Updated: Jun 3, 2020
By Tim Etheridge
Founder of EyesOntheBall.blog
Sports fans worldwide have been celebrating as we begin to see the return of sports following the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. While we are still a few weeks from the return of the Premier League here in the UK, the German top tier, the Bundesliga, has been back since mid-May. 4 rounds have been played since the return of football, with 5 remaining before the season ends.
And over those 5 rounds, there are some big prizes up for grabs, including the league title, European qualification and avoiding relegation. Today, I will be looking at the top of the table and trying to predict who will qualify for Europe next year.
Come the final whistle on June 27th, the top 4 teams in the league standings will automatically qualify for the group stage of next season’s Champions League. 5th place will secure qualification to the Europa League group stage, while 6th place will find themselves in the 2nd qualifying round of the Europa League. This could however be changed by the results of the DFB-Pokal, where a win for a team finishing top 4 in the league would see 6th place automatically qualify for the Europa League group stage and 7th place now make it into the 2nd qualifying round. With 2 of the 4 semi-finalists in the top 5 of the league (playing in separate semis) there is a strong chance of this outcome, but for the sake of ease I will consider only the top 6 spots in the league as qualifying spots.
As of now, both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have both earned at least a spot in the Europa League and considering their form since the lockdown (the only points either of them has dropped was in Dortmund’s loss – to Bayern!) and though neither have the easiest of run-ins – Bayern must face Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach, Dortmund must travel to RB Leipzig – I feel confident that Bayern will hold on to win the title, while Dortmund will get at least a top 3 finish, depending on their match with Leipzig.
On the subject of Leipzig, they have one of the easier run-ins over these last 5 rounds, with matches at home to 2 of the bottom 3, while they have the benefit of home advantage in their key tussle against Dortmund. Though they don’t appear to be at quite the same level of form as the top 2, their win tonight against Köln has left them just 2 points behind Dortmund and I think they have every chance to pass them in the home straight and take 2nd place, though I can’t see them dropping lower than 3rd.
As for the final Champions League spot, Wolfsburg’s loss to Frankfurt this weekend has left them 13 points behind Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach, a chasm I can’t see them overcoming even if they were performing better in front of goal, so they are out of the running. So that makes it a race between those 2 teams, who find themselves separated by a goal difference that is currently +4 in favour of Mönchengladbach. This will be an interesting race, as both teams are still to face Bayern, Hertha Berlin, a team in the bottom 3 and 2 teams from the middle third of the table. Right now, I give the advantage to Leverkusen, who benefit from having an extra home game, one of which is their match against Bayern. Any points they can earn against the soon-to-be champions could prove the difference, while they also have the benefit of travelling to a Schalke team that is in freefall and has lost every game since the return to play.
Following on from my reasoning about why Wolfsburg can’t challenge for the top 4, that same logic also rules them out of 5th place, which I have going to Borussia Mönchengladbach after narrowly missing out on 4th place. For the 6th and final spot that will guarantee some degree of European football next season, things get interesting.
Hoffenheim’s win at Mainz and Wolfsburg’s loss to Frankfurt sees them level on 42 points, while a further 3 teams are within 5 points. Of those teams, I will immediately rule out Schalke, who have no wins in the last 10 games and are yet to pick up a point since the league returned. I will also rule out Hertha Berlin, who are unlikely to make up 4 points and 12 goals on Wolfsburg given they must still face 3 of my predicted top 4. They do however have the chance to also end Freiburg’s chances if they can pick up points in their match, as Freiburg must also play 3 teams currently above them.
And so that leaves Hoffenheim and Wolfsburg. Both have a home and an away fixture against teams in the top 5 and an away match against one of the current bottom 3. The worry for Wolfsburg is that their fixture is against Werder Bremen, who are making a late push to avoid the drop and should be considered a legitimate banana skin. Though their match against Schalke is imminently winnable, they face Freiburg in just 2 rounds and dropped points here could prove costly. Hoffenheim, however, face 2 teams that are close to the danger zone but with mixed form. These games look more winnable and for this reason, I can see Hoffenheim snatching 6th place with one round of football left to play.
1. Bayern Munich
2. RB Leipzig
3. Borussia Dortmund
4. Bayer Leverkusen
5. Borussia Mönchengladbach
6. 1899 Hoffenheim
So, there is my prediction. What do you think?