The final game of the season can usually be a drab affair. It can usually be played between two teams who are looking to give their fans a decent send-off, but who are ultimately looking forward to the summer off. At Signal Iduna Park on Saturday however that won’t be the case. A win for Borussia Dortmund would seal third spot and an automatic place in next season Champions League ahead of fourth-placed Hoffenheim. But a win for Bremen, providing other results go their way, would see them climb two places into sixth. This would see them playing on Thursday nights in next season’s Europa League. A drab affair this surely will not be.
With the DFB Pokal final on the horizon for BVB, the fans will be buoyant mood and hoping to go into the game against Eintracht Frankfurt on 27th May with Champions League qualification secured. With that said, two draws from their last three leagues will have gone some way to dampening any positivity created from knocking Bayern out of the Pokal semi-final a couple of weeks ago.
Going into this game, Dortmund will be without several players through injury. Julian Weigl is out until mid-September, with returns expected for Andre Schurrle and Mario Gotze during pre-season. Nuri Sahin is back in training but is unlikely to feature. Doubts also remain over Mathias Ginter, Eric Durm and Lukasz Pisczscek. One man who is almost certain to feature though is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The Gabonese striker scored his 29th league goal of the season in the 1-1 draw away to Augsburg on Saturday, which just about kept Dortmund in third place. He will surely be vital to BVB if they are to get a result out of this game.
But that away draw with Augsburg has now left Dortmund vulnerable. It puts pressure on them to gain all three points from this Saturday’s game. Thomas Tuchel has tried to take the pressure off his players. “Our position now hasn’t dramatically changed, it’s far more preferable,” he said in Saturday’s post-match press conference. “It’s crystal-clear – we have two games remaining, one in Dortmund and one in Berlin (DFB Pokal final). We have always performed in these matches, so we are very optimistic”
As for Bremen, they are coming into this game off the back of a demoralising 5-3 defeat at home to Hoffenheim on Saturday. Goals from Theodor Gerbre Selassie, Phillip Bargfrede and Robert Bauer weren’t enough for Werder as they succumbed to their second heavy defeat in as many weeks. Luckily they come into this game with a clean bill of health, and they will be particularly pleased to have Max Kruse available. The experienced attacking midfielder has scored 14 goals for the visitors this season and has played no small part in ensuring they are in with a fighting chance of qualifying for European football next season on the final day.
Although Bremen may be uplifted by recent news of boss, Alexander Nouri, signing a new deal this week, this defeat will have been a killer for their morale. “We didn’t manage to bring the passion and play of our last few weeks to the game today,” said Werder sporting director Frank Baumann after the match. “That was the first game for a while in which we didn’t perform the way we can over large stretches.”
It’s clear that there is pressure on both teams going into this game. Tuchel will want to avoid the qualifying rounds of next season’s Champions League, which is looking like a minefield currently. Werder Bremen need a win to stand any chance of qualifying for the Europa League. No matter what either manager says, there is a lot riding on this game. It is sure to be a fascinating encounter.