LEVERKUSEN, GERMANY - APRIL 28: Leverkusen fans cheer during the Bundesliga match between Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Hannover 96 at BayArena on April 28, 2012 in Leverkusen, Germany. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Bongarts/Getty Images)
The Bundesliga season ends this weekend, and it's going out in style.
The final matchday in the 2011-2012 Bundesliga has finally arrived. We've had a tremendous season, and it will be sad to see it end. Some things were completely wrapped up before this weekend, but some will go down to the very last second.
Borussia Dortmund clinched the title a few weeks ago after a win against Borussia Mönchengladbach. They were superb from beginning to end all season long. If they manage to defeat Freiburg this weekend at Signal Iduna Park, they'll finish the 34 match campaign with an impressive 81 points. They're main focus will turn to whether Shinji Kagawa decides to remain on Dortmund. He advised this week that he plans to make his decision after the DFB Pokal Final. Lucas Barios is off to China, but Mario Götze has signed an extension. Did I mention that Marco Reus is joining in the summer? Once again, Congratulations to the champions.
The four spots for next season's Champions League are also already decided. Dortmund, Bayern Munich, and Schalke will enter directly into the group stages next season thanks to their 1, 2, and 3 finish in the league. Borussia Mönchengladbach will see their way into the final qualifying round in the Champions League after a surprising start that they carried throughout the season.
While they were unable to replicate their success from last season, Bayer Leverkusen will be in next season's Europa League. Things with Robin Dutt didn't work out, but Sami Hyypiä has guided them to a soft landing in Europe next year. Stuttgart will finish no worse than sixth in the table this year. They're much improved from last season's 12th place finish. Die Schwaben will be back in Europe next year where they belong.
There's one Europa League place remaining, and four teams will be battling for it. Hannover is in the driver's seat as they're on 45 points. If they manage a win on the final matchday against lowly Kaiserslautern, they'll qualify for Europe for the second season in a row. Wolfsburg sit one point behind Hannover for that final spot. After barely avoiding relegation last season, Felix Magath has nearly found his way back to Europe. Remarkably, Werder Bremen and Nürnberg have an outside shot at qualifying for Europe. For either to qualify, they'll need to win and hope that Hannover and Wolfsburg lose. These four games ought to be a blast to watch.
Hoffenheim, Freiburg, Mainz, Hamburg, and Augsburg have nothing to play for but pride this weekend. Hoffenheim, Freiburg, and Mainz have just missed out on challenging for the Europa League, and Hamburg and Mainz just escaped the relegation battle before this weekend's matches.
Köln and Hertha Berlin are playing to avoid a direct relegation to the 2.Bundesliga. Köln are on 30 points, and Hertha are on 28. I'm not going to bore you with the different combinations we could have for who goes down and who goes into the promotion/relegation playoff. Both are playing at home, and I believe that this will be going down until the bitter end.
Unfortunately for Kaiserslautern, they've been relegated for a few weeks now. There just wasn't enough quality in their side this season to keep them in the Bundesliga for another season. Good luck in the 2.Bundesliga, FCK.
Saturday, May 5
Nürnberg vs Bayer Leverkusen - 15:30 CET & 9:30AM EST
Mainz vs Borussia Mönchengladbach - 15:30 CET & 9:30AM EST
Köln vs Bayern Munich - 15:30 CET & 9:30AM EST
Werder Bremen vs Schalke - 15:30 CET & 9:30AM EST
Augsburg vs Hamburg - 15:30 CET & 9:30AM EST
Borussia Dortmund vs Freiburg - 15:30 CET & 9:30AM EST
Hannover vs Kaiserslautern - 15:30 CET & 9:30AM EST
Hertha Berlin vs Hoffenheim - 15:30 CET & 9:30AM EST
Stuttgart vs Wolfsburg - 15:30 CET & 9:30AM EST