Schalke 04 and Borussia
Monchengladbach are going into the penultimate match of the
Bundesliga season locked in a race for the last automatic
Champions League qualification spot.
Third-placed Schalke, two points ahead of Gladbach, face
relegation-threatened Hertha Berlin on Saturday, who are
desperate for three points to maintain their hopes of staying
Fourth-placed Gladbach, who escaped relegation by the skin
of their teeth last season, take on Augsburg who still need
three points to be mathematically sure of top flight football
Borussia Dortmund, in action at relegated Kaiserslautern,
have already won the title with an unassailable lead over Bayern
Munich, who entertain VfB Stuttgart.
"Last week we failed to take a big stop towards securing
third place but it is still in our hands," said Schalke central
defender Joel Matip.
Schalke drew 1-1 at Augsburg last week, failing to take full
advantage of Gladbach's 2-0 defeat against champions Dortmund.
"The most important thing is that if we win both remaining
matches then nobody can take third place away," he said.
"Hertha will fight for every centimetre to get the maximum
out for them. We have to hold against that and I believe we have
the quality to get all three points," Matip said.
While even a draw could be enough for Schalke, Gladbach know
that only a win would keep them in the running for a Champions
League group stage. Anything else could lead to the dreaded and
highly unpredictable qualifying rounds.
A fourth-place finish would be a staggering achievement for
a team that needed a relegation play-off last season to stay up.
Coach Lucien Favre still faces the prospect of several of
his top players including forward Marco Reus and defender Dante
leaving at the end of the season.
Gladbach captain Filip Daems broke off training on Wednesday
with pain in his knee while forward Mike Hanke is nursing minor
adductor muscle problems. A decision on whether they will play
will be taken later this week, Gladbach said.
VfL Wolfsburg, the 2009 champions who are in 10th place on
41 points, will battle it out with Werder Bremen, a point above
in eighth, for an outside chance of booking a Europa League
For Bayer Leverkusen, in sixth place, a point against
Hannover 96 could be enough to secure European action next season
though their seventh-placed opponents are desperate for a win to
secure their berth.
Hamburg SV, the only ever-present club since the Bundesliga
was founded in 1963, need to a win against Mainz 05 to rid
themselves of any last-minute relegation worries.
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