Dortmund's Robert Lewandowski of Poland, center, scores during the German first division Bundesliga soccer match between BvB Borussia Dortmund and Mainz 05 in Dortmund, Germany, Saturday, April 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Bundesliga Roundup: Battle for European places continues in Germany

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While Italy’s Catholicism prevents them from having Serie A matches on Easter Sunday, Germany’s Protestant roots appear to influence the decision not to hold games on Good Friday. But stay tuned – there will be Bundesliga matches played on Sunday, and they both could have a major impact on both ends of the table.

Thursday Results

Eintracht Frankfurt 2-3 Hannover
What a result for Hannover! Their second consecutive win puts them in a position where they’ll be at least six points clear of the drop zone when the weekend finishes. Leon Andreasen opened the scoring inside two minutes, but Martin Lanig struck back for Frankfurt before 15 minutes were out. Hannover’s determination showed through, with Lars Stindl and Didier Ya Konan putting the visitors up 3-1 before the half-hour mark. Alexander Meier pulled one back for Eintracht, but the hosts never managed to find an equalizer

Saturday Results

Augsburg 0-0 Hertha Berlin
What? A goalless draw in the Bundesliga? At least this draw most likely helped determine the top seven sides – although it likely won’t be until the end of the season that the exact order of slots 3-7 is established. But it looks like neither Augsburg or Hertha will be enjoying European competition next season.

Borussia Dortmund 4-2 Mainz
For the first hour, Mainz put up a good fight. Miloš Jojić scored first for the hosts, Robert Lewandowski second, but Shinji Okazaki was right there to pull Mainz even each time. But once Lukasz Piszczek scored the third for Dortmund in the 56th minute, the visitors fell apart. Niko Bungert was shown a straight red for a handball inside the area. Marco Reus duly converted the resulting penalty, and that was that. Dortmund stay second.

Braunschweig 0-2 Bayern Munich
It’s back to winning ways for Bayern, although bottom-side Braunschweig did do their best to give the title-holders a scare. But Claudio Pizarro broke free with fifteen minutes left to play, and Mario Mandžukić added a second ten minutes later. Now it’s time for Pep Guardiola’s men to focus on their midweek semi-final at Real Madrid.

Freiburg 4-2 Borussia Mönchengladbach
Well. Gladbach did a wonderful job of throwing this one away – and possibly their chance at the Champions League as well, if Leverkusen win on Sunday. The visitors took an early lead through Patrick Hermann, going into halftime up 1-0. Admir Mehmedi equalized in the 51st minute, and then Filip Daems was unable to put Gladbach in front in the 65th, with Oliver Baumann saving his penalty. Granit Xhaka saw red less than five minutes later, after which Oliver Sorg and Vladimir Darida quickly put the hosts up 3-1. Mehmedi grabbed a second with three minutes left to go, which ensured that Havard Nordtveit’s direct free kick didn’t threaten Freiburg at all.

Hamburg 1-3 Wolfsburg
It was a day of Croatian domination at the Volksparkstadion. An early goal from Ivan Perišić, followed by goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Ivica Olić, ensured a win for Wolfsburg, taking them above Leverkusen and into the last Champions League place. Ivo Iličević put one in for Hamburg, but it could only be a consolation.

Werder Bremen 3-1 Hoffenheim
Kevin Volland scored in the third minute for the visitors, but goals from Philipp Bargfrede, Santiago Garcia and Nils Petersen ensured a win for Werder Bremen. Not that it matters much – both sides are safe and neither are getting into Europe. But hey, it was still fun.

Still to come…

Nurnberg vs. Bayer Leverkusen
Big, big, big game for both sides. A win for the hosts, and they’re, well, not quite safe, but at least have a chance of remaining in the Bundesliga. A win for Leverkusen is necessary to get back into the final Champions League spot. That fourth-place finish must be seen as essential for the visitors, as for much of the season they were clear in second place.

Stuttgart vs. Schalke
And the weekend wraps up with another big one. Stuttgart need points to maintain their precarious lead over Hamburg. Schalke need points to maintain their seven-point cushion in third place, and thus don’t risk another early start in the Champions League playoff round – it’s likely one of the reasons they’ve looked so tired at times this season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.

Statement from suspended UEFA president Michel Platini

Michel Platini, UEFA & FIFA
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Statement from suspended UEFA President Michel Platini:

Early this afternoon, I was informed of the FIFA ethics committee’s decision to impose on me a provisional 90-day suspension with immediate effect. That decision, which I will of course contest in the appropriate manner at the appropriate time, had already been the subject of a deliberate leak, and I gave my opinion on that earlier in the day.

I reject all of the allegations that have been made against me, which are based on mere semblances and are astonishingly vague. Indeed, the wording of those allegations merely states that a breach of the FIFA Code of Ethics “seems to have been committed” and that a decision on the substance of the matter cannot be taken immediately.

Despite the farcical nature of these events, I refuse to believe that this is a political decision taken in haste in order to taint a lifelong devotee of the game or crush my candidacy for the FIFA presidency.

I want everyone to know my state of mind: more than a sense of injustice or a desire for revenge, I am driven by a profound feeling of staunch defiance. I am more determined than ever to defend myself before the relevant judicial bodies.

I want to reiterate in the strongest possible terms that I will devote myself to ensuring that my good faith prevails. I have received numerous messages of support today from UEFA’s member associations and the other confederations encouraging me to continue my work serving football’s interests. Nothing will make me give up on that commitment.