Under The Spotlight: Race for the Bundesliga top four

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Christopher Nkunku has scored 15 Bundesliga goals for RB Leipzig this term
Christopher Nkunku has scored 15 Bundesliga goals for RB Leipzig this term

It has been clear for some time that Bayern Munich will keep Borussia Dortmund at bay to seal a 10th straight Bundesliga title this season.

But the fight for the Champions League places is proving to be an intriguing tussle between a number of strong teams.

Bayer Leverkusen and RB Leipzig currently occupy the other top-four spots and are closely followed by Freiburg and Hoffenheim, while Cologne have an outside shot of crashing the party.

Ahead of the return of the German top flight this weekend, we assess the runners and riders.

Leverkusen looking good

Leverkusen have been the frontrunners for a top-four spot for some time but a dip in form recently has coincided with injuries to star players Patrik Schick and Florian Wirtz.

But in the absence of both, they managed to sink Wolfsburg last time out and Schick is close to returning to the starting line-up, despite missing Czech Republic's World Cup play-off semi-final against Sweden.

Wirtz looks set to remain sidelined but Moussa Diaby has attracted attention from some of the continent's biggest clubs for his recent domestic performances. 

And along with youngster Amine Adli, that should give them enough attacking firepower to keep hold of third place.

Leipzig facing tough run-in

Domenico Tedesco's RB Leipzig face a tricky task to finish in the top four
Domenico Tedesco's RB Leipzig face a tricky task to finish in the top four

It may be difficult for Leipzig to retain their fourth spot however given the intense schedule facing Domenico Tedesco's side, who travel to Dortmund next and are still involved in both the DFB-Pokal and Europa League.

Whether they have the squad to cope with the fixture run-in remains to be seen. 

But as long as Christopher Nkunku continues his fine form — he has 15 goals and nine assists to his name in the Bundesliga this season — they are in with a chance.

Cologne ready to pounce

Steffen Baumgart's Cologne are in with a shot of reaching the Champions League
Steffen Baumgart's Cologne are in with a shot of reaching the Champions League

Defensive resolve has been key for Freiburg, with 29 goals conceded in 27 games. 

Nico Schlotterbeck has been a crucial player at the back and that may be easier to maintain than the attacking exploits of Hoffenheim.

Andrej Kramaric leads their line and has become somewhat of an assist king this term but their tally of nine league defeats is concerning, as was the recent 3-0 loss to lowly Hertha Berlin.

They might just miss out and if Freiburg and one of the other aforementioned teams stumble, Cologne are ready to capitalise.

The Billy Goats will need to go on a run to make up the five-point deficit to Leipzig, but should not be ruled out completely given they do not have to face any side currently in the top six in their remaining Bundesliga fixtures.

Leverkusen, Leipzig, Freiburg and Hoffenheim meanwhile, are all set to face three teams in those European places.

Tags

1. BundesligaBayer LeverkusenRB LeipzigFreiburgHoffenheimFC Koeln
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