FC Bayern kick starts their half season against Bavarian strugglers Greuther Fürth. Bayern did little in terms of winter transfers during the break. They sent out young Mitchell Weiser on loan to Kaiserslautern and they signed Jan Kirchhoff from Mainz on a free transfer. Kirchhoff will arrive in Munich in June 2013.
However, Bayern pulled off what some might say was the biggest coup of the winter transfer window. They signed Pep Guardiola for three years to replace the retiring Jupp Heynckes. Heynckes will be missed but Bayern already brought him out of retirement once; they cannot prevent him from retiring for a second time!
As far as this match is concerned, aside from Holger Badstuber there are no serious injury problems for Bayern. Franck Ribery was under the weather in the past week but is not rated as doubtful for this one. Arjen Robben is fit and raring to go. However, he has perhaps lost his starting berth to the young and brilliant Thomas Müller.
Fürth meanwhile has made a few signings in an attempt to stave off relegation. Tom Mickel has arrived from HSV while Nikola Djurdjic has been brought in from Norway. Matthias Zimmerman and Jung-Bin Park have both been brought in on loan from Borussia Mönchengladbach and Wolfsburg respectively.
However, Fürth will have to work extremely hard to even earn a point at the Allianz Arena. Bayern has been irrepressible this season and Fürth earning anything at the Allianz will be a huge shock to the Bundesliga and a huge bonus for the Bundesliga’s newcomers.
Hannover’s away form has let them down badly this season. Also, an injury to Leon Andreasen early on in the season hurt them. They brought in Andre Hoffman from MS Duisburg and Franca from Coritiba. They brought in talented but careless Arsenal defender Johan Djorou on loan. Mirko Slomka is an incredibly shrewd manager. He knows how to get the best out of his squad. Unfortunately for him, Hannover is eleventh in the table, two points behind the struggling Schalke. They take on Schalke on Friday.
Jens Keller does not really know where to head to. Preseason brought with it more questions than answers. To be publicly humiliated by Bayern in Qatar was certainly one thing Keller did not need. They lost 5-0 to the Bavarians. Lewis Holtby has decided to not renew his contract while Klaas Jan Huntelaar has decided to stay on. However, despite the sorting out of these two players’ contract situations, Schalke still seems to be in a monumental mess.
Edu returned to Schalke in the winter transfer window. Whether he will be involved at all is doubtful. Overall, Keller and Schalke have plenty to figure out. At this point, Keller will just be happy to know that Hannover is coming to Gelsenkirchen instead of Schalke traveling to the north of Germany.
Stuttgart surprised and shocked in the first half as their inconsistency came to the fore. They take on struggling Wolfsburg. Wolfsburg got rid of Felix Magath; their form had definitely improved under Lorenz Günther Köstner. Diego has helped inspire them to some good victories. He will now be aided by the talented Ivan Perisic, who arrived from Borussia Dortmund. Die Wolfe is seven points ahead of Hoffenheim. They will kick off the second part of the season under new coach Dieter Hecking.
Hoffenheim meanwhile takes on a Gladbach side that was gradually improving prior to the winter break. Juan Arango is still the talk of the town in Gladbach. The hope is that the new talents continue to improve and that Granit Xhaka shows the form which got him to Gladbach in the first place. This match will be rather interesting to view from a neutral’s perspective.
Mainz and Freiburg take on each other in a battle for a European spot, possibly a Champions League spot. They are locked on the same number of points; they are separated only by goal difference. Freiburg is fifth while Mainz is sixth in the table. The one to watch for Freiburg will obviously be Max Kruse. However, Christian Streich’s side will always be about teamwork.
Mainz will rely on Adam Szalai to provide the goals. Thomas Tuchel’s side will press incessantly. Freiburg consists of many good passers of the ball. This will definitely be an exciting match. Both sides will look to execute perfect counterattacks as well.
A side which can counterattack perfectly is Borussia Dortmund. The title is almost out of their reach. Jürgen Klopp himself feels that the title is for Bayern to lose. Nuri Sahin has returned to Dortmund, albeit on loan, delighting the fans and the hierarchy. His side takes on Werder Bremen.
Bremen was supposed to be a contender for a Europa League spot. However, they lie in twelfth place currently. They are a mess defensively currently, having conceded 29 goals. What is most interesting about Bremen is that they have replaced sporting director Klaus Allofs with a personality from another sport, namely hockey. Thomas Eichin’s decisions will be crucial to Bremen’s future as well as that of Thomas Schaaf’s.
Their northern rival HSV, currently two points ahead of Bremen, is in contention for a European spot. They were a candidate for relegation early on in the season but have really gotten their act together, especially since the arrival of Rafael Van der Vaart. They take on a Nürnberg side without Dieter Hecking. Hecking put together a solid side; he left them in fourteenth spot in relative safety.
Michael Wiesinger has taken over the reins along with Armin Reutershahn. Nürnberg will try out a formula which has yielded success for Leverkusen so far, in other words, a coaching duo. Hecking will be a tough act to follow for the duo nonetheless. The Bavarians’ main aim will of course be survival.
Nobody would have guessed when the season started that Leverkusen vs. Frankfurt would turn out to be one of the biggest matches of the season. Leverkusen will be aiming to cut down Bayern’s nine point lead over them at the top. There is always the risk that they will collapse by March. Sami Hyppia and Sascha Lewandowski will try to keep things in control of course.
Leverkusen’s Wolfgang Holzhauser was unhappy in the winter break as they failed to hold on to talented youngster Marian Sarr. Sarr headed for Borussia Dortmund. Leverkusen has brought in Arkadiusz Milik from Polish club Gornik Zabrze and Zvonko Pamic from MS Duisburg on loan. Once Leverkusen’s best creative player, Renato Augusto has now departed the club for his native Brazil.
They take on a Frankfurt side which has simply amazed. Sebastian Jung was so impressive that he was called up to the German national side. Sebastian Rode was assumed to be a Bayern target in the transfer window; his displays in the first half of the season were brilliant! Alexander Meier also deserves credit for providing maturity and goals to this Frankfurt side. Pirmin Schwegler’s contribution should not be forgotten either.
During the transfer window, they decided to fetch back Marco Russ, though on loan, from Wolfsburg.
Leverkusen is essentially a counterattacking side. How the sides match up against each other will be interesting considering that Frankfurt beat Leverkusen on the first day of this season. Leverkusen had led that match; however Frankfurt took control as the match went deeper and deservedly won.
Both sides will remain in the top four regardless of other results. Frankfurt lies three points behind Leverkusen. They trail the holders Dortmund only by goal difference. Whether Frankfurt can keep up their form from the first half is the big question. One thing is for sure though- they have to watch out for the trio of Gonzalo Castro, Andre Schürrle and of course, Bundesliga top scorer Stefan Kiessling this weekend.
Fortuna Düsseldorf takes on FC Augsburg; Augsburg is currently involved in a dog fight with Fürth and Hoffenheim. A proper striker could really help them. Augsburg created plenty in their matches in the first half but lacked a proper finisher. They brought in Ji Dong-Won from Sunderland and Michael Parkhurst from FC Nordsjaelland during the transfer window.
Düsseldorf has done quite well so far; they sit in thirteenth spot, nine points above the relegation playoff spot. Düsseldorf is quite clinical to their credit. They do not need too many chances to score. Augsburg however needs too many chances to score. Based on this fact, this is for Düsseldorf to lose. Augsburg needs some points desperately if they are to have any hope of survival.
Finally, will Bayern keep up their impressive form? Tune in to find out this weekend!