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The Race for Champions League: A Look at who is Poised to Make Europe’s top Competition

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Borussia Dortmund are on the outside looking in, but are Frankfurt the team to catch?

FBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-STUTTGART-DORTMUND Photo by KAI PFAFFENBACH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Borussia Dortmund supporters are typically more concerned with challenging for a Bundesliga title than they are worrying about Champions League qualification. Unfortunately, this is exactly where we find ourselves this season. It has been 3 seasons since Die Schwarzgelben last found themselves struggling to qualify, but under the superior guidance of Peter Stoger, Dortmund finished the 2017-18 Bundesliga season in fourth. While the team managed to limp themselves over the line that season, the amount of quality Bundesliga teams means that will be much more difficult this time around. Here is a current look at the top of the table:

bundesliga.com

Who are we really chasing?

With Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig out of sight, Borussia Dortmund find themselves seven points behind Eintracht Frankfurt after the weekend fixtures. However, with Frankfurt defeating Wolfsburg in a thrilling encounter over the weekend, could Wolfsburg be the more vulnerable team? Last month when I looked at the table I thought surely Wolfsburg would have dropped some points by now as I believed them to be the team to let Dortmund back in before Frankfurt. Unfortunately, Wolfsburg had not dropped any points until this past weekend’s loss, but if we look at the upcoming fixtures we can see Die Wolfe have a difficult schedule ahead.

Wolfsburg

Wolfsburg have collected 54 points from only 28 matchdays after a long run of draws to open the campaign, all the while boasting the second-best defensive record in the Bundesliga. Striker Wout Weghorst and midfielder Max Arnold epitomize what this side represents: solidity, hard work, and consistency. However, Wolfsburg have possibly the most difficult schedule remaining of the four teams we’re looking at, Dates with the current top pairing of Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig loom, as well as a trip to the Westfalenstadion to face a desperate Borussia Dortmund. It is not inconceivable to think that Wolfsburg could lose all three of those matches given they are the underdog, even if they sit above Die Schwarzgelben on the season. If Dortmund run the table, and Wolfsburg fail to get points from those three matches, Dortmund would find themselves a point ahead of Wolfsburg come seasons end.

Wolfsburg’s Remaining Schedule

Matchday 29- (H) Bayern Munich Matchday 30- (A) Stuttgart Matchday 31- (H) Borussia Dortmund Matchday 32 (H) Union Berlin Matchday 33- (A) Leipzig Matchday 34- (H) Mainz

Eintracht Frankfurt

I really like watching this team play football right now. Boasting two strikers who can score and combine with each other and wingbacks bombing down the pitch putting in crosses, Frankfurt have become my guilty pleasure Bundesliga team. Honestly, they deserve to be where they are in the table right now. It was only four years ago that Borussia Dortmund defeated Eintracht Frankfurt 2-1 in the DFB-Pokal, and then Frankfurt returned just a year later to lift the German cup with an incredible victory over Bayern Munich.

It appeared that Die Adler were really building something until they sold star strikers Sebastian Haller, Luka Jovic, and Ante Rebic for big fees. However, Frankfurt haven’t re-built, they have seemingly re-loaded and with Jovic back on loan from Real Madrid, Frankfurt are more dangerous than they have ever been. Andre Silva is currently second in the Bundesliga with 23 goals while the defense and midfield seem to have a much better balance making Frankfurt a force in the Bundesliga. While Frankfurt still have away dates with Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach, they also have Augsburg, Mainz, and Schalke to play before ending the season at home to Freiburg. It is unlikely that Dortmund will catch Frankfurt given their explosive talent and strong form, but we will keep an eye on Eintracht as the season comes to a close.

Frankfurt’s Remaining Schedule

Matchday 29- (A) Borussia Mönchengladbach Matchday 30- (H) Augsburg Matchday 31- (A) Bayern Leverkusen Matchday 32- (H) Mainz Matchday 33- (A) Schalke Matchday 34- (H) Freiburg

Borussia Dortmund

Every time you think they’ve turned the corner, they let you down. That is the current narrative surrounding Dortmund’s campaign this season in the Bundesliga. While a DFB-Pokal semifinal draws near, and a Champions League quarterfinal home fixture against Manchester City is a dream, Dortmund have been very disappointing in the league. Qualification for the Champions League is seemingly assumed by the board and supporters alike, but currently Dortmund are just barely hanging on to a Europa League spot.

A big three points this past weekend against Stuttgart will continue to give the club belief, but it will take some help for Dortmund to claw back into the top four. BVB do have 4 home fixtures to finish the season but they are against Werder Bremen, Union Berlin, Leipzig, and Leverkusen on the final day. Of course, matchday 31 away to Wolfsburg is one to keep an eye on.

Dortmund’s Remaining Schedule

Matchday 29- (H) Werder Bremen Matchday 30- (H) Union Berlin Matchday 31- (A) Wolfsburg Matchday 32- (H) Leipzig Matchday 33- (A) Mainz Matchday 34- (H) Bayer Leverkusen

Bayer Leverkusen

Die Werkself have recently sacked former Dortmund manager Peter Bosz and have hired former Jürgen Klopp disciple Hannes Wolf to steer the club for the remainder of the season. This Leverkusen side already looks a lot different than Bosz’s as Wolf has adopted a more conservative lineup to the one that was leaking goals. Still, Leverkusen conceded late against Schalke last weekend before drawing 0-0 on Monday against Hoffenheim, so while improvements have been made at the defensive end, the attacking flair seems to have been sucked from the team. According to fbref.com, Leverkusen only failed to reach 1.0 expected goals nine times in 26 matchdays under Peter Bosz, while Die Werkself have been held under that threshold in both matches under the new regime.

Sitting at 42 points, Leverkusen still have a chance at Champions League football, but there is no room for error especially after this weeks draw. The schedule is also unkind the rest of the way for Leverkusen as next week’s derby against Köln is followed up with a trip to the Allianz Arena to face Bundesliga leaders Bayern, and then fourth place Eintracht Frankfurt. A trip to the Signal Iduna Park will close the season, but I expect Leverkusen to be stuck in a Europa League place before the Dortmund showdown.

Leverkusen’s Remaining Schedule

Matchday 29- (H) Köln Matchday 30- (A) Bayern Munich Matchday 31- (H) Eintracht Frankfurt Matchday 32- (A) Werder Bremen Matchday 33- (H) Union Berlin Matchday 34- (A) Borussia Dortmund

Exciting race to finish the season?

We could be in for a real treat looking at the schedule of remaining games combined with the quality of teams fighting for Europe’s top tournament. While Dortmund are on the outside looking in, I think their opportunity to still qualify is better than most supporters currently believe. While Frankfurt are slightly closer, we can see looking at the schedule that Wolfsburg are most vulnerable moving forward.

Your Thoughts

Do you agree Wolfsburg will be the team to catch if there is one?