Bundesliga preview: Mainz lead race for extra Europa League place
Last Updated: 18/04/14 9:48am
Mainz: Among the sides in the European places
With Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund both reaching the final of the DFB-Pokal this week, an extra place in the Europa League is on offer via the Bundesliga with Mainz leading the race going into the 31st round of matches.
Seventh place in the league now earns a spot in the third qualifying round of the Europa League, with the side finishing sixth entering at the play-off round and whoever finishes fifth automatically qualifying for the group stage.
Mainz, Borussia Monchengladbach and Wolfsburg are currently occupying those positions, but, with four games of the season remaining, there is no certainty that it will remain that way.
One could even oust Bayer Leverkusen from a place in the Champions League, while Augsburg and Hoffenheim have not yet given up hope of throwing their hats into the ring.
"We want to win our last four games, and then we'll do all the calculations," Augsburg defender Matthias Ostrzolek said.
The Bavarians host Hertha Berlin, who have not won in eight games, on Saturday, while Mainz face the daunting task of a trip to Borussia Dortmund, who can make their place in the Champions League mathematically certain with a win at the Westfalenstadion.
The deficit could therefore reduce to two points with three games to go.
"Once you have avoided relegation for certain, then of course you want more," Augsburg director of sport Stefan Reuter said to the Bild newspaper.
"Of course, we would take a place in Europe, although five points are a lot."
Hoffenheim's hopes of making up a seven-point deficit on Mainz hinge on them winning at Werder Bremen on Saturday, while Gladbach and Wolfsburg - who are keen on more than the Europa League - travel to Freiburg and Hamburg, respectively, on Saturday.
Champions Bayern look for their first win in four Bundesliga matches at bottom-placed Eintracht Braunschweig, who are looking for a "miracle" to save their status in the top flight, according to their coach Torsten Lieberknecht.
The bottom of the table shifts into the spotlight on Sunday, when Nurnberg face Bayer Leverkusen looking to end a three-game losing streak which has seen them drop to 17th.
Stuttgart, who are just two points above the Bavarians, and one ahead of Hamburg, host Schalke, who are eager to cement third place with a win.