Bundesliga: Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund primed for decision day

As we approach the final day of the Bundesliga season, the title race is yet to be decided. Bayern Munich are in the driver's seat, but, if they lose, Borussia Dortmund could still become Bundesliga champions.

In recent years, the Bundesliga title has long been sewn up by now. Bayern Munich have become used to claiming it by April or even late March, given the size of their advantage over the rest of the field, but, for the first time since 2010, the title race will be decided on the final day of the campaign.

Bayern Munich are in pole position, though, and it would take a somewhat spectacular failure from the position they're in not to be crowned champions for a seventh successive season. Bayern host Eintracht Frankfurt, who themselves are not out of the race for a top-four finish, despite seeing their hopes seriously dented following a lethargic home defeat against Mainz last weekend. On the other hand, if everything goes against them on Saturday, Frankfurt, a team that also made it to the semifinals of the Europa League before losing to Chelsea on penalties, could even drop out of the European places altogether.

So with much left to play for, Frankfurt could offer a stern test for Bayern, who simply need to avoid defeat to be sure of lifting the trophy again. It promises to be an emotional farewell at the Allianz Arena for a few Bayern favorites. Rafinha is leaving the club as are legends Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, a duo who have become affectionately known as ‘Robbery' to Bayern fans. Those two will be desperate to play some part and to ensure their final season is another title-winning one.

Head coach Niko Kovac (pictured above) will be looking to prove his detractors wrong by wrapping up the title after a sometimes difficult campaign.

"In winter, we were still hopeful of winning the league," Kovac said in Thursday's prematch press conference. "Now it's in our hands and we intend on taking our chance. We can't wait for the game."

Bayern will be without goalkeeper captain Manuel Neuer and attacking midfielder James Rodriquez who are still out due to injury, but Joshua Kimmich, Thiago and Javi Martinez will be available.

Hoping against hope

The odds are stacked against Borussia Dortmund, who are two points behind Bayern and end the season with a difficult away game at Borussia Mönchengladbach, another side chasing a top-four finish. That looks to be coming down to a straight shootout between Gladbach and Leverkusen, with Gladbach having the slight edge of a better goal difference of two. 

Dortmund, of course, are going for the title though and it would be a sensational end to a dramatic season if they could pull off the impossible. Having led the Bundesliga by nine points in December, Lucien Favre's side will feel like they should have ended Bayern's run of dominance this season, but injuries and  a run of poor form held Dortmund back at a crucial time in the season. There's every chance that Dortmund will come back stronger next season, if they can hold on to the likes of Jadon Sancho and reinvest wisely the proceeds of the sale of Christian Pulisic to Chelsea.

For the trip to Mönchengladbach, Dortmund are expected to have goalkeeper Roman Bürki back in the lineup after recovering from a thigh problem, but head coach Lucien Favre said Abdou Diallo, who hasn't trained all week, probably won't be available.

"We need to focus on our game," Favre said, adding that his team would need to be prepared for all eventualities against the team he coached from 2011 to 2015. "They play well on the counterattack, but they can also press high up the pitch, and they need to win too," he said.

Both Marco Reus and coach Lucien Favre will be visiting their previous place of work on Saturday


Europa League qualification up for grabs

Wolfsburg will be hoping to secure a Europa League spot by beating Augsburg at home on the last day. With Leverkusen, who travel to Hertha Berlin, and Borussia Mönchengladbach vying for a Champions League spot, Wolfsburg are looking to pounce if Eintracht suffer defeat in Munich – not an unlikely scenario. And with Bayern and RB Leipzig – both already qualified for the Champions League – Wolfsburg will be hoping to bring European football back to the Volkswagen Arena.

With Nuremberg' and Hannover's relegation already confirmed and Stuttgart's place in the playoff also decided, there is little more than pride and prize money at stake for the majority of the Bundesliga's clubs on the final day.

Matchday 34 fixtures (all games kick off on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. CEST)

Bayern Munich vs. Eintracht Frankfurt

Hertha Berlin vs. Bayer Leverkusen

Fortuna Düsseldorf vs.Hannover

Mainz vs. Hoffenheim

Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Borussia Dortmund

Freiburg vs.Nuremberg

Werder Bremen vs. RB Leipzig

Schalke vs. Stuttgart

Wolfsburg vs. Augsburg

Bayern Munich vs. Dortmund: The turning points in a tense Bundesliga title race

Matchday 6: Hertha Berlin 2-0 Bayern Munich

After both went unbeaten in their opening five games,Niko Kovac's return to his hometown, Berlin, proved unpleasant as Hertha handed him a first defeat as head coach. Bayern mustered 24 shots on goal, but only forced Thomas Kraft into three saves in what was their first loss in eight years during the Oktoberfest season. Making matters worse for Kovac, BVB won in Leverkusen to go top of the table.

Bayern Munich vs. Dortmund: The turning points in a tense Bundesliga title race

Matchday 7: Borussia Dortmund 4-3 Augsburg

Looking to capitalize the week after, BVB had to survive a seven-goal thriller against Augsburg. After twice coming from behind, the hosts led 3-2 before Michael Gregoritsch's 87th-minute equalizer set up a stunning finale as second-half substitute Paco Alcacer completed his hat trick with a 96th-minute free-kick to clinch a victory that was made all the sweeter by Bayern's defeat to Gladbach.

Bayern Munich vs. Dortmund: The turning points in a tense Bundesliga title race

Matchday 11: Borussia Dortmund 3-2 Bayern Munich

In Round 1 of Der Klassiker, Bayern led twice, but Robert Lewandowski's brace wasn't enough to claim even a share of the spoils as a Marco Reus-inspired BVB turned the game on its head with super-sub Paco Alcacer netting another winner to maintain their unbeaten start to the season. Dortmund opened up a seven-point advantage over Bayern, who had now fallen off to fifth place in the table.

Bayern Munich vs. Dortmund: The turning points in a tense Bundesliga title race

Matchday 12: Bayern Munich 3-3 Fortuna Düsseldorf

To make matters worse, Bayern let a two-goal lead slip against Düsseldorf the following weekend. The German record titleholders got caught cold by Watford-loanee Dodi Lukebakio's hat trick, the first conceded by Manuel Neuer in his 358th Bundesliga appearance. The 93rd minute equalizer clinched Fortuna's first win in Munich since 1996 and saw Bayern fall 9-points adrift of Dortmund.

Bayern Munich vs. Dortmund: The turning points in a tense Bundesliga title race

Matchday 16: Fortuna Düsseldorf 2-1 Borussia Dortmund

The newly promoted side ensured there was another twist in the title race tale before the winter break though, as they handed BVB their first loss, ending their longest-running unbeaten start to a season. Lukebakio broke the deadlock before Jean Zimmer scored a screamer and, while Alcacer produced his 10th goal as a super-sub, the result saw Dortmund's lead cut to six by Christmas.

Bayern Munich vs. Dortmund: The turning points in a tense Bundesliga title race

Matchday 22: Nuremberg 0-0 Borussia Dortmund

With Marco Reus out injured, Dortmund hit a rough patch in early February that culminated in a run of three straight draws that allowed Bayern to move within three points despite suffering a loss to Leverkusen. The last of these was a painful goalless Monday night encounter in Nuremberg as Christian Mathenia won his 90-minute long battle with a trigger-happy Mario Götze.

Bayern Munich vs. Dortmund: The turning points in a tense Bundesliga title race

Matchday 24: Borussia Mönchengladbach 1-5 Bayern Munich

Having seen Dortmund lose to Augsburg in the Friday night fixture on Matchday 24, Bayern didn't waste the opportunity to move level on points as they smashed five past Gladbach. At the time it was Bayern's 11th win in 12 with Lewandowski scoring more than once in a single game for the 51st time in his Bundesliga career. However, even a 5-1 win couldn't erase Bayern's goal-difference deficit.

Bayern Munich vs. Dortmund: The turning points in a tense Bundesliga title race

Matchday 28: Bayern Munich 5-0 Borussia Dortmund

That changed after a 6-0 win against Wolfsburg, but it wasn't until Round 2 of Der Klassiker that Bayern seized top spot outright and they did it in emphatic fashion. Dortmund mustered just four attempts on goal of which just one found the target and ended up suffering the biggest defeat inflicted on a league leader since Karlsruher SC's 6-1 loss to Leverkusen in August 1997.

Bayern Munich vs. Dortmund: The turning points in a tense Bundesliga title race

Matchday 31: Dortmund 2 - 4 Schalke & Nuremberg 1-1 Bayern

The second Revierderby turned out to be a nightmare for BVB. Not only did Marco Reus (11) get sent off, but so did Marius Wolf. Schalke, having their worst season in years, surprised everyone by claiming all three points. But Bayern failed to capitalize, stumbling to a 1-1 draw in Nuremberg. Had Tim Leibold's 92-minute penalty not come back off the post, it could have been even worse for Bayern.

Bayern Munich vs. Dortmund: The turning points in a tense Bundesliga title race

Matchday 33: RB Leipzig 0-0 Bayern Munich

Whether Bayern's goalless draw with RB Leipzig will go down as a turning point depends on what happens on the final day. What is for sure is that the German record titleholders passed up the chance to wrap up the title with a game to spare. Leon Goretzka thought he had scored a second-half winner, only for the tightest offside call of the season to deny Bayern all three points.

Bayern Munich vs. Dortmund: The turning points in a tense Bundesliga title race

Matchday 34: Bayern Munich 5-1 Eintracht Frankfurt

It goes to the final day, with Bayern needing just a point against Niko Kovac's former club to be sure of a seventh straight title - and they did it in style. Departing legends Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben both came off the bench to score the fourth and fifth, respectively, as Bayern crushed Frankfurt. Dortmund win 2-0 in Mönchengladbach but it counts for little in the end. Bayern are champions.