Bayern Munich hoping for historic treble

Fresh from a memorable triumph over Manchester United in the Champions League, German giants Bayern Munich will aim to stretch their lead at the top of the Bundesliga on Saturday with only five games to go.

Bayern Munich hoping for historic treble
Schweinsteiger training up ahead of the game. Photo: DPA

Louis van Gaal’s men play away at third-placed Bayer Leverkusen and, despite beating United over two legs and domestic rivals Schalke, are taking nothing for granted in their pursuit of a 22nd league title and a historic treble.

“We are leading the German championship, we’re in the final of the German cup and in the semi-final of the Champions League but we haven’t won anything yet,” said Bayern captain Mark van Bommel. “There’s no room for dreaming. We can’t afford even the slightest slip-up in the Bundesliga,” added van Bommel, with Schalke hot on Bayern’s heels, only one point behind the Bavarian club.

“If we want to become champions and keep Schalke at bay, then we have to win at Leverkusen.”

After a season plagued by injury to his two top stars, French midfielder Franck Ribery and Dutch winger Arjen Robben, van Gaal has the luxury of having a full squad to choose from as the season nears its climax.

The top contenders have a remarkably similar run-in, with both teams playing Hannover, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Hertha Berlin, the Bundesliga’s bottom club.

The last day of the season sees Bayern travel to Berlin’s Olympic Stadium to face a Hertha side possibly fighting for their Bundesliga lives, while Schalke also play away, but at mid-table Mainz, who will have very little to play for.

This weekend, Schalke have a clash against relegation-threatened Hannover, who have won only two games since November.

For their part, Leverkusen are pushing for third place and a spot in next year’s Champions League.

Jupp Heynckes’ team were the early pace-setters in this season’s Bundesliga, going the first 24 games unbeaten but have since slipped back and find themselves now with only a one-point cushion over Borussia Dortmund in fourth.

“I am convinced we will finish third and the title will only be decided on the last day,” said Heynckes.

At the other end of the table, the capital’s only top-flight club, the hapless Hertha Berlin, will hope to continue a rare run of good form as they aim for a great escape from relegation that seemed impossible a few weeks ago.

Still six points from safety and seeking their first home win since August, they take on seventh-placed Stuttgart.

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EXPLAINED: The Covid rules for attending German football matches

The German Bundesliga kicks off on Friday evening with a match in Mönchengladbach. Here's a run-down of the Covid rules for football fans itching to join the crowds at the stadium.

EXPLAINED: The Covid rules for attending German football matches
Crowds cheer at a match between FC Kaiserslautern and Borussia Mönchengladbach, on August 9th, 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Uwe Anspach

All eyes will be on Mönchengladbach this evening as the Bundesliga season kicks off with a match against reigning champions Bayern Munich – and this time, a crowd will be present in the stadium.

READ ALSO: German football fans get green light to return to stadiums next season

With several states liberalising their rules for public gatherings in recent months, many football fans are looking forward to enjoying a lively atmosphere at football matches once more. 

There’s just one problem: there are different rules for different stadiums. Here’s what you need to know about the Covid rules before you book your ticket for any of the upcoming fixtures. 

How many fans are allowed in the stadiums? 

According to a recent decision by the federal and state governments, football stadiums around the country are allowed to fill half of their seats and sell up to 25,000 tickets to fans. 

Of course, how much this limit affects the overall atmosphere – and the football clubs’ bottoms lines – depends on the capacity of the stadium. In Borussia Dortmund this weekend, the full 25,000 tickets have been sold – but that only equates to 30 percent of the stadium’s full capacity.

READ ALSO: German football: Which Bundesliga club should I support?

Meanwhile, in the stadium owned by Berlin’s FC Union, selling just 11,000 tickets is enough to fill half of the available seats. 

What do I need to show to get in? 

That really depends on the stadium in question, although in general anyone over the age of six will need to show a negative test or proof of vaccination or recovery – the so-called ‘3G’ rule – to enter the grounds. But other clubs, such as FC Cologne, have decided to only permit people who are vaccinated or recovered to attend matches from August 28th onwards – with exceptions for people who can’t get vaccinated, like children and pregnant woman.

At Mönchengladbach’s Borussia Park stadium, however, unvaccinated fans can enter with a negative test, though visitors who’ve stayed in a high-risk or virus variant area over the past two weeks will be unable to enter – along with people who’ve had recent contact with someone who has Covid. 

If you want to see action like this at FC Cologne’s stadium, you’ll need to get your Covid jabs sorted first. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Robert Michael

Meanwhile, Borussia Dortmund has taken a middle ground. While the 3G rule applies in principle, only 1,000 of the available 25,000 tickets will be sold to people who are providing a negative test. The remaining 24,000 seats will only be available for those who are vaccinated against – or recently recovered from – Covid. 

If you’re not vaccinated and are keen to see a match, it’s worth checking on your local club’s website beforehand or sending them an email to double-check whether you will be allowed in. 

What else do I need to know about? 

You’ll need to bring a FPP2 mask with you to matches to wear in your seat and while heading to the bathroom or bar, and also observe social distancing rules – meaning staying 1.5 metres apart from your fellow fans.

In most states, you’ll also need to provide your contact details, which will be saved by the club and potentially passed on to local health authorities in order to monitor a potential Covid outbreak. 

Will these rules continue throughout the season?

That’s still an open question. If infection rates in Germany continue to rise or high-profile superspreading events occur at future matches, the government could potentially crack down further on sports events in autumn.

This could involve limiting the seat numbers even further, or (more controversially), introducing a ‘vaccinated-only’ rule for entering stadiums. 

READ ALSO: Should Germany bring in Covid restrictions for unvaccinated people only?

A recent outbreak of Covid in the Mainz football team has also dampened celebrations slightly in the run-up to the start of the Bundesliga – leaving club owners urgently calling for both fans and footballers to get vaccinated. 

Speaking to WDR ahead of the season’s start, FC Cologne’s managing director Alexander Wehrle said widespread vaccination was the best route back to normality – a message reiterated by Bayern Munich coach Julian Nagelsmann.