Freiburg will finish fifth and qualify for the Europa League.
Augsburg, Stuttgart, Bochum and Schalke are all still playing for survival on the final day.
The bottom two are relegated and the team that finish above them go into a two-leg playoff against the second division’s third-placed finishers to see who play in the Bundesliga next season.
Task cut out for Bayern, Tuchel
Munich: Bayern Munich's season has been disappointing but the players will give it their all in their final game even if league leaders Borussia Dortmund are set to lift the Bundesliga title, coach Thomas Tuchel said on Friday.
The still-reigning champions face Cologne on Saturday and need to win while also hoping Borussia Dortmund fail to beat Mainz 05.
"I have no message for Dortmund. We have our own work cut out. We have slipped up too many times," Tuchel told a news conference.
"We will now try to finish the race and give it all but it is not a season anymore that is satisfactory."
Some of Germany's football pundits are suggesting Bayern are playing worse under Tuchel than under Julian Nagelsmann, who was sacked in March. "Anyone can have their opinion," Tuchel said.