Bundesliga Review – Bayern best set going into the winter break

Christmas can be a stressful and tense time for everybody, not just those involved in football. How you react under these conditions depends on your character. For example, Wolfsburg boss Felix Magath threatened to cancel his squad’s Christmas if they failed to overcome Stuttgart at home on the Saturday. You’ll be glad to know (unless you’re a sadist) that there’ll be celebrations in Lower Saxony after they edged out Bruno Labbadia’s side 1-0 at the VW Arena. One man though didn’t seem to coping so well with added pressure.

Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery would have been angered by events earlier on Friday where he was ordered to pay €2.66 million to his former agent. The former Marseille man appeared to let his frustration spill onto the pitch. After a fairly innocuous tangle with Cologne’s Henrique Sereno, Ribery earned himself a pair of yellow cards in under a minute as the Frenchman failed to control his emotions.

The Bavarians needn’t have worried as Stale Solbakken’s Cologne were insipid despite being handed a fantastic opportunity at the Allianz Arena. The game was goalless but the Billy Goats seemed content enough with the score line.

In hindsight, a big mistake as Heynckes side effortlessly cruised past the visitors with three second half goals. This epitomised Bayern’s season to date. At times, there have been some shaky moments both at home (Dortmund and Gladbach) and away (Hannover and Mainz). However, otherwise they’ve been ruthless as their impressive goal difference suggests. Mario Gomez’ remarkable knack of being in the right place at the right time has helped contribute to this significantly.

Nevertheless, just three points behind the leaders are fierce Ruhr rivals Borussia Dortmund and Schalke who both grabbed convincing victories on the weekend. The Black and Yellows made the long trip south to Freiburg who were dispatched 4-1. Despite being beaten in the derby three weeks ago, Schalke had the upper hand result wise this time round. The Royal Blues thrashed a hapless Werder Bremen 5-0 including a hat trick from Raul. Both Jurgen Klopp and Huub Stevens will be confident of challenging their Bavarian rivals in the new year.

Will either be able to catch Germany’s most successful club in 2012? The statistics would argue against it. This is the 17th time Bayern have been top at the halfway stage of the season. Only twice before have they failed to go on to become champions. It would certainly be a major shock should they not win with the players they have available to them.

Their mettle will be tested immediately in January with a trip to old adversaries Borussia Monchengladbach. The Foals ensured they’re still in the title shake-up sneaking past Mainz. Marco Reus, a man who will move to either Dortmund or Munich come the end of the season, returned from injury. He broke his toe in their derby victory against Cologne but Reus limped off towards the end after catching his foot in the turf.

This could be what decides the destination of the title – injuries. Three of the top four have certainly had key players missing recently and strength in depth is not abundant amongst the top teams in the Bundesliga. Of the title chasers though, Bayern Munich look best set, especially with Bastian Schweinsteiger returning. The winter break will ease any stress and tension amongst Jupp Heynckes’ ranks however, they should be warned. This is the Bundesliga and Bayern Munich have looked susceptible to the occasional implosion, even if it looks unlikely in 2012.

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Matchday 17 Results:

Bayern Munich 3-0 Cologne

Bayer Leverkusen 0-3 Nuremberg

Freiburg 1-4 Borussia Dortmund

Hamburg 1-1 Augsburg

Hoffenheim 1-1 Hertha Berlin

Wolfsburg 1-0 Stuttgart

Schalke 5-0 Werder Bremen

Kaiserslautern 1-1 Hannover

Gladbach 1-0 Mainz

Bundesliga Table:

Rank Club Matches W* D* L* G* GD* PTS*
1 FC Bayern Munich 17 12 1 4 43:10 +33 37 CL*
2 Borussia Dortmund 17 10 4 3 35:12 +23 34 CL*
3 FC Schalke 04 17 11 1 5 38:22 +16 34 CL*
4 Borussia Mönchengladbach 17 10 3 4 25:11 +14 33 CL* Qual.
5 SV Werder Bremen 17 9 2 6 30:31 -1 29 EL* Qual.
6 Bayer 04 Leverkusen 17 7 5 5 22:22 0 26 EL* Qual.
7 Hannover 96 17 5 8 4 20:24 -4 23
8 VfB Stuttgart 17 6 4 7 23:20 +3 22
9 1899 Hoffenheim 17 6 4 7 19:19 0 22
10 1. FC Köln 17 6 3 8 27:35 -8 21
11 Hertha BSC Berlin 17 4 8 5 24:26 -2 20
12 VfL Wolfsburg 17 6 2 9 23:34 -11 20
13 Hamburger SV 17 4 7 6 21:27 -6 19
14 1. FSV Mainz 05 17 4 6 7 22:29 -7 18
15 1. FC Nuremberg 17 5 3 9 17:28 -11 18
16 1. FC Kaiserslautern 17 3 7 7 13:21 -8 16 Play-offs
17 FC Augsburg 17 3 6 8 15:28 -13 15 Relegation
18 SC Freiburg 17 3 4 10 21:39 -18 13 Relegation

Table thanks to the Bundesliga Official Website