*Drum roll please* The Bundesliga is back!
Thankfully we didn’t have to endure a long winter break this time around and Germany’s top flight will resume with an intriguing encounter at the BayArena on Friday.
Here are our matchday 18 predictions:
Bayer Leverkusen vs Bayern Munich
If there is one sure thing regarding the Rückrunde it is the fact that Bayern will lift the Bundesliga trophy for a record 6th consecutive time. The Bavarians, however, will not have it easy at the Bay Arena, not least when top scorer Robert Lewandowski is a doubt for the game. This means January signing Sandro Wagner will have to step in for his competitive debut after re-signing for his old club. The number 2-both in the pecking order and kit number- will look to make his chance count.
Lewandowski ruled out for Friday's game. Would be perfect Bayern narrative if Wagner scores the winner against Leverkusen.
— Stefan Buczko (@StefanBuczko) January 10, 2018
Leverkusen is currently on a 12 match unbeaten run in the league. They sit 4th, level on points with Borussia Dortmund in third. Striker Kevin Volland (9 goals) and winger Leon Bailey (6 goals and 5 assists) impressed in that run of form and the duo will be a handful for Bayern’s defense, which is without Mats Hummels (congrats on becoming a father!) and could also miss Joshua Kimmich, who will travel with the team but may not start.
The reverse fixture ended with a 3-1 victory for Bayern but a game at the Bay Arena will not be that straightforward. Die Werkself only lost 1 of their last 8 home games against Bayern and that is why they will be able to at least grab a point in the first Bundesliga game of 2018.
RB Leipzig vs Schalke 04
It’s 2nd vs 5th in Saturday’s blockbuster. Last season’s runners-up will host the Royal Blues after a not so impressive first half of the season. The Red Bull-backed club is on the brink of losing its midfield engine Naby Keita in the January window. The Guinea international has agreed to join Liverpool in the summer of 2018, but due to the Merseyside’s club increased the desire to secure him this month RBL are in danger of missing a key player of their squad. Keita hasn’t been as impressive as he was last season mainly because his mind has been preoccupied with the Anfield move but he will still be missed by Leipzig. In the meantime, the Ralph Hasenhüttl keeps refuting the rumors.
— Chris Williams (@Chris78Williams) January 11, 2018
After an impressive campaign so far, Schalke are going into Saturday’s game in 2nd place, two points ahead of the hosts. They too are about to lose a key midfielder in Leon Goretzka , who is rumored to be joining Bayern in the summer for free. Despite that, Schalke look a stronger unit this season and manager Domenico Tedesco is making the best use of his squad. Mark Uth will join the Royal Blues in the summer. This shows that the club is eyeing future success with their young manager and is a testament to the impressive work sporting director Christian Heidel is doing.
— Raphael Honigstein (@honigstein) January 9, 2018
Both clubs will look to start 2018 on a high. A fierce battle is expected and it is very likely the clubs will share the spoils.
Augsburg vs Hamburger SV
The most surprising team of the first half of the season will host the unsurprisingly underwhelming side in this matchup. Augsburg is heaping plenty of praise for their incredible form so far. Manager Manuel Baum is not letting that get the team though and had this to say at the pre-match press conference:
“We need to make sure we don’t lose focus. We’ve received a lot of praise so far this season, but we need to keep working on finding that balance between defense and attack.”
Regarding Hamburg, they will be without Albin Ekdal and Walace is ruled out for the game, after returning to training camps a couple days late from Brazil.
FCA are without top scorer Alfred Finnbogason who has an Achilles injury, so the honus is on Michael Gregoritsch to take revenge on his former team.
With home advantage and Hamburg being Hamburg Augsburg are favorites to come out victorious!
Hannover vs Mainz 05
This one is a crucial game between two sides that will be looking to avoid relegation. Hannover weren’t able to maintain their impressive start to the campaign and find themselves in 11th after losing 3 and drawing 2 of their last 6 games.
Mainz’s start, on the other hand, wasn’t the best but points picked here and there enabled them to just stay adrift of the relegation play-off spot by 2 points. The Zerofivers have secured experienced players Anthony Ujah and Nigel de Jong to further add strength to their squad.
Sandro #Schwarz on new signings, @ujah21 and @NDJ_Official: "They've both settled in really well! We know exactly what they bring to the table. They could both feature on Saturday." #H96M05 pic.twitter.com/6pA2TPyPrh
— Mainz 05 English (@Mainz05en) January 11, 2018
Mainz will be without René Adler (Rehab), Danny Latza (suspended) and
Niko Bungert in Hannover.
Hannover can win this game but Mainz won’t go out without a fight.
VfB Stuttgart vs Hertha Berlin
Just like Hannover Stuttgart’s start to their Bundesliga return was impressive and especially since they managed to make their home ground a fortress in which they managed to stay undefeated until that cruel 1-0 loss to Bayern. Hannes Wolf’s side has lost their last 4 games before the winter break and must once again make good use of home advantage to punish mid-table side Hertha Berlin.
Hertha managed to close out 2017 with an impressive 3-2 win against Leipzig in which they had to play a majority of the game with 10 men. With Salomon Kalou and Davie Selke on a good form, Pál Dárdai’s side can grab all 3 points at the Mercedes-Benz Arena.
Werder Bremen vs Hoffenheim
If the past few seasons are anything to go by Bremen will have an amazing second half of the season. A fit Max Kruse will play an immense role in achieving that, but Bremen will be missing Thomas Delaney and of course Fin Bartels, who is out for the season after tearing his Achilles vs Dortmund. The visitors Hoffenheim who have lost Sandro Wagner to Bayern this month will look to Mark Uth and Serge Gnabry for goals. With their Europa League adventure done and dusted, Julian Nagelsmann’s team can get back to their impressive form of last season.
Speaking of whom the man has got jokes…
A draw is likely!
Eintracht Frankfurt vs Freiburg
Freiburg is slowly getting into stride. They are undefeated in their last 5 games and managed to grab 3 wins in that stretch. Niles Petersen is scoring regularly and not only off the bench. This meant that they are now in 13th place.
Streich: “We have done well there in the last games. Here we go again from scratch and we want to prove us new in Frankfurt.”
Frankfurt boasts the 2nd best defense in the league and will prove a tough test for the visitors. They can grab a narrow win at home, and they should be getting Omar Mascarell back, possibly in the starting lineup, after a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
FC Cologne vs Borussia Mönchengladbach
Sunday’s action starts off with the Rheinderby. Cologne who managed to grab their first win of the season before the winter break will be looking to continue their unlikely ascent up the table by beating Gladbach.
Dieter Hecking’s side has been the most unpredictable team this season. However, the foals sit in 6th level on points with the 3 teams above them. With Thorgan Hazard and Raffael running the attack, the visitors can start the year with an away victory.
Even the manager can step in if need be…
— Gladbach (@borussia_en) January 11, 2018
Borussia Dortmund vs Wolfsburg
The Black and Yellows host Wolfsburg in the last game of the Match Day. The managerial changes at both clubs have worked well. Both Peter Stöger and Martin Schmidt are changing the tides in their respective clubs.
This game will be a lot closer than the Match Day 1 game in which BVB won 3-0. However, with the Yellow Wall behind them Stöger’s side can come out victorious and Aubameyang has the chance to reach a century of goals in the Bundesliga.