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

Mexico captain Guardado suffers hamstring injury

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With the World Cup still half a year away, there’s plenty of time to heal from injuries and get the body right after tweaking things during the club season.

And yet, there will still be some concern among Mexico fans.

Team captain Andres Guardado suffered a hamstring tear, his club Real Betis confirmed on Monday, and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. That’s nothing to write home about when it comes to preparing for the big tournament, but with Guardado 31 years old and struggling with injuries in recent years, Mexico fans will be keenly aware that hamstring injuries can return with a vengeance if not given the right time to heal.

Guardado has shown his age in recent times, not necessarily with his play on the field, which has been critical to his country, but with his fitness. Guardado has just four full 90 minute performances for Mexico dating back to October of 2016, missing time with ankle, leg, and now hamstring injuries in that span.

The 31-year-old has had a fine season so far for Real Betis, scoring one goal and assisting six while appearing in all 15 La Liga matches for the club thus far. The club sits 12th in the La Liga table with 18 points.

Guardado will be fine with plenty of time to spare, but if not fully healed properly, there’s always the risk that muscle injuries can flare back up, and Mexico fans will hope that their captain’s club gives him plenty of rest to recover.

Mark Hughes wants Stoke City to “suck it up”

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Mark Hughes is under fire at Stoke City with the Potters firmly entrenched in the relegation battle, and with that he’s charging his players, staff, and himself to gut the rest of the season out.

With Stoke heading to Turf Moor to take on Burnley, they sit just three points above the drop. The players were faced with jeers from angry fans at the train station following this past weekend’s 5-1 disaster against Tottenham. The fiery Hughes is hoping to use this jarring moment to jolt his squad.

[ PREVIEW: Tuesday’s Premier League action ]

“That is still resonating. It’s good we have a game because it is still fresh in their ears probably, and they can use it as a motivating factor,” said Hughes during his pre-match press conference.

“You either suck it up and do ­something about it or you go under, and we can’t accept players like that. I don’t feel we have players like that.”

With managers nowadays often reaching into the excuses barrel as they hope to save their own skins, Hughes refuses to do just that, instead placing the decision firmly on the players shoulders, telling them they are the only ones who can save the club.

“Maybe some hadn’t ­confronted that before – but sometimes you need a reality check, and understand how our results and ­performances affect people,” Hughes said. “When people criticize you, you have to grow a thick skin in this industry. If you don’t, you’re in the wrong place.”

Louis van Gaal calls Mourinho’s United “far more boring”

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Louis Van Gaal has picked just the right time to pipe up.

The former Manchester United manager, who took flak while in charge for his side being hideous to watch, has now taken shots of his own at his successor Jose Mourinho, kicking Manchester United while they’re down after a 2-1 derby defeat at home.

The Dutchman told Fox Sports Netherlands, “If you ask me how did I do at United, I will say it was my best year ever, given the circumstances I was working under. We played football that was quite alright. But it’s not football that is appreciated in England. And yet, right now, looking at United, I have to conclude Mourinho is not being criticized while it’s far more boring football.”

[ PREVIEW: Premier League Tuesday matches, including Chelsea vs. Huddersfield ]

Van Gaal was blasted consistently for playing a boring style, especially in front of the home crowd, and now Mourinho is being criticized for the same concept. Mourinho was denounced for similar reasons while in charge of Chelsea, but with the club winning multiple titles under his leadership, the noise was always less while the team was winning. With Manchester United still unable to crack the top 4, Mourinho is feeling the heat.

“What United produce now is defensive football,” van Gaal said. “I always played attacking football. The proof is that the opposition were always parking the bus. They don’t do that now because Jose Mourinho plays so defensive.”

To van Gaal’s point, Manchester United is seventh in the Premier League in possession, holding 51% possession this season. They were out-possessed by Manchester City 65-35 at Old Trafford over the weekend. Meanwhile, van Gaal’s last full season with Manchester United, the 2015/16 season, saw the Red Devils hold 54%, which ranked third in the Premier League, just a percentage point behind leaders Arsenal. However, van Gaal’s United ranked 15th in the Premier League in total shots, while Mourinho’s United this season ranks sixth at this point.

Van Gaal made sure to point out he prefers their cross-town rivals.

“I would rather watch City play than United. You need quality in a squad and it’s clear City have a better squad.”

Conte blames fatigue for dip in Chelsea form

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Antonio Conte has figured out what is plaguing his Chelsea side as they sit 14 points back of Premier League leaders Manchester City.

“I think when you play every three days, it is impossible to have a training session and to work on the physical aspects,” Conte said in his pre-match press conference as the Blues get set to play Huddersfield Town on Tuesday. “It’s impossible. It’s impossible because you have to prepare with the players for a game every three days.”

Chelsea has yet to find itself eliminated from a single competition, drawn against Barcelona in the Champions League while navigating fixtures across all four competitions.

And yet, this is nothing new for Conte. The Blues boss is more than familiar with fixture congestion, having taken charge of Juventus and regularly competing at a high level on multiple fronts. In 2012/13, he won the Serie A title, won the Supercoppa Italia, and reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

However, this is new for Conte at Chelsea. Last season, the Blues did not take part in a European competition thanks to their disastrous season the previous year. While they reached the FA Cup final, they were knocked out of the EFL Cup in the 4th round.

“We have to try to do our best,” Conte said. “For sure, some players can be tired, that’s normal because some players are playing from this summer and our tours in China and Singapore. It’s normal. But I repeat we have to find the best solution. We have to find more rotations. I’m doing this, we will try and do our best with hunger and desire. We will fight.”

As an example, Conte said Alvaro Morata will miss the match on Tuesday against Huddersfield Town due to fatigue, with the Spaniard battling a slight back injury. “Morata is out. He is a bit tired and he has a problem in his back.