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|Both teams are in a celebratory mood and will want to end the season on a high, so we could be in store for an entertaining encounter at Signal Iduna Park.|
|Borussia Dortmund vs Bayer Leverkusen Information|
|Teams||Borussia Dortmund vs Bayer Leverkusen|
|Location||Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund, Germany|
|Time||Saturday, 22 May 2021, 9.30 AM EDT|
|How to watch||Watch on ESPN+ here!|
A few weeks ago, Borussia Dortmund were facing up to the prospect of this being their worst season in recent memory. A club that begins every campaign hoping to challenge for the Bundesliga title was fifth in the table. BVB have not finished on top of the pile since 2012, but they have at least qualified for the Champions League every year since 2010. This time, though, a seven-point gap with seven matches remaining suggested Dortmund were about to have their Tuesdays and Wednesdays free of continental competition next term.
Since the 2-1 defeat by Eintracht Frankfurt in early April that left Edin Terzic’s side seven points short of their target, Dortmund have been flawless. A run of six consecutive victories in the Bundesliga has lifted them up to third, and they now hold a four-point advantage over Frankfurt, who have won just twice since that success against Dortmund. Due to the size of their lead, Terzic’s side are guaranteed a top-four finish regardless of what happens this weekend.
That will be a relief for the money men at Dortmund. The club has encountered financial difficulties amid the coronavirus pandemic, and missing out on a place in Europe’s premier competition would not have helped in that regard. Now that they are in the Champions League, BVB have a much better chance of keeping hold of the likes of Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho in this summer’s transfer market.
Terzic, too, will be delighted to have got over the line. The interim manager, who also guided Dortmund to DFB-Pokal success with a thumping victory over RB Leipzig last week, will step down after Saturday’s meeting with Leverkusen, with Marco Rose already confirmed as his replacement. Terzic can leave with his held high, having fulfilled the remit he was handed upon taking the reins in the middle of December.
Bayer Leverkusen will also be competing in European competition next term. After finishing fourth last term and only narrowly missing out on the Champions League, Leverkusen hoped to go one better this time around. For a long while it looked as if they would. Peter Bosz’s side topped the table after 12 games and remained in the top three until the end of January. Since then, however, too many draws and defeats put paid to their Champions League hopes.
Bosz left his position in March amid a dreadful run of form for Leverkusen, who had collected fewer points in the previous 14 matches than any other team with the exception of Hertha Berlin and bottom-of-the-table Schalke. Leverkusen must have feared for their European ambitions at that stage, but interim head coach Hannes Wolf has done a good job of stabilizing things at the BayArena.
Wolf has succeeded in making Leverkusen harder to play against, after Bosz’s failure to maintain the high standards his side set early on. Leverkusen have kept clean sheets in three of their eight games under Wolf, and have conceded more than one goal in just one of those encounters.
Leverkusen have yet to decide who will manage them next season, but the powers that be can begin addressing that question now that Wolf has steered them into the Europa League. The former Borussia Dortmund youth coach could yet become a leading contender for the role himself, particularly if he masterminds an impressive victory over his former employers this weekend.
The pressure is off for both of these teams. Dortmund can finish third or fourth, but the higher position confers minimal advantages. Leverkusen, meanwhile, will finish the campaign in sixth no matter what happens when they visit Signal Iduna Park.
As such, both teams will be able to play with a degree of freedom, albeit while maintaining the desire to win. Dortmund have showcased their attacking potency in recent weeks, not least in the 4-1 destruction of RB Leipzig in the DFB-Pokal final, and Wolf’s defensive unit faces its biggest test yet against the free-flowing attack overseen by Terzic.
At the same time, Leverkusen have plenty of attacking potential, and Wolf knows that a positive approach could help convince the club’s hierarchy that he is the right man for the job on a full-time basis. This is a low-stakes game between two teams with little to play for, so we should not expect defensive rigor and resolve to be as high as it might be if there was something on the line.
For that reason, back over 3.5 goals when Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen round off the season this weekend.
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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