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Bundesliga preview: European spots up for grabs
Created on 22 Feb., 2013 1:00 PM GMT
Champions League football will be the underlying focus when Bundesliga surprise packets Freiburg and Eintracht Frankfurt play on Friday.
In the opening game of the Bundesliga's Week 23, fifth-placed Freiburg will host Eintracht, who sit fourth in the standings, with both clubs, much to the surprise of German football fans, in the running to play in the UEFA Champions League next season.
This time last year Eintracht were in the second division in Germany, the third time in the past decade they had dropped out of the Bundesliga.
But having finished runners-up in the second tier, Eintracht were promoted to the Bundesliga for this season and started with a six-game unbeaten run.
Armin Veh's team have not looked back and could take a firm grip on the Champions League playoff position in Germany if they knock off Freiburg this week.
Freiburg only played in the Bundesliga for the first time in the 1993-94 season and have never won a top-level trophy.
Head coach Christian Streich has taken a club used to alternating between the Bundesliga and Germany's second division and has made them very hard to beat with Freiburg boasting the second most frugal defence in the top tier, having only conceded 22 goals in as many games this season.
If Freiburg win at their Mage Solar Stadion they will replace Eintracht in fourth position on goal difference but if the visitors triumph they could open up a six-point gap, as long as sixth-placed Hamburg lose to Hannover on Saturday.
Hamburg will start their short trip south to take on Hannover knowing victory will be a tough ask as their northern rivals are in fine form at home.
Hannover have only lost two games at home this season across all competitions and have claimed victory in their past four matches at the AWD-Arena.
Bundesliga-leaders Bayern Munich will also play on Saturday when they host Werder Bremen, while Nuremburg will travel to Stuttgart, Mainz are up against Wolfsburg, Augsburg face Hoffenheim and Schalke are set to play Fortuna Dusseldorf.
In Sunday's matches, second-placed Borussia Dortmund will travel south-west to face Borussia Moenchengladbach and bottom club Greuther Furth host Bayer Leverkusen.