The final match day of 2017 is here, and there is a lot to play for following the action-packed midweek fixtures. Perhaps there is nothing at stake for Bayern, who have extended their lead by nine points and once again will be top during Christmas. However, the chasing pack, mid-table teams, and bottom clubs await match day 17 in the hope of finishing the year on a high.
Borussia Dortmund vs. Hoffenheim
The match of the week will be between two teams who have returned to winning ways. Dortmund were able to beat Mainz 2-0 in Peter Stöger’s first game in charge. It was BVB’s first league win since September 30. The victory was in no small part due to Julian Weigl’s ability to control the game from midfield. The 23-year-old managed to complete 68 of his 71 attempted passes. “I played with a bit more freedom today,” were the words of the happy midfielder.
So many people doubted BVB’s appointment of a manager who hasn’t won a single Bundesliga game all season, but Tuesday’s game provided a reason for optimism and and explanation for why the Dortmund board made that decision.
Raphael Honigstein wrote on ESPN:
When it comes to replacing managers, clubs’ choices can often be summed up with by the old romantic maxim of “opposites attract.” Borussia Dortmund choosing Peter Stoger to succeed Petr Bosz this week was a classic case in point.
After the Dutchman’s disastrous high-concept, high-risk, high-defensive line tactics had led to a collapse in form, Stoger’s ultra-pragmatic, safety-first and non-ideological approach suddenly proved hugely appealing.
Hoffenheim managed to beat Stuttgart 1-0 with Mark Uth grabbing the goal. Julian Nagelsmann, who stirred more rumors by attending the Mainz-BVB game, is coming up against his potential employers on Saturday. The absence of Dennis Geiger, who is suspended for this game, will be a big blow for Hoffenheim.
Speaking before the match, Stöger said, “I’m not thinking about the cup match in Munich. The game against Hoffenheim is far too crucial.”
The last game between the two sides resulted in a narrow win for Dortmund, and I can see that happening in Saturday’s blockbuster.
Borussia Moenchengladbach vs. Hamburg
Friday night’s game is a clash between two Bundesliga giants of the past. Gladbach have dropped to 8th place after their away loss to Freiburg. The Foals have been consistently inconsistent this season, and that makes their last game of the year hard to predict. They are coming up against a Hamburg side who are currently sitting in their ‘favourite’ 16th place.
Gladbach can edge this one.
Cologne vs. Wolfsburg
Cologne are still without a win this season. Well, we didn’t exactly expect them to win at the Allianz Arena, did we? However, the Billy Goats can go into their winter slumber/homework with a win at home against Wolfsburg. Martin Schmidt’s side will be tough opponents, though. Their solid performance against Leipzig got them a point, and that is what I expect to see in this game.
By the way, shout-out to Divock Origi for the miss of the season!
We've had a lot of contenders for 'Miss of the Season' in the Bundesliga, but Divock Origi's is certainly up there. Liverpool fans may want to look away. pic.twitter.com/tSQuHRhyxS
— Get German Football (@GGFN_) December 12, 2017
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Schalke
The Royal Blues are in second place after their nerve-wracking win against Augsburg. They will face a tricky trip to Frankfurt in a bid to maintain their position. Nico Kovac’s side are also coming into this game after a win thanks to their 2-1 triumph against Hamburg and won’t be easy opponents for Schalke.
A draw is more likely in this game.
VfB Stuttgart vs. Bayern Munich
Bayern look unstoppable at the moment. Even when they are not playing well, they still manage to pick up results, and that, as they say, is the mark of a champion.
Stuttgart’s impressive home record was marred by Leverkusen last week. Hannes Wolf’s team also lost their midweek fixture. To rub salt in to their wounds, Anastasios Donis and Chadrac Akolo were forced to leave the field during the game.
The week has been full of impressive stats for Bayern Munich
- Franck Ribery made his 366th appearance in all competitions against Cologne, more than any other foreign FC Bayern player!
- Robert Lewandowski has found the net in eight successive Bundesliga home games.
- Lewy got his 166th Bundesliga goal against Cologne, putting him among top 10 all-time goal scorers in the Bundesliga. The man is a machine!
- Young Niklas Süle is enjoying his time in Bavaria. He was man-of-the-match in Wednesday’s game with 98% pass accuracy, three shots, three aerial duels won, two interceptions, and two clearances.
I expect nothing other than a comfortable Bayern win at the Mercedes-Benz Arena, the same stadium where they sealed their Bundesliga trophy under Jupp in 2013.
Augsburg vs. Freiburg
Augsburg are now 9th in the table following their 3-2 loss at the hands of Schalke. I know what you’re thinking: Weren’t they 5th before the Match Day? Yes, that’s how turbulent the Bundesliga table is. Freiburg were in relegation threat a couple of weeks ago and are now up to 13th.
The talk in Augsuburg this week is about one man: Phillip Max. ‘Mad Max’ has 8 assists for Augsburg in December, a record for most assists in one season in the club’s history. Expect him to add a few more on Saturday and help his team to a win.
Werder Bremen vs. Mainz
It is 17th vs 15th in this relegation six-pointer. The two sides are only separated by two points and have the opportunity to pull themselves away from the dreadful relegation spots with a win. Both sides are coming from losing their midweek games, and that doubles the importance of this game. With Max Kruse leading the line and a home crowd pushing them on, Bremen can nick a victory.
Their funny tweet about Kevin Volland during Wednesday’s game alone warrants 3 points.
— SV Werder Bremen EN (@werderbremen_en) December 13, 2017
Hannover 96 vs. Bayer Leverkusen
Good luck stopping Leverkusen. They are currently on an 11-game unbeaten streak. Before the midweek game, Kevin Volland had a hand in a goal every 129 minutes. New signing Lucas Alario was the scorer on Wednesday though, and that goes to show the multiple sources of goals for this team. Hannover will have a daunting task in their hands.
Verdict: Leverkusen to come out victorious!
Leipzig vs. Hertha Berlin
Leipzig are not enjoying the best of times currently. They only managed two points from their last two games. The attacking play is far from sharp without Emile Forsberg and Marcel Sabitzer.
Solomon Kalou, however, is having no problems when it comes to being sharp in front of goal. The Ivorian has three goals in his last two games. First, he salvaged a point for Hertha in added time against Augsburg and then he got a brace against Hannover in midweek. His manager was quick to praise him after the 3-1 win.
A draw is my prediction here.
So that wraps up the Hinrunde. See you in 2018 for another installment of match day predictions.