Bundesliga: The scramble for European qualification is hotting up
The scramble for Europa League qualification takes centre-stage in the Bundesliga this weekend.
Last Updated: 01/03/13 10:31am
Only eight points separate fifth-placed Freiburg from 15th-spotted Wolfsburg, and, with several key battles this weekend, that pack is set to be shuffled once again.
Borussia Monchengladbach get the first chance to break into the top six tomorrow night when they travel to Eintracht Frankfurt to face hosts who themselves are keen to extend their three-point advantage over Freiburg and remain in the fourth qualifying berth for the Champions League.
"Of course it is our aim to get back into Europe," Gladbach captain Martin Stranzl said following elimination from the Europa League last week.
"Everybody wants to be involved in experiences like this."
That includes Hannover, who were also knocked out of the Europa League last week and are keen to return, but they face a tricky trip to Borussia Dortmund on Saturday and may be hoping their hosts have their minds on Tuesday's Champions League clash with Shakhtar Donetsk.
Bayer Leverkusen were the third Bundesliga club to crash out of the Europa League at the last-32 stage, leaving just Stuttgart waving the flag for German football in the competition.
Those two clubs meet on Saturday evening with the hosts aiming to keep up their charge for a place in Europe's elite club competition next term.
Stuttgart still have two routes into Europe open to them, following their DFB-Pokal quarter-final success in midweek, but they will be keen to seal their passage via the Bundesliga for a third time in four years.
Freiburg and Wolfsburg, who are also on course for cup glory, face leagues games this weekend against Nurnberg and Schalke respectively.
Werder Bremen have spent the last two seasons as European spectators and, to change that next season, they need to beat struggling Augsburg - the side whose last-gasp draw at the Weser Stadion late last term effectively ended qualification hopes for Thomas Schaaf's side.
Sixth-placed Hamburg will be keen to bounce back from a heavy defeat last weekend to send Greuther Furth a step closer to relegation.
Finally, on Sunday, runaway leaders Bayern Munich travel to struggling Hoffenheim, and Fortuna Dusseldorf and Mainz will know how far a win would take them up the table before they meet in the weekend's final match.