BERLIN (Reuters) – Four teams will battle it out for two lucrative Champions League spots starting on Friday as the Bundesliga enters the last stretch with the three remaining matchdays.
Bayer Leverkusen, RB Leipzig and surprise teams Freiburg and Union Berlin are locked in their final assault on the two spots, with champions Bayern Munich already having sealed their 10th straight league crown and Borussia Dortmund all but certain of second place.
The top four teams qualify for the Champions League group stage.
Leverkusen, in third place nine points behind Dortmund on 55, host Europa League semi-finalists Eintracht Frankfurt on Monday while Leipzig, a further point behind in fourth, travel to mercurial Borussia Moenchengladbach.
Freiburg have shattered all club records to find themselves in fifth place, their best position ever at this stage of the season on 52 points, and a win over Hoffenheim on Saturday would keep them firmly in the running for a surprise top-four finish.
Union, sixth on 50, complete their quartet with an outside chance of premier European football following their own sensational run this season, having exceeded all expectations and taking on already-relegated Greuther Fuerth on Friday.
But it is Leverkusen who are best positioned to lock down their spot first, with Frankfurt shining on the European stage after the elimination of Barcelona in the Europa League quarter-finals earlier this month but having collapsed in the league.
Frankfurt have just three wins from their 14 Bundesliga matches in 2022, having already lost out on a European spot next season, sitting in ninth place on 40.
Leipzig, who back in December were languishing in 11th place before a sparkling comeback under coach Domenico Tedesco this year, have hit top form at just the right time, having won 10 of their 14 league games since he replaced Jesse Marsch.
They have, however, a heavier schedule than Leverkusen, with their Europa League last four matches against Rangers this week and next, following last week’s shock loss to Union in the Bundesliga.
“That defeat to Union was painful but we did have a run of 15 matches without defeat (in all competitions) which is not expected,” Tedesco said on Tuesday.
“I always try to stress what we have achieved so far and what situation we managed to manoeuver ourselves out of this season.”
With the title already wrapped up by Bayern, second-placed Dortmund only need a point against VfL Bochum to secure their spot in next season’s Champions League group stage.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)