Have goals ever been so important? With two games remaining, points are only marginally more important than goal difference in the hunt for survival, Europe and even the Meisterschaft.
Wolfsburg silenced the critics and showed their professionalism by keeping their outstanding home-form (remember the only points dropped at the VW were back in August) by crushing the hottest team in the Bundesliga: Dortmund. Despite the imminent departure of trainer Felix Magath, Wolfsburg showed that they are the team to beat in the Bundesliga. The 4-1 win was even more significant because Magath’s abandoned men lead Bayern on goal difference alone. With two more goals than the Bavarian giants, the Wolves seem destined for their first championship with weak opposition in the final two matches.
But just as I said Wolfsburg could afford a loss at Stuttgart and still carry the title, the margin of that loss (3 goals) means they could win their two remaining games and still lose the title. Two one goal wins and Bayern only need to wallop Hoffenheim at home and scrape by Stuttgart to pull off another championship. However TSG is back on form and Stuttgart is probably the best team in the Bundesliga at the moment.
With one point separating them from Bayern and Wolfsburg, one would think their inferior goal difference might count the Swabians out. But a big win at home to lowly Cottbus and it could take as little as a two goal win at the Allianz (and betting against the possibility would be as foolish as having picked Schalke to win the title this year) if Wolfsburg stumble as well. However unlikely, Stuttgart’s goal difference still plays a part. With one point separating them a Hertha in 3rd, Stuttgart’s eight point lead in that category could be the difference between the fiscally wealthy Champions League and the lower middle class Europa League.
Speaking of the poorer but funner European competition, Hamburg lead Dortmund for the final spot by three points; however, Jurgen Klopp’s side has a vastly superior goal difference. A slip-up by the Dinosaurs and Dortmund could snatch Europe from Martin Jol because his forwards weren’t up to the task.
Finally at the bottom of the table, Cottbus are hampered by poor goal difference. Without a win, they can’t avoid relegation. Even a draw would level them on points with Bochum, but they would still face a relegation playoff on goal difference. Arminia need a win as well to avoid the playoff. However with Bochum’s poor form, they could get a draw and catch Bochum on goal difference which is only 3 goals in favor of VfL at the moment. Gladbach could only be drawn back into the relegation zone with no points and an Arminia win or two by Cottbus. But even in that worst case scenario, they have Bochum as a cushion and would have to lose both of their final matches significantly.
This year, more than ever, goal difference matters.