Bundesliga Wrap: last round of the season shows strength of Europe-bound sides

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The Bundesliga threw out plenty of excitement in their final round of matches, but in the end, the table remained unchanged from last week to this one. Here’s a look at who’s going to Europe, who’s heading to the second division and who might still save themselves…despite the season being over.

Champions

Bayern Munich celebrated winning the Bundesliga title after narrowly defeating Stuttgart 1-0, but in fact that race was over long ago. Bayern clinched the championship on March 25, way back on Matchday 27, with a 3-1 victory over Hertha Berlin. That’s two league titles in a row for the Bavarian giants.

Heading to the Champions League

Borussia Dortmund finish out the season in second after an emphatic 4-0 victory over Hertha in Berlin. After reaching the quarter-finals of the Champions League this year, they’ll hope to progress further in the tournament once more come 2014-2015 – and actually make a decent run at the title, too.

Had Schalke not beaten Nurnberg 4-1, they could’ve lost out on third had Leverkusen scored enough goals. As it is, though, they get to skip the qualifying that probably kept them from performing well in the first half of the Bundesliga season. If they hang on to both Julian Draxler and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, they could be a force to be reckoned with.

Stuck in Champions League Qualifying

Next year, Bayer Leverkusen will have to go through the Champions League playoffs, adding extra pressure at the start of their season. Still, they’ll be happy to have made it there at all, as it was Werder Bremen that took the lead early in their final match. In the end Leverkusen won 2-1 and will now focus on strengthening their squad this summer.

Preparing for Europa League

Only Wolfsburg gets automatic entry into Europa League – and they likely won’t be all that happy about it. They defeated Gladbach 3-1 in what could’ve been a playoff for fourth, but because Leverkusen grabbed three points, the winner of that match received the consolation prize of entry into Europe’s second tournament.

Needing to Qualify for Europa League

Still, it’s worse for Borussia Mönchengladbach and Mainz. Sure, their 5th and 6th place finishes are better than 8th and 13th, respectively, but they’ll be playing a lot of games early in the season. Besides, last season’s Europa entries from Germany didn’t fare well. Eintracht Frankfurt, Freiburg and Stuttgart finished 13-16th, and all felt a bit wary about the possibility of relegation.

Relegated

Neither Braunschweig nor Nurnberg ever really looked like they might achieve safety this season, and neither showed much ambition for securing safety on the final day. Considering HSV lost, a win for either could’ve given them a chance through the playoff round, but instead both will be plying their trade in 2.Bundesliga come August.

(Read more: further details on Bundesliga relegation and the playoff for that last top-division slot)

Playoff-bound

Hamburger SV still have a chance at remaining in the Bundesliga next season, despite losing 3-2 to Mainz in one of the day’s most exciting matches. But first, they’ll need to win a two-legged playoff against the third place finisher of the second division. That will be decided tomorrow, when 2.Bundesliga plays their final round. Hamburg will be hoping for the weakest of oppositions – they’re founding members of the Bundesliga and have spent fifty consecutive seasons in the top-flight, the longest of any club.

Week 34 Results

Augsburg 2-1 Eintracht Frankfurt
Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 Werder Bremen
Bayern Munich 1-0 Stuttgart
Hannover 3-2 Freiburg
Hertha Berlin 0-4 Dortmund
Hoffenheim 3-1 Braunschweig
Mainz 3-2 Hamburg
Schalke 4-1 Nurnberg
Wolfsburg 3-1 Gladbach

On This Day: The Battle of Old Trafford

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Fourteen years ago today, Arsenal headed north to Manchester for a famous matchup with Manchester United.

Taking the field at Old Trafford, Arsenal were unbeaten to start the season, having won its first four Premier League matches before drawing a week prior at home against Portsmouth. Manchester United meanwhile had four wins and one loss in that span.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

By way of Arsenal’s FA Cup title and Man United’s Premier League title the year before, the two teams met for the annual Community Shield a month earlier, and the game descended into a physical battle. Five yellow cards were shown, Arsenal substitute Francis Jeffers was shown a red card and defender Sol Campbell was later banned for kicking at an opponent, and Man United – backed by a young Tim Howard in goal – won 4-3 on penalty kicks after the score was tied at 1-1 after extra time.

With numerous physical encounters over the years, the September 21 encounter was shaping up to be another monumental showdown, and in terms of physicality, it didn’t disappoint.

Each team were shown four yellow cards and there was a combined 31 fouls. The match took a turn when Patrick Vieira was shown a second yellow card and subsequent red card for kicking out at Man United’s Ruud Van Nistelrooy after Van Nistelrooy had fouled Vieira going for a header. The decision set off a scrum in the middle of the field.

Despite being down to ten men, Arsenal held on until the final minutes, when Martin Keown was whistled for a foul in the box on Diego Forlan, giving Man United a penalty kick. But whether it was karma or lady luck, Van Nistelrooy’s penalty clanged off the crossbar and away to safety. Arsenal held on for a goalless draw, which helped boost the team’s belief in itself.

The Gunners went on to finish the 2013-2014 season undefeated, the only team to finish a Premier League season without a defeat. Man United wound up taking the FA Cup crown, settling for third place in the Premier League.

Watch some highlights from the match below.

Former Sunderland forward Scocco scores five goals for River Plate

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Veteran forward Ignacio “Nacho” Scocco is quickly endearing himself to the River Plate faithful.

Nearly three months since joining River, Scocco scored an incredible five goals in the second leg of his team’s Copa Libertadores quarterfinal matchup with Bolivian side Jorge Wilstermann. Scocco scored a first half hat-trick and added two more in the second half as River turned around a 3-0 deficit heading into the second leg.

Scocco had a mostly frustrating spell in 2014 ahead of the World Cup with Sunderland, joining the club as they staved off relegation by one point. Scocco failed to score for Sunderland in eight appearances, all off the bench.

However, since then, he returned to his native Argentina and starred for his hometown club Newell’s Old Boys before moving this summer to River as a replacement for Sebastián Driussi, who completed a transfer to Zenit St. Petersburg.

Here’s a look at all of Scocco’s goals Thursday evening.

Tammy Abraham denies switching national teams

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Fans of the England National Team may still have a chance to see Tammy Abraham don the Three Lions crest one day.

Abraham refuted reports from earlier Thursday that he was in the process of switching his national team to Nigeria from England. The 19-year-old Swansea City forward on-loan from Chelsea has played as high as the England Under-21 Men’s National Team but because of his Nigerian father, he’s eligible for the African nation.

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Abraham confirmed that he had met with Nigeria Football Federation chief Amaju Pinnick after Swansea’s last game, but denied that he was looking to play for the Super Eagles.

“I have informed The FA that I remain available for selection for England,” Abraham said, via the BBC. “Contrary to reports in the media I would like to clarify that I have not agreed to switch my national team allegiance. I can confirm I met the President of the NFF after our last game against Tottenham at Wembley on Saturday given he is a friend of my father. However, any suggestion that I have made a decision to change my international representation is incorrect and wide of the mark.”

Earlier in the day, reports emerged that Pinnick said the process was underway for Abraham to switch his international allegiance.

Abraham’s apparently decision to remain with the England set-up is good news for his club Swansea City, who will get to keep him closer to Wales on a regular basis, but Abraham may be missing a chance to play senior national team soccer at a young age.

Paulinho has silenced his critics at Barcelona

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MADRID (AP) Brazil midfielder Paulinho wasn’t greeted with the warmest of welcomes when he arrived in Barcelona.

Fans made it clear they were not too thrilled to see the club spend 40 million euros ($48 million) on a defensive midfielder who was playing in the Chinese league.

[ MORE: La Liga scores, schedule ]

They were expecting a blockbuster signing after Neymar’s departure and ended up getting a player they knew very little about.

Paulinho didn’t have any links to the club’s youth academy and his style apparently didn’t suit the team’s traditional ball-possession game.

A video of Paulinho struggling to juggle the ball during his presentation at Camp Nou Stadium didn’t help, going viral and igniting even more criticism against the player and the club.

But things have changed quickly in favor of the low-key, hard-working Brazilian.

After five Spanish league games, Paulinho has done enough to mollify the critics.

He has two goals, including a late winner against Getafe last weekend, and showed some of the prowess that led him to success in Brazil and made him an indisputable starter for his national team.

He thrived after coming off the bench in his first four matches, and eventually earned a start on Tuesday against Eibar.

“I’m happy with how things have gone for me,” Paulinho said. “I’m glad that I’m playing well, it helps me get adapted to the club. I’m playing alongside some great players and they have all been supporting me a lot.”

The 29-year-old Paulinho has added versatility to the midfield. He is solid as a defensive midfielder but also excels with attacking runs that often surprise defenders.

That’s how he scored the decisive goal in the 2-1 win against Getafe, making a run between defenders and entering the area to fire a firm shot into the far corner. His second goal was a header in a 6-1 rout of Eibar.

“He will end up being a cheap signing,” Brazil teammate and former Barcelona player Dani Alves said.

Paulinho has a lot more presence in the area than some of the team’s other midfielders, including Ivan Rakitic and even Andres Iniesta.

It was this that made Paulinho a key player in the Corinthians team that won Club World Cup in 2012. His success with the Brazilian club prompted a move in 2013 to Tottenham, where he disappointed in his two seasons before moving to Guangzhou Evergrande.

Paulinho, who signed a four-year contract with Barcelona, said he had regained his confidence while playing in China. And his good performances with Brazil also helped.

“He gives us a lot of versatility. He can help us in many different ways,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.

Barcelona’s next game is on Saturday at Girona. The Catalan club has won its first five Spanish league games and has a two-point lead over second-place Sevilla.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

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