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

Leicester City’s Rodgers: ‘Good news’ on Vardy injury

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Brendan Rodgers says there’s good news when it comes to the injury suffered by Jamie Vardy in Leicester City’s 4-1 blowout of West Ham United on Wednesday.

Vardy hurt his glute in the win, temporarily returning to the match after treatment from the trainer but ultimately subbing off before halftime.

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“It wasn’t his hamstring, so that’s good news for us,” Rodgers said, via The Leicester Mercury.

“He just felt a twinge in his glute, so we just have to wait and see on that in the next day or so. Thankfully his hamstring is okay and he just felt some pain in his glute, so we will have to assess that over the next few days.”

Vardy has a Premier League-best 17 goals, one more than Man City’s Sergio Aguero.

He was replaced by Kelechi Iheanacho, who assisted one of Ayoze Perez’s two goals on the day. Perez’s seven goals are second on Leicester, while James Maddison‘s six are third.

Iheanacho has six goals and three assists in 485 minutes and there’s reason to believe he can feast off Leicester’s playmaking if Vardy needs a match or two to heal.

Whether he can fill Vardy’s shoes in the long-term is a big question, especially as Leicester aims to return for the Champions League.

Transfer rumor roundup: Willian Jose to Spurs, Bournemouth after Croatian CB

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London could get itself another Willian.

Willian Jose, 28, was left out of Real Sociedad’s squad at his request on Wednesday, with the club Tweeting that he’d prefer not to play until his situation is resolved.

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Jose Mourinho said he would not comment on another team’s players, but Willian Jose could help Spurs bridge the gap to Harry Kane‘s return.

Willian Jose has been a double-digit scorer for Real Sociedad in La Liga for the previous three seasons, and is well on his way to another 10-goal campaign. He’s got eight goals in 20 matches this season.

Bournemouth needs defensive help, and is reportedly rivaling Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers for Portuguese giant Toni Borevkovic.

The 22-year-old Croatian has one goal in just over 3000 minutes with the side since arriving from domestic side NK Rudes.

He’s averaging 1.3 interceptions, .9 tackles, and 3.3 clearances per game in league play.

Rio Ave sits seventh in Portugal’s top flight and is managed by former Premier League boss Carlos Carvalhal.

Dropped points in Top Four race point to wild February

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Regardless of whether Wolves end Liverpool’s unbeaten Premier League season on Thursday, there will be five teams within seven points of fourth place heading into Matchweek 25.

Chelsea has 40, a comfortable-enough six-point lead on Manchester United, Spurs, and Wolves (who meet Liverpool at 3 p.m. ET Thursday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com). Sheffield United has 33 points.

February, specifically the next three matchweeks, will see the teams inside that group learn a lot more about their fates, and give Chelsea and Sheffield United big opportunities to cement their places in the Top Four and Seven, respectively.

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In the case of the latter, it’s because the Blades are the only team in the bunch who don’t face a Top Four six-pointer; Chris Wilder‘s men will meet Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, and Brighton, while the others will be beating up each other.

Chelsea’s path is fraught, but a big opportunity. The Blues travel to Leicester City before hosting both Manchester United and Spurs. Nine points there would effectively Top Four-proof Frank Lampard‘s side.

By the way, how’s this for a hot take? If any of Chelsea, Man Utd, or Spurs find their center forward or playmaker help in the window, they’ll have a leg up on their Top Four rivals. And, really, is that extra few million pounds worth the spoils of the Champions League? Yup.

Bruno Fernandes is not (yet) with United, and the Red Devils face Wolves and Chelsea in their next two matches. Spurs have City and Chelsea. Tumult is probable!

A draw with Newcastle and loss at Watford dampened Wolves’ hopes of riding into fourth. Beginning with Thursday’s visit from Liverpool, however, Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men face three of the Top Seven and then a visit from Norwich City. It’s not over.

And don’t entirely rule out Leicester City from dropping into the fray; The Foxes host Chelsea and Man City, and visit Wolves.

One more nod, however improbable: Arsenal sits 10 points back of fourth but meets Burnley, Newcastle, and Everton over those three match weeks. A perfect run could have the Gunners thinking big (Man City is after that, alas).

Matchday 25
Leicester City v. Chelsea
Crystal Palace v. Sheffield United
Manchester United v. Wolves
Spurs v. Man City

Matchday 25
Sheffield United v. Bournemouth
Wolves v. Leicester City
Chelsea v. Manchester United
Aston Villa v. Tottenham Hotspur

Matchday 27
Chelsea v. Tottenham Hotspur
Leicester City v. Man City
Wolves v. Norwich City
Sheffield United v. Brighton
Manchester United v. Watford

Spurs play Wolves the next week, too!

Mourinho: Spurs don’t have attacking depth, but do have ‘family’

Mourinho on Spurs win
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In this “whole new Jose Mourinho” world, the key word is family.

Mourinho said it six times in his post-match presser after Tottenham Hotspur scrapped to a 2-1 defeat of Norwich City on Wednesday in London.

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Spurs had an early lead disappear when Ryan Sessegnon gave away a penalty to Max Aarons, and Teemu Pukki converted it for a 70th-minute deadlock.

Heung-Min Son scored nine minutes later. It was a win that is good for the whole family.

From Football.London:

“It was fantastic what happened after the 1-1, which happens in a difficult moment for us where I look to the bench and I don’t have attacking players to change the game the team is a little bit fatigued, especially Lucas, Son and of course Lamela. I took him off because he was in trouble and he is a player who is coming from very important and long injury, so very difficult.

“How can we change the game? With the family spirit, the family character and desire.”

Mourinho also praised Giovani Lo Celso‘s work on the wing for attack-short Spurs as “a good experience for the family,” and Paulo Gazzaniga‘s support for returned goalkeeper Hugo Lloris as “a good member of the family and he is such a special friend of Hugo.”

I mean, I’m getting the warm and fuzzies.

Clearly, Mourinho is stressing unity and there’s a bit of bunker mentality involved, as the manager mentioned some dicey calls not going their way against Watford, Liverpool, and now Norwich.