State of the Bundesliga Entering the Final Weekend

by Power Sports

Entering the final weekend of the 2021/22 Bundesliga season, three Champions League spots have been clinched while the fourth is very much up for grabs as are the other European places. The relegation battle has also gotten quite interesting.

Bayern Munich clinched their 10th consecutive Bundesliga title a few weeks ago. Borussia Dortmund (clinched 2nd) and Bayer Leverkusen (clinched 3rd) will join Bayern in next season’s Champions League. The fourth spot will go to either RB Leipzig (57 points) or Freiburg (55). Leipzig is a monster favorite (as high as -400 in some shops) this weekend at relegation-threatened Arminia Bielefeld. Freiburg, who will travel to face a Leverkusen side that has nothing to play for, will need to win AND have Leipzig lose to move into fourth. Leipzig would clinch fourth with a draw as they will finish with a better goal differential than Freiburg.

Leipzig and Freiburg will also meet next weekend in the DFB Pokal Final. The winner of that competition is automatically assured a place in next year’s Europa League, but since both of this year’s finalists are already assured of European football next season, a second Europa League spot has opened up to the Bundesliga.

Assuming Leipzig and Freiburg finish in fourth and fifth place in the German top flight, it won’t matter who wins the Pokal, aside from the actual hardware up for grabs. Leipzig, who was just eliminated from this year’s Europa League (semifinal loss to the Rangers last week), is already assured of no “worse” than being back in that competition for 2022/23. But of course their main goal right now is to finish fourth in the Bundesliga standings (thus earning a spot in the Champions League) and then win the Pokal.

If Freiburg does not win this weekend, that opens the door for Union Berlin (54 points) to pass them. Union’s final opponent is Bochum, who has nothing to play for. The seventh Bundesliga team that has clinched European football next season is FC Koln (52 points). They are likely headed to the Europa Conference League unless they can pass Union into sixth, which would mean the Europa League. Koln faces relegation-threatened Stuttgart this weekend.  

Note that if Freiburg loses to Leverkusen this weekend and is passed by BOTH Union Berlin and Koln, a slight possibility depending on how goal differential plays out, then there would be the possibility of three Bundesliga teams in the Europa League. That’s if Freiburg ends up seventh in the Bundesliga table and wins the Pokal. If that happens, then there would be no Bundesliga side in the Europa Conference League next season.

The bottom two Bundesliga sides are automatically relegated. We already know one of them (Greuther Furth), who was assured of a last place finish long ago. Arminia Bielefeld currently sits second from the bottom (27 points) and can do no worse than the relegation playoff, which is where the third worst finisher ends up. Currently third from the bottom is Stuttgart (30 points). To avoid automatic relegation, Bielefeld must win this weekend (against Leipzig!), have Stuttgart lose (to Koln) AND somehow finish with a better goal differential. Bielefeld’s GD is currently -26 while Stuttgart’s is -19.

Assuming that unlikely scenario does not play out, then the team that ends up in the relegation playoff will be either Stuttgart or Hertha Berlin (33 points). The latter blew an opportunity to clinch safety when it lost to Mainz last weekend. All Hertha would need this week is a draw vs. Dortmund (who will be saying goodbye to Erling Haaland) to avoid the relegation playoff. But if they lose and Stuttgart wins, then Stuttgart will finish with a better goal differential and move past. 

The relegation playoff is between the third worst finisher in the Bundesliga (will be either Hertha/Stuttgart/Bielefeld) and the third place team in the 2, who is still to be determined. We already know current second division leader Schalke 04 is assured of promotion and will replace Greuther Furth in the top flight next season. The second automatic promotion is also up for grabs on the final weekend.

But perhaps the biggest story this week in the Bundesliga is the impending departure of Dortmund star Erling Haaland to the Premier League (Manchester City). So much has been written about the state of the Bundesliga and how it’s almost becoming a “feeder” league for the EPL. It is likely that Bayern Munich may be saying goodbye to Robert Lewandowski. The league losing its two best players would be such a blow to German football fans next season.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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