BERLIN (Reuters) - Borussia Dortmund’s roller coaster Bundesliga season culminates on Saturday in a desperate battle to secure Champions League qualification on the final matchday against Hoffenheim, their rivals for a European place.
Dortmund must earn at least a point at Hoffenheim in order to make sure of a top-four finish, which guarantees a place in the Champions League group stage for next season.
The Ruhr valley club are in third place on 55 points, three ahead of fourth-placed Hoffenheim and Bayer Leverkusen in fifth.
Defeat to Hoffenheim and a win for Leverkusen could potentially drop Dortmund down to fifth, out of the lucrative Champions League, with the publicly-traded club missing out on millions of euros in revenue.
Dortmund had kicked off their campaign hoping they could be title contenders, giving champions Bayern Munich a run for their money.
With six wins in their first seven matches at the start of the season, things looked to be going their way under new coach Peter Bosz.
Yet fast forward only a few months to December and an eight-game winless streak brought Bosz’s spell to a quick and disappointing end.
Only days after his own sacking from Cologne, coach Peter Stoeger joined Dortmund as Bosz’s successor but the Austrian failed to inject much-needed consistency.
An ignominious exit to RB Salzburg in the Europa League over two legs was followed by just two wins in their last six Bundesliga matches, leaving their Champions League hopes in the balance.
The departure of their top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Arsenal in January did not help their situation and results this year have done little to convince Dortmund bosses that Stoeger deserves a contract extension.
The Austrian is widely expected to announce his departure after the last matchday.
Former champions Hamburg SV have a far tougher task and need to beat Borussia Moenchengladbach and hope VfL Wolfsburg lose their final game at home to already-relegated Cologne to lift themselves out of the drop zone and into the relegation playoff spot.
Hamburg, the only team with an uninterrupted presence in the Bundesliga since the league’s creation in 1963, are on 28 points in 17th place, with Wolfsburg, on 30, occupying the playoff place.
Schalke 04, in second place on 60, host Eintracht Frankfurt while champions Bayern Munich complete their Bundesliga campaign with a home game against VfB Stuttgart.
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Toby Davis