The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Last chance for 3 clubs fighting for Bundesliga survival on final day of season
BERLIN - The Bundesliga comes to a close on Saturday with three teams battling to avoid relegation and four with hopes of reaching the Champions League.
All nine games will be played at the same time. Bayern Munich, which secured the title weeks ago, is looking forward to a party, while other sides are already looking ahead to next season.
Here are five things to know about the final round of games:
Three sides have their hopes pinned on finishing 16th in the 18-team league. That secures a two-game playoff against the third-place finishers from the second division for a place in the Bundesliga next season.
Hamburger SV, the only side to have played every Bundesliga season since the league was formed in 1963, currently occupies the playoff spot, but can be overtaken by Nuremberg, one point behind, and Eintracht Braunschweig, a point further back.
Despite being in the best position, Hamburg faces a visit to Mainz, which needs a win to hold off the challenge of Augsburg for the last Europa League qualification place.
Nuremberg has a tough task at third-place Schalke and seems resigned to its Bundesliga record eighth relegation after losing 10 of its last 11 games. Not even the firing of Gertjan Verbeek as coach with three games to play jolted a reaction from the demoralized side.
Braunschweig visits Hoffenheim, which has nothing but pride to play for, and is taking encouragement from positive performances despite losing its last four games.
Braunschweig, back in the Bundesliga after a 28-year absence, is arguably best placed to send the other two down.
Bayern Munich has asked its fans to show up in traditional Bavarian dress for the side's title celebrations against Stuttgart.
That means lederhosen, or leather trousers, for the men, and a dirndl, a traditional Alpine-style dress, for the ladies.
Bayern secured the title with a Bundesliga-record seven games still to play but has not yet received the championship shield. It will be handed over after the game, when the celebrations get underway with events in the city and a team procession through the streets before the players are received at town hall.
From there, the trophy will be presented once again from the balcony to fans below, prompting celebrations expected to last into the night - with or without the players.
They might be encouraged to refrain from too much wheat beer with the German Cup final against Borussia Dortmund in Berlin the following week.
RACE FOR FOURTH
Four teams are battling for the last Champions League qualification places.
Schalke, which hosts Nuremberg, is looking over its shoulder at Bayer Leverkusen, the only side that could overtake it on goal difference for third place and automatic qualification for Europe's premier competition.
Leverkusen, which hosts Werder Bremen, is not even assured of fourth for a Champions League playoff, with Wolfsburg and Borussia Moenchengladbach lurking one and three points behind, respectively.
Wolfsburg hosts 'Gladbach with both hoping for a favour from Bremen. If Leverkusen loses, even a draw would be good enough for Wolfsburg due to its superior goal difference, while 'Gladbach could snatch fourth on goal difference by winning in Wolfsburg — if Bremen also wins.
GUNNING FOR THE CANNON
The race to be Bundesliga top-scorer seems to be down to two players — Dortmund's Robert Lewandowski and the man he'll likely replace at Bayern next season, Mario Mandzukic.
Both have 18 goals, two more than Dortmund's Marco Reus, Nuremberg's Josip Drmic and Hertha Berlin's Adrian Ramos, who will replace Lewandowski in Dortmund.
Last year's winner of the top-scorer "cannon" trophy was Leverkusen's Stefan Kiessling, currently with 15 goals and about to relinquish his crown with a thigh injury keeping him out against Bremen on Saturday.
Bayern and Dortmund are already assured of first and second place so teammates could be tempted to help their respective strikers score for the last remaining trophy to be won.
Thoughts have already turned to next season with several transfers between clubs already confirmed or about to be.
Stuttgart has already signed Austrian defender Florian Klein despite questions over whether Huub Stevens will remain as coach. The board is also looking at other candidates to the Dutch veteran who saved the side from relegation.
Eintracht Frankfurt definitely needs a new coach with Armin Veh leaving after three seasons, reportedly to take over the Greek national side or return to Stuttgart, which he led to the title in 2007.
Frankfurt is destined for an off-season of change with midfielder Sebastian Rode joining Bayern and Pirmin Schwegler switching to Hoffenheim.
Moenchengladbach may have to plan without influential midfielder Juan Arango, and Dortmund is reportedly tying up defender Matthias Ginter's move from Freiburg.
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