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

Henry, Aguero discuss playing up top under Pep

Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images
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One great striker got another one to open up on an up-and-down year at Manchester City.

Thierry Henry — one of the greatest of all-time, it must be said — sat down with Sergio Aguero ahead of Thursday’s Manchester Derby at the Etihad Stadium, and asked the Argentine about Pep Guardiola, Gabriel Jesus, and more.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

At times, it’s a fascinating discussion on playing lone striker. Even apart from the obligatory questions regarding Jesus’ arrival at City, Henry and Aguero speak their craft in a manner you don’t see too often.

That’s helped by the fact that Henry played for Guardiola at Barcelona, and can relate to the positional demands of Man City’s boss. Consider this exchange, from Sky Sports:

HENRY: When I was at Arsenal, I played up front and if I wanted to drift out to the left, I could. But when I got to Barca, I had to stay out wide and press. Sometimes doing that can be hard.

AGUERO: The thing I’ve found the hardest has been getting into my head the fact that I have to press the centre-back and the goalkeeper in matches. That’s what Pep asks me to do. It may not be a big deal, but in terms of processing it, the two of us speak a lot. He knows what I’m like.

I’ve been gradually learning and adapting to that style of pressing over the last few months. The first thing he taught me was how to press and how to do it well. Obviously there are times when I might drift out of position or I might press in an area where I’m not supposed to be, which might make it hard for the wingers or midfielders.

In the game itself, I may not realise because I’m so immersed and you can’t stop yourself. I’ve learnt a lot from him in terms of zones. He asks me to play as a No 9 and to stay in that position. I often drift out wide during matches and he looks at me and says, “If there’s a player out wide who wants to cross it in, who’s in there? Nobody.”

HENRY: I know all about that, believe you me.

I love this, because it shows how difficult it is for an elite striker to adapt his mentality. Both Henry and Aguero found world-celebrated success by playing in a certain fashion, and Guardiola understood that and still demanded a change. Earlier this season, the manager somewhat famously spoke of improving Aguero.

Aguero has been linked with Real Madrid given the tumult at City.

PHOTO: Liverpool unveils 125th anniversary kit for next season

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Liverpool rolled out its 125th anniversary kit, featuring a special crest to celebrate the occasion.

The Liver bird has 1892 on one side and 2017 on the other, with “125 YEARS” spelled out underneath the club’s emblem.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

The red shirt with a gold crest has a white V-neck and white at the ends of the sleeves. The goalkeeper kit is green.

The jersey will be available on May 19, and was announced last month.

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Jara’s goal lifts Pachuca to CONCACAF Champions League crown

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Hirving Lozano’s dipping shot rebounded into the path of Franco Jara, who scored the goal that won Pachuca its fifth CONCACAF Championship early Thursday morning.

The Argentine’s goal was the only one of the win over UANL Tigres, and gave Pachuca its first continental title since 2009-10. USMNT veteran Omar Gonzalez played for the winners, while Jose Torres started for Tigres.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

Major League Soccer teams were eliminated in the semifinals, with FC Dallas falling to Pachuca and Vancouver Whitecaps losing to Tigres.

Beginning with the 2017-18 tournament, qualified MLS and Liga MX teams will not enter the tournament until the Round of 16. The entire tournament will be held in the same calendar year.

USMNT: Brooks out with hip strain; World Cup qualifiers loom

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John Brooks is out of Hertha Berlin’s lineup “for the time being” after scans revealed a hip strain suffered in this weekend’s win over Wolfsburg.

That’s all Hertha has said, and that makes it hard to imagine whether American fans should be a little concerned or very concerned ahead of the USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago in early June.

Brooks was unavailable for two weeks with an adductor strain in September, missing a month before returning to the starting lineup.

The U.S. center back pool isn’t teeming after Brooks and Geoff Cameron. Matt Besler, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, and Walker Zimmerman were called up for the last World Cup qualifiers, and Gonzalez struggled but is a Bruce Arena favorite from their time in L.A.