Babbel faces Hertha, Europa race climaxes
Two issues will be decided on the final day of the Bundesliga season this weekend. Hertha Berlin and Cologne are battling it out to avoid joining Kaiserslautern in relegation to the second division while, at the other end of the table, Hannover and Wolfsburg will contend Germany's final UEFA Europa League place.
The most intriguing battle is at the bottom of the table, though, where former Hertha coach Markus Babbel, who was dismissed in acrimonious circumstances before Christmas, could send his former club down. He is now in charge of Hoffenheim and returns to the Olympiastadion for the first time since parting company with Hertha knowing a point would condemn them to relegation.
Given the way in which he was forced out of the club, he would like nothing more but to oblige with a result which would award Cologne a play-off to remain in the top flight. "They won't be getting any favours from us," said Babbel, who had a Hertha emblem tattooed on his upper arm after leading the club to promotion last season, to the Bild newspaper.
"Any side who pick up just eight points in the second half of the season and get overtaken by better teams cannot complain. Then Hertha will deserve to go down."
Cologne, meanwhile, can render any result from the capital meaningless by beating Bayern Munich to clinch 16th spot and a play-off against the third side in the second division for a place in the top flight next season.
However, their coach Frank Schaefer knows that is going to be easier said than done and that his side may indeed need a favour from Hoffenheim. "We are playing probably the best team in Europe," he said ahead of his side's home game against the UEFA Champions League finalists.
Hannover are playing rock-bottom Kaiserslautern, but nobody in Lower Saxony is taking a second consecutive qualification in the Europa League for granted. "Our destiny is in our own hands and we can crown this fantastic season, but we will need extra strength from our fans," said forward Jan Schlaudraff ahead of Saturday's clash.
Wolfsburg are just one point behind neighbours Hannover and only a win in Stuttgart can give them any hope of sneaking into Europe on the last day of the season. "We have shown that we belong up there," said their manager Felix Magath.
Elsewhere, Borussia Dortmund will receive their Bundesliga title for the second season running at the end of their game with Freiburg while there will be scenes of celebration in Augsburg too as they host Hamburg safe in the knowledge that they will be playing in the top flight again next season.
Mainz host Borussia Monchengladbach and Werder Bremen, who could theoretically still steal seventh place with if both Hannover and Wolfsburg lose, host Schalke. Finally, Nurnberg entertain Bayer Leverkusen, who need a win to ensure they finish fifth this season.