Matondo-Merveille Papela is a 20-year-old central midfielder for 1. FSV Mainz 05. Papela was born on January 18, 2001 in Mainz, Germany and spent his youth career playing for TSV Schott Mainz until 2011, and 1. FSV Mainz 05 from 2011 to 2020. His senior career continued at Mainz, starting in 2019, for both Mainz 05 II and Mainz 05. His professional debut in the Bundesliga came on January 3, 2021, when he came on as a substitute in the 89th minute for Philipp Mwene in a 5:2 loss to Bayern. Papela has also made 28 appearances for Germany’s U15, U16, U17, U18, and U20 squads since 2016, scoring 1 goal.
The final 2 matchdays of the season begin on Saturday as the competition for both European play and survival in the 1. Bundesliga continues. Among the key contests on Saturday will be that between hosts Hertha Berlin and visitors 1. FC Köln. Pal Dardai’s Hertha squad are unbeaten in 7 matches and their 3-point cushion over the relegation play-off spot means that a victory over Cologne on Saturday will guarantee their stay in the top flight for next season. A Hertha victory will likewise almost certainly spell doom for Cologne, whose relegation will be confirmed if both Bielefeld and Bremen win their matches. Augsburg and Bremen will battle each other on Saturday in Augsburg to avoid relegation, with Augsburg having lost 4 of their last 5 matches and Bremen on a streak of 7 consecutive defeats. Although a win would put Bremen in a good position going into the final matchday, Augsburg have won 9 of their 19 Bundesliga matches with Bremen, and Bremen’s total of just 7 wins in the current season has them nearing a club record for the fewest victories in a single campaign. Bielefeld will host Hoffenheim on Saturday, and as long as they match or better Cologne’s result, they will avoid automatic relegation. Should Bielefeld also manage to better Bremen’s result, they will guarantee their return to the top flight next season. At the other end of the table, Gladbach will host Stuttgart on Saturday, and the Foals’ current position in the table is enough for a spot in the inaugural UEFA Europa Conference League play-off round. There are, however, 3 more clubs close behind them, and one of them is Stuttgart, who need both a win against Gladbach and a failure of Union Berlin to beat Leverkusen to keep their European hopes alive. This brings us to the Freiburg-Bayern match, which is important for two reasons: Freiburg also remains in the hunt for European competition, and Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski is now just 1 goal behind Gerd Müller’s single-season record of 40 goals in 1971/72. Lewandowski has scored 18 goals in 17 games against Freiburg, so with 2 matchdays still remaining, Müller’s record could fall as early as Saturday. Also on Saturday, Frankfurt will travel to the already-relegated Schalke and remain in the hunt for qualification in the UEFA Champions League. A win over Schalke would move Frankfurt back up to 4th place momentarily, ahead of the Dortmund-Mainz contest on Sunday, but a loss to Schalke would cost Frankfurt qualification. Should Dortmund pick up wins against Mainz on Sunday and against Leverkusen next weekend, the club will qualify for the Champions League. Finally, Leipzig could secure 2nd place in the league with a win over Wolfsburg on Sunday, while Wolfsburg remain in contention for a spot in the Champions League, and those spots may well come down to outcomes next weekend.
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