Bundesliga Wrap: With one week left, who’s still got something to play for?

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There’s just one week remaining in the Bundesliga, so Germany was quite nice about allowing all eighteen teams to duke it out on Saturday afternoon. Let’s take a look at what’s been decided, and what remains to be played for in Round 34.

Title

Bayern Munich won the league something like twenty weeks ago, leading some people to believe that the Bundesliga is boring, simply because no one challenged for the title. Those people hate fun, as we shall soon see, and you should feel free to tell them that. Besides, even though the men from Munich already clinched first, they’re still determined to score goals. Against Hamburg, Mario Götze put in two, Thomas Müller grabbed one and Claudio Pizarro grabbed a sensational fourth. Oh, and Jerome Boateng got a straight red card, simply because he’s tired of playing.

Champions League

Borussia Dortmund had already made sure they’d finish second, but that didn’t stop them from battling it out with free-scoring Hoffenheim to a 3-2 win. Robert Lewandowski failed to score, but he still put in an impressive performance in his last home match with Dortmund before he joins Bayern next season.

Schalke beat Freiburg, who look rather tired of playing this game, rather easily, despite the hosts having a man advantage for nearly twenty minutes at the end of the match. Schalke can’t afford to rest, however – there’s still a chance that Bayer Leverkusen can overtake them on goal difference, and that would mean Schalke have to go through Champions League qualifications rather than straight to the group stages.

It’s Leverkusen that might have an easier time of it in the final round, as they’re scheduled to play Werder Breman, who’ve got nothing but pride to play for, while Schalke must face Nurnberg, who could still save themselves. Then again, Werder had nothing to play for this weekend either, and still had fun beating Hertha Berlin 2-0.

Europa League

Leverkusen must also keep an eye behind them. Their easy win over Eintracht Frankfurt kept them fourth, but Wolfsburg’s hard-fought battle over Stuttgart keeps them just a point out of the Champions League places. Die Wölfe will be singing the praises of Ivica Olić, as his winner in injury time keeps their hopes of taking fourth-place alive.

But it’s Borussia Mönchengladbach up next weekend – and the Foals, too, could sneak into fourth. Their 3-1 win over Mainz gives them 55 points, and they’re even with Leverkusen on goal difference. A decisive win over Wolfsburg combined with a loss for Leverkusen, and it’s the Champions League qualifiers for Gladbach.

No matter what, though, Wolfsburg and Gladbach will be playing European football next season. But who will take the last remaining slot?

Thanks to Gladbach’s win, Mainz are no longer sure of a Europa League spot. Augsburg, who beat Braunschweig 1-0, are just a point behind. Mainz need to beat HSV next week, but that requires defeating an opponent who are fighting for their very survival. Augsburg, meanwhile, are lucky enough to face Frankfurt, who have absolutely nothing to play for.

Relegation

Remember, Germany takes an odd stance on relegation: The side in 16th in the Bundesliga plays the side in 3rd in 2. Bundesliga in a two-legged playoff, with the winner earning a place in the top division for the next season.

Currently Hamburg occupy that playoff position. Nurnberg and Braunschweig are unable to reach safety, but they can still overthrow HSV to grab the playoff slot. It’s Braunschweig that are most likely to do so, as they face Hoffenheim, who have nothing to play for, in the final game. Nurnberg have a challenging trip to Schalke ahead of them, while Hamburg travel to Mainz.

The rest of the best

Losses today mean that Hoffenheim and Hertha Berlin are both unable to reach the European places – which is rather sad for Hertha, who spent much of the first half of the season hovering around fourth place. Still, finishing midtable is better than yo-yoing right back down to the second division, as they’d been doing as of late. Hoffenheim, too, will be glad that they get another year in the Bundesliga.

Stuttgart may not have won today, but because HSV failed to get past Bayern, they’re safe – a rather small ambition for a club that started the season in the Europa League. So too with Eintracht and Freiburg, both who competed in Europa this season, and who will most likely finish 13th and 14th, respectively.

Rounding out the rest of the Bundesliga are Hannover, who play a pointless match against Freiburg to finish the season, and Werder Bremen, who hope to dash Leverkusen’s dreams of the Champions League next weekend.

2. Bundesliga

There’s still two matchdays left to play in Germany’s second division, with all 2. Bundesliga games set to kick off on Sunday. What we know is this: Cologne, who were relegated in 2012, will move back up to the top division. They’ll most likely be joined by Paderborn, unless they lose their remaining two matches and Greuther Fürth and Kaiserslautern both win out. The latter could also sneak into the playoff, of course, as could Karlsruhe.

East German side Cottbus is almost certain of relegation, along with fellow former Oberliga side Dynamo Dresden, who are currently facing a playoff to avoid slipping to the third tier. Bielefeld sits between, with little hope for survival.

RESULTS

Borussia Dortmund 3-2 Hoffenheim

Borussia Mönchengladbach 3-1 Mainz

Braunschweig 0-1 Augsburg

Eintracht Frankfurt 0-2 Bayer Leverkusen

Freiburg 0-2 Schalke

Hamburg 1-4 Bayern Munich

Nurnberg 0-2 Hannover

Stuttgart 1-2 Wolfsburg

Werder Bremen 2-0 Hertha Berlin

La Liga: Torres lifts Atleti into 2nd, just 3 points behind Barca

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Fernando Torres’ first goal in the Spanish league this season gave Atletico Madrid a hard-fought 1-0 win over Alaves on Saturday and lifted the club into second place behind Barcelona.

Torres broke the deadlock five minutes after going on in the 69th with Atletico’s attack stifled by Alaves’ well-positioned defense.

Diego Simeone’s team took advantage of Valencia’s 2-1 loss at Eibar as Atletico moved two points ahead of its title rival. Barcelona is three points ahead of Atletico before hosting Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday.

“We didn’t have many chances to win the match, but were always in charge. The entry of (Angel) Correa, (Yannick) Carrasco and, especially, Torres gave us that extra bit that we needed to get the win,” Simeone said. “There is still a long way to go in the league. We only look toward our next game and keep trying to improve.”

Torres, a former Liverpool and Chelsea striker, made his run forward in sync with Sime Vrsaljko’s cross from the right flank before sliding to redirect the ball home with his left foot.

At 33 years old, Torres has had to settle for a role as a reserve player behind regular starters Antoine Griezmann and Kevin Gameiro. His goal was his first in any competition this campaign other than the brace he scored against Elche in the Copa del Rey.

Torres’ goal comes just before the arrival of even more competition in Atletico’s attack. Diego Costa and Victor “Vitolo” Machin will join the club in January when its ban on incorporating new players expires.

“I am happy for the goal that came after working so that the coach would play me,” Torres said. “Now I just have to keep at it to get more minutes.”

Despite its failure to reach the knockout rounds of the Champions League, Atletico is as sound as ever in the domestic competition where it is unbeaten through 16 rounds and has won four in a row.

Atletico’s unbeaten streak in La Liga stretches back 20 matches to last season since its loss at Villarreal on April 25.


Valencia took another blow to its surprise challenge for the league lead after losing its second consecutive away game.

Valencia forward Santi Mina equalized in the 57th to cancel out Takashi Inui’s opener for Eibar just after halftime.

But Eibar midfielder Joan Jordan powered in a header from a cross by Ivan Alejo to grab the 2-1 victory for the hosts with three minutes remaining.

The absence of suspended striker Simone Zaza and injured midfielder Carlos Soler showed as Valencia again dropped points away from its Mestalla Stadium. Valencia’s 1-0 defeat at Getafe two rounds ago ended its unbeaten season.

“We didn’t have the scoring touch we needed to take the lead and they took advantage of our inability to finish,” Valencia coach Marcelino Garcia Toral said. “I don’t recall any other chances for Eibar other than the ones they turned into goals. We have to congratulate them for the win, but a draw would have been fair.”

After only one win in the first eight rounds, Eibar has won four and drawn one to rise to seventh place and in contention for a Europa League berth.

The 2 Robbies: Man City Dominate Spurs, Everyone

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After Manchester City dominate Spurs on the back of an incredible performance from Kevin De Bruyne, the Robbies break down his impressive play and stamina (0:30), plus the guys discuss Ederson’s passing and Sterling’s goal scoring. Then, they look at the match from Spurs’ perspective (10:15) — was high pressing the right approach? With big wins from Palace and West Ham, Robbie and Robbie also discuss the “manager bump.” (19:00). And finally, R & R hit on Sunday’s matches (27:45) — West Brom vs. Man United & Bournemouth vs. Liverpool.

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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PL Sunday preview: Can Man United, Liverpool keep pace?

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Highly unlikely to overcome 14- and 21-point deficits in the title race, respectively, Manchester United and Liverpool — along with the rest of the Premier League’s top-six — are merely in a race for second. West Bromwich Albion and Bournemouth — their opponents on Sunday, respectively — fear relegation.

[ PL ROUNDUP: Man City untouchable; Chelsea, Arsenal win narrowly ]

West Brom vs. Manchester United — 9:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Try telling Jose Mourinho, the only man in the PL still refusing to concede the title to Manchester City, that the title race is over. The performances have often been ugly and ground out until the final whistle — especially in the absence of Paul Pogba, who’ll once again be unavailable through suspension — but Mourinho’s men have won five of their last six (the only defeat coming last weekend, to Man City) as they head into Sunday’s annual trip to the Hawthorns, where they’ll face 19th-place West Brom. The Baggies haven’t won in their last 15 PL outings (eight draws), a woeful run which dates back to the second week of the 2017-18 season.

While United have been nearly impenetrable defensively (11 goals conceded in 17 games), a pair of costly errors — each committed by star striker Romelu Lukaku — cost the Red Devils dearly against City, as did their recurring inability (against the PL’s top teams) to control the game through possession and create scoring chances with consistency. The same struggles reared their ugly heads in a 1-0 victory over Bournemouth on Wednesday.

As poor as the results have been over the course of four months, West Brom can hang their hat on a decent defensive record — just 22 goals conceded in 17 games, which puts them squarely in the middle of the table. If Alan Pardew‘s side sets out to defend for 90 minutes, the Baggies might just get something out of Sunday’s clash. Pardew was quite pleased by the improvements he saw during Wednesday’s 0-0 draw with Liverpool, and he’s hoping for a repeat performance against United.

“We kept them very quiet and created on transition better moments, in the limited number that we had, than we did at Swansea,” he said. “That’s an improvement, but still an area to work on. We had some really strong performances — and if you get four or five ‘eights’ in your team that normally constitutes points.”

INJURIES: West Brom — OUT: Nacer Chadli (hip), Matt Phillips (hamstring), Craig Dawson (knee), James Morrison (achilles); RETURNING: Gareth Barry (thigh)| Man United — OUT: Paul Pogba (suspension), Eric Bailly (ankle), Marouane Fellaini (knee), Michael Carrick (heart)


Bournemouth vs. Liverpool — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Every time Liverpool take a step or two forward, they take a step or two right back to where they began. Case in point: back-to-back wins over Stoke City and Bright & Hove Albion, by a combined score of 8-1, which briefly vaulted them ahead of Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur in the race for the top-four; followed by back-to-back draws against bottom-half sides Everton and West Brom.

With that side, Jurgen Klopp‘s side is unbeaten in its last eight league games and boasts one of the league’s most potent attacking records (34 goals conceded in 17 games — third-most behind the two Manchester clubs).

Cherries boss Eddie Howe was encouraged by his side’s performances in that narrow loss to United, and the 40-year-old can sense that better days are on the near horizon.

“We’re disappointed because we’ve been beaten, but I’m really pleased with the performance,” he said. “I thought we were very good today and were very disciplined out of possession. We were also very good with the ball and created numerous chances. We really did establish ourselves in the game very early and there were some really good individual performances today. The team functioned very well.”

INJURIES: Bournemouth — OUT: Tyrone Mings (back), Brad Smith (hip), Adam Federici (knee) | Liverpool — OUT: Alberto Moreno (ankle), Adam Lallana (fitness), Joel Matip (thigh), Nathaniel Clyne (back), Emre Can (suspensions); QUESTIONABLE: Daniel Sturridge (hamstring)

PL roundup: Chalk at the top, blowouts at the bottom

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Get caught up on all of Saturday’s Premier League fixtures…

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Manchester City 4-1 Tottenham HotspurFULL RECAP

What’s left to say about Man City at this point? Christmas is still nine days away, and their lead in the title race has already ballooned to 14 points. Pep Guardiola‘s side will have such an advantage that they’ll be able to choose between chasing the elusive unbeaten PL season, or resting key players with an eye toward winning the UEFA Champions League. Or, you know, he might just choose to do both, because he can.

Anyway, Ilkay Gudogan, Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling (twice) scored the goals as City blew the doors off Tottenham. Christian Eriksen‘s consolation goal was little more than a 92nd-minute pity present.

Chelsea 1-0 SouthamptonFULL RECAP

Marcos Alonso scored a stunning free kick — what else? (WATCH HERE) — to give Chelsea a 1-0 victory over Southampton at Stamford Bridge. The Blues had ample opportunity to put the game to bed, but much like fellow top-four chasers Arsenal, couldn’t do so and were made to sweat all the way through the game’s final moments. The victory pulls Antonio Conte‘s side level with Manchester United for second in the PL table, though United don’t play until Sunday.

Arsenal 1-0 Newcastle UnitedFULL RECAP

Mesut Ozil scored one of the goals of the season (WATCH HERE), and it was all Arsenal needed to edge past Newcastle and leave Rafa Benitez‘s side sitting in the relegation zone another few days, at least. Thanks to points dropped by Tottenham and Burnley (yes, Burnley), Arsenal now sit fourth in the league table with only Liverpool capable of leapfrogging them this weekend.

Leicester City 0-3 Crystal PalaceFULL RECAP

The good times were really rolling for Leicester, who entered Saturday’s clash with Palace riding a five-game unbeaten streak (four straight wins) under new manager Claude Puel. Oh, how quickly fortunes can change in the PL. Christian Benteke and Wilfried Zaha had the visitors 2-0 up by halftime, and Bakary Sako added another goal during second-half stoppage time, just for good measure. Speaking of fortunes changing quickly, Palace now sit 14th in the league table, four places and two points clear of the relegation zone.

Roy Hodgson, miracle worker.

Watford 1-4 Huddersfield TownFULL RECAP

Huddersfield will stave off relegation quite comfortably if they can continue picking up lopsided wins every second or third game for the rest of the season, even if they’re sandwiched by blowout defeats. Saturday’s romp past Watford will surely go down as the most straightforward all season, as the Terriers went 2-0 up in 23 minutes, then went a man up after Troy Deeney was sent off in the 33rd. It was 3-0 after five second-half minutes, and 4-0 with more than 20 minutes still to play. Back up to 11th, David Wagner‘s side is six points clear of relegation just one game shy of the halfway mark.

Stoke City 0-3 West Ham UnitedFULL RECAP

Marko Arnautovic haunted his former club, Stoke City, as he scored a goal and was a constant threat throughout West Ham’s 3-0 victory at the bet365 Stadium. That makes three games without a loss, including two wins, for the Hammers under new manager David Moyes. Like Palace, they are also now two points clear of the relegation zone.

Brighton & Hove Albion 0-0 BurnleyFULL RECAP

Burnely, who began the weekend level with Tottenham and Liverpool (and ahead of Arsenal) for fourth place, dropped points for the first time in three games. Brighton, meanwhile, haven’t won in their last seven PL games and have slowly but surely slid back to the relegation-fighting pack.

Sunday’s PL schedule

West Bromwich Albion vs. Manchester United — 9:15 a.m. ET
Bournemouth vs. Liverpool — 11:30 a.m. ET