The final fixtures before the Bundesliga’s winter break occurred last weekend. I am here to break down the results so far, look at the final fixtures before the break, and give a glimpse into the second half of the season.
The first half’s biggest surprise is that their is a top team in the Bundesliga that is not Bayern Munich. Rather, it is the club’s fierce rivals, Borussia Dortmund that sit atop the table heading into the winter break. Borussia Mönchengladbach and RB Leipzig round out the Top 4 places in the Bundesliga. The biggest suprise here is the inclusion of Mönchengladbach, a club that finished outside of the European places last season, and the absence of Schalke 04, who currently sit 13 points adrift of the Top 4.
Other shock performers include Bayer Leverkusen and TSG Hoffenheim who find themselves outside of the European places despite both teams taking place in the Europa League and Champions League, respectively, this term. Leverkusen find themselves three points off the European places while Hoffenheim trail by only two points. VfL Wolfsburg are another interesting case as they currently occupy fifth place in the Bundesliga after spending the prior two seasons in the relegation places having to play the relegation playoff the prior two seasons. Schalke are having a disappointing campaign by their lofty standards last season, but they have begun playing better in recent weeks and have achieved solid results in the Champions League, even managing qualification for the Last 16 in the competition.
Last Matchday Results
Borussia Dortmund 2-1 Borussia Mönchengladbach
Bayer Leverkusen 3-1 Hertha Berlin
Hannover 96 0-1 Fortuna Düsseldorf
Nürnberg 0-1 SC Freiburg
RB Leipzig 3-2 Werder Bremen
VfB Stuttgart 1-3 Schalke 04
Eintracht Frankfurt 0-3 Bayern Munich
FC Augsburg 2-3 VfL Wolfsburg
TSG Hoffenheim 1-1 Mainz 05
Matches resume on January 18, 2019
Let’s preview the second half.
The title race is pretty much a two horse race between Dortmund and Bayern as they are only separated by six points, and are clearly the two best teams in the Bundesliga this season. The remaining two spots in the Top 4 are less certain, but Leipzig and Mönchengladbach are in the driver’s seat for holding them when the end of the season comes around. However, both Wolfsburg, Eintracht Frankfurt, and Hoffenheim have solid chances at closing the gap and securing a place in next year’s Champions League Group Stage. Besides these clubs, Leverkusen and Schalke still have plenty of matches to catch up, but it would require some major slip ups for them to secure a Top 4 finish, although a Europa League place (5th or 6th) could be more than attainable given that they have good form, and the teams they are chasing slip up.
The relegation battle seems relatively narrow as there are about five teams that I rate who have a good chance of being relegated. Those are Fortuna Düsseldorf, FC Augsburg, VfB Stuttgart, Hannover 96, and Nürnberg. Beyond these sides, it is difficult seeing the other clubs fall back into a relegation battle as they currently sit four to seven points above the relegation playoff place. Unlike some of Europe’s other major soccer leagues, the relegation battle in the Bundesliga seems to be relatively straightforward for all three places with a few sides in need of results just to pull away from the bottom of the table.
Best Player: Marco Reus
Top Goalscorer: Robert Lewandowski
Most Clean Sheets: Yann Sommer
Borussia Dortmund (champion and Champions League qualification)
Bayern Munich (Champions League qualification)
RB Leipzig (Champions League qualification)
Borussia Mönchengladbach (Champions League qualification)
VfL Wolfsburg (Europa League qualification)
TSG Hoffenheim (Europa league Final Qualifying Round qualification)
VfB Stuttgart (relegation playoff)
Hannover 96 (relegated)