Bayer Leverkusen will be out to confirm their Champions League qualification next season when they travel to Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga on Saturday.
The visitors have returned to winning ways with back-to-back victories to all but secure a top-four place, whilst the hosts have endured a dreadful run of form that has seen them drop out of the race for a continental spot for next campaign.
Having occupied a top-four spot just two months ago, Hoffenheim could not have envisaged occupying eighth place heading into the penultimate weekend of the Bundesliga.
Since picking up an impressive victory at FC Koln in early March, Saturday’s hosts have picked up just three points from a possible 21 on offer, winning none of their last seven outings.
Sebastian Hoeness’s side were on the wrong end of a seven-goal thriller when they took on high-flying Freiburg at the PreZero Arena last weekend, with goals from Andrej Kramaric, Angelo Stiller and Sebastian Rudy not being enough to yield a point.
That result leaves Hoffenheim on the brink of failure in their goal to qualify for Europe next season, as their rivals in and around them have continued to pick up victories in recent weeks.
Six points separate Hoeness’s men from Koln in sixth spot, but with Freiburg and RB Leipzig competing in the DFB-Pokal final later this month, seventh place in the Bundesliga has become another continental spot as well.
However, Hoffenheim find themselves five points behind Union Berlin ahead of matchday 33 this weekend, so even that extra lifeline appears to have slipped away from their grasp following their poor finish to the campaign, unless all three points can be claimed over Leverkusen and results elsewhere fall in their favour too.
Meanwhile, visitors Leverkusen have already confirmed their place in European football for the 2022-23 season, having bounced back from two winless games without a goal to record back-to-back victories over bottom-of-the-table Greuther Furth, and most recently, Eintracht Frankfurt.
The 2-0 success over the latter on Monday saw Die Werkself cruise to a comfortable victory against an opponent who perhaps had one eye on their Europa League semi-final second leg with West Ham United on Thursday evening.
Paulinho and Patrik Schick got the goals for Gerardo Seoane’s side, which coupled with Leipzig’s shock defeat at Borussia Monchengladbach at the same time, put Saturday’s visitors on the brink of a return to the Champions League following a two-year absence.
Were it not for inconsistent spells either side of the New Year, Leverkusen could well have put together a decent challenge for Bayern Munich’s title, but the rebuild under Seoane this season has proved successful in returning to Europe’s grand stage, which will be confirmed should they manage to pick up all three points at the PreZero Arena on Saturday.
With as many points being picked up on their travels to what they have earned at the BayArena – 29 home and away – Leverkusen will not be too fazed by the away trip awaiting them this weekend, particularly given the form of their hosts.
However, Seoane will not be allowing his side to become complacent against an opponent that is capable of beating any team on their day.
A difficult home fixture with fellow high-flyers Freiburg awaits on the final day, so Leverkusen will be looking to secure their top-four spot against Hoffenheim in order to take the pressure off themselves next weekend.
Hoffenheim Bundesliga form:
Bayer Leverkusen Bundesliga form:
We say: Hoffenheim 1-2 Bayer Leverkusen
It is difficult not to go with the form book here, with the hosts on a dreadful run at the end of the campaign and continuing to leak goals consistently.
Leverkusen are a dangerous away side to face, with the likes of Moussa Diaby and Schick providing deadly attacks on the break, and the duo should manage to get amongst the goals in an away victory here to confirm their top-four finish.