With the Bundesliga title destined for Munich and second and third seemingly a straight fight between Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen, which club will take the fourth and final Champions League spot?
As things stand Schalke are currently sitting in the final Champions League spot; however, as many as six teams are within five points of the Gelsenkirchen outfit. Whilst it may be asking too much of Hannover 96 and last year’s fourth place finishers Borussia Monchengladbach, teams Eintracht Frankfurt, Hamburger SV, Mainz 05 and Freiburg are all still in the mix.
However, for the aforementioned clubs, their form would suggest they do not want a fourth place finish at all, with all less than consistent recently; except from the recently-improved Schalke, who impressed last weekend with their third win on the bounce against fierce rivals Dortmund with a 2-1 victory thanks to Klass-Jan Hunterlaar and the ever impressive Julian Draxler, who at the age of just 19 is close to making 100 competitive appearances for the club. The win keeps them above the rest and laid down the gauntlet to those who were hoping to take fourth spot.
Frankfurt have not won a game since February 2, and it would now seem that this poor form will count against them in a bid to finish fourth. All is not over, however, as the team that finished second in the 2.Bundesliga last season have by far surpassed this seasons expectations and a Europa League berth would be seen as a very successful season.
Hamburg like Schalke have won three of their last five outings in the league and are well placed to challenge for the final Champions League spot. Both clubs have mixed run-ins: Schalke also have other cup commitments, while Hamburg travel to the Allianz Arena and must also face Freiburg and Mainz. Schalke, meanwhile, play host to Leverkusen and go oat to Bremen.
Mainz will be slightly disappointed to have only won once in their previous five; however, they haven’t lost as they have drawn four, and face an away trip to relegation candidates Hoffenheim next. Freiburg face the difficult prospect of the Dortmund this weekend and it would seem, of those four clubs, they have the hardest upcoming fixtures.
After looking at recent form and upcoming fixtures it looks like the final outcome will be between Schalke and Hamburg - both should have the experience to last the pace.
Both sets of fans will be hoping for a strong finish; however I have the feeling that it may well be Schalke's Veltins-Arena that will host Champions League football for a second successive season.
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