The Winterpause is coming to an end which means it’s time for more Bundesliga action. The Hinrunde delivered some spectacular matches with a 4-4 draw in the Revierderby the pick of the bunch, with five managers getting the chop before Father Christmas even came down the chimney.
It’s all very familiar at the top of the table but the race for the Europe is well and truly on. Traditional Bundesliga heavyweights that have struggled last season such as Schalke, Borussia Monchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen are back in the hunt alongside Borussia Dortmund and Leipzig, with Hoffenheim and Eintracht Frankfurt not far behind.
Let’s take a look at each Bundesliga club, assess their manager, team and MVP and see what their goals should be as we head into the Rückrunde.
Manager: With growing unrest in the dressing room, players publicly criticising the coach and an embarrassing 3-0 defeat at Paris St Germain, Uli Hoeneß and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge had little hesitation in sacking Carlo Ancelotti. Willy Sagnol took charge for one game before the power couple pulled a rabbit out of the hat by luring 72-year-old Jupp Heynckes out of retirement for his fourth spell in charge. The managerial change was a master stroke, Heynckes winning 15 of his 16 games in charge thus far.
Team: Robert Lewandowski continues to score at an impressive rate with 15 goals in 16 starts. New signings Niklas Süle, Sebastian Rudy, Corentin Tolisso and James Rodríguez have been eased into the team but it’s the subtle improvements since Heynckes took over that has Bayern back on top. Moving Javi Martínez back into the holding midfield role has provided solidity and allowed players such as Arturo Vidal to play further forward, with notable improvements by Thomas Müller, James Rodríguez and Kingsley Coman.
MVP: Vidal finished the Hinrunde in strong fashion with four goals in his last six games, but Robert Lewandowski is the main man in Munich. With 30 Bundesliga goals in each of the past two seasons, the 29-year-old is on track to match those tallies once again which would be a remarkable achievement.
Goals: After turning a five point deficit into an 11 point lead, Bayern will cruise to their sixth straight Bundesliga title. After knocking Borussia Dortmund out of the DFB-Pokal and getting a favourable Champions League tie against Besiktas, another treble under Heynkes is well within reach.
Manager: 32-year-old Domenico Tedesco has exceeded expectations and justified the clubs faith in his abilities. Showing club legend Benedikt Höwedes the door was a risky move on and off the pitch, but Tedesco and Schalke recovered after three defeats in the opening six Bundesliga games, going unbeaten in their last 11 games to climb to second position.
Tedesco worked his magic early on in the home match against Stuttgart. With the score tied at 1-1 and his side booed off the pitch, he made two half time substitutions and within three minutes Schalke were 3-1 up and coasting to victory. Tedesco’s brightest moment came in the Revierderby at Borussia Dortmund however, where he masterminded an unlikely comeback from 4-0 down to snatch a 4-4 draw.
Team: Benedikt Höwedes has been forgotten largely due to the performances of Naldo, with Guido Burgstaller continuing his impressive form up front with seven goals and three assists from 11 starts. Tedesco’s formation has allowed wing-backs Daniel Caligiuri and Bastian Oczipka to flourish, with converted holding midfielder Max Meyer becoming an important part of Schalke’s success. Faith has been shown in 19-year-old Weston McKennie with Leon Goretzka often injured, while 20-year-old Amine Harit looks like becoming an indispensable player after his summer move from Nantes.
MVP: Naldo has been a beast at the back, the 35-year-old relishing the responsibility afforded to him in Tedesdco’s system. Naldo hasn’t missed a minute of Bundesliga action thus far, scoring four goals with three assists and twice rescuing a point for his side in injury time.
Goals: Tedesco has been fortunate to have no European distractions during his first season in charge which has enabled him to spend valuable time on the training pitch with a small squad. Constant speculation surrounding Leon Goretzka’s departure could be a distraction, but Breel Embolo is set to be an important player in the Rückrunde and Amine Harit should continue to improve. Schalke will be confident of securing a top four spot but Tedesco will want to tighten up the defence after his side conceded 11 goals in their last five Bundesliga matches.
Manager: Peter Bosz couldn’t have wished for a better start at Borussia Dortmund, winning six of his first seven Bundesliga games in charge with 21 goals scored and two conceded. With his side comfortably top of the table, some assumed a title push was on the cards before a spectacular capitulation in the Revierderby highlighted many of Bosz’s shortcomings, particularly a lack of defensive organisation.
Injuries to key players and much of his defence didn’t help, but a poor Champions League campaign and a 2-1 home defeat against Werder Bremen gave the hierarchy no option but to terminate his contract. Peter Stöger was a surprise appointment after leaving bottom placed Köln, time will tell how well he adapts in charge of a bigger club with higher expectations.
Team: Ousmane Dembélé finally got his big money move to Barcelona which left a big hole in Dortmund’s attack. New signings Andriy Yarmolenko and Maximilian Philipp have performed adequately but are not on Dembélé’s level. The injury list in Dortmund was a major hindrance for Bosz, Stöger will be hoping to find continuity during the Rückrunde as he desperately tries to keep his side in the top four.
MVP: Notable mention goes to Nuri Sahin, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang remains key to Dortmund’s success with 13 goals in 15 Bundesliga starts. In what could be his last season at the Signal-Iduna-Park, Aubameyang will be hungry for goals in order to secure a big contract elsewhere.
Goals: Dortmund must get back to the Champions League with a top four finish or Europa League victory.
Manager: Some questioned the appointment of Heiko Herrlich but the former striker responded well after losing three of his first five games in charge. Leverkusen are undefeated in their last 12 Bundesliga games and Herrlich, like Tedesco at Schalke, has benefited by having no European football to contend with in his first season in charge.
Team: Herrlich deserves much of the credit for getting the best out of Kevin Volland who scored nine Hinrunde goals. 18-year-old Kai Havertz continues to impress with new recruits Panagiotis Retsos and Lucas Alario becoming useful members of the squad. The real surprise packet in Leverkusen and the Bundesliga however is Leon Bailey.
MVP: Bailey hardly featured during the Rückrunde last season after his move from Genk, but the winger has forced his way into the side with some spectacular performances. Lightning quick and supremely confident, Bailey has six goals and four assists in ten appearances and has attracted the attention of many top European clubs.
Goals: Herrlich will continue working on Leverkusen’s most effective formation and starting 11 with a return to Europe expected, preferably in the Champion League.
Manager: Ralph Hasenhüttl has done well managing the high expectations after a surprise second place finish last season which earned Leipzig their first trip to the Champions League. He has been forced to use all his resources with injuries, suspensions and a congested fixture list, but a tough draw against Napoli in the Europa League could be a blessing in disguise.
Team: New signings Jean-Kévin Augustin and Bruma have proved useful acquisitions but injuries to key players such as Marcel Sabitzer and Emil Forsberg haven’t helped. 18-year-old central defender Ibrahima Konaté started seven Bundesliga games which shows how stretched the squad became.
MVP: Timo Werner set the bar high last season with 21 Bundesliga goals and faced a tough assignment replicating it with the added Champions League fixtures. The match at Besiktas where Werner went off after 31 minutes began a difficult period for the the 21-year-old, he recovered well but only scored one goal in his last five games. After resting throughout the festive season, expect Werner to come back with a bang.
Goals: You get the feeling Hasenhüttl won’t have minded drawing Napoli in the Europa League. Not many will fancy his side to progress and defeat will leave his side free to concentrate on securing another shot at the Champions League next season.
Manager: Dieter Hecking’s first full season in charge of the Foals has been marked by inconsistency as they managed to win two consecutive games on just one occasion. Hecking has largely stuck to the same formation and starting 11 throughout the Hinrunde, but needs to show more if his side can remain in the top six.
Team: Lars Stindl, Thorgan Hazard, Matthias Ginter, Jannik Vestergaard and Oscar Wendt started all 17 games with four players starting 15 or more. Raffael and Hazard are joint top scorers with 6 goals each, with new recruits Denis Zakaria and Michaël Cuisance showing plenty of promise in the middle of the pitch.
MVP: It’s very much a team effort but Thorgan Hazard continues to improve each season. The 24-year-old has six goals and three assists thus far and will be looking to finish the season strong with rumours that bigger clubs are monitoring his progress.
Goals: Borussia Monchengladbach need to get back into Europe or Hecking could face the axe. He needs to solidify the defence with his team having a goal difference of -1, largely due to a 6-1 thrashing at Borussia Dortmund and a 5-1 home loss against Bayer Leverkusen.
Manager: Julian Nagelsmann was always going to find it hard replicating last seasons fourth place finish, but with a maiden European campaign to contend with he can be happy with Hoffenheim’s current position. 26 points and a win away from third place is satisfactory considering their exertions in the Champions League and Europa League.
Team: Nagelsmann’s thin squad was fully stretched as he continually changed his starting 11. Florian Grillitsch, Stefan Posch and Dennis Geiger stepped up but the striker department took a hit with Sandro Wagner’s departure to Bayern Munich. Marc Uth is Hoffenheim’s top scorer with nine goals while Wagner bagged four. No other player scored more than two goals which could be problematic for their top six aspirations.
MVP: After scoring seven goals last season and eight before that, Marc Uth has already surpassed those efforts with nine goals. An extremely underrated striker, his deadly left foot, intelligent movement and high work rate secured the 26-year-old a move to Schalke next summer.
Goals: To get into the top six. With no more European fixtures to contend with and eliminated from the DFB-Pokal, Nagelsmann can concentrate on getting back into Europe with a settled squad and plenty of time to work on the training pitch.
Manager: Niko Kovač took some time to figure out his most effective starting 11 with so many new players in the squad, but his side appeared much more effective after Kevin-Prince Boateng reverted to a midfield role after starting in advanced positions. The Croatian manager is steadily improving his team as they sit just outside the top six.
Team: Kovač introduced Jetro Willems, Sébastien Haller, Ante Rebić, Luka Jovic, Simon Falette, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Gelson Fernandes, Carlos Salcedo and Jonathan de Guzmán to the squad with varying success. Moving Rebić to an advanced position and playing Boateng in midfield was a turning point, with Willems, David Abraham, Marius Wolf and Haller standout performers.
MVP: 23-year-old French striker Sébastien Haller moved from Utrecht last summer for €7m and already appears a bargain in today’s market. Scoring some spectacular goals, he might be disappointed with just six goals to his name but will have plenty of opportunities to build on that during the Rückrunde.
Goals: Getting into the top six should be Eintracht’s goal. They are a tough team to beat and are in position to capitalise on any slip-ups from the teams above them.
Manager: Manuel Baum has Augsburg in ninth position which is realistically as good as they could have hoped to achieve when the season started. Time will tell how far he can take the southern club.
Team: Full-backs Daniel Opare and Philipp Max have been strong for Augsburg, with Max particularly effective with a goal and league high nine assists. Central defender Jeffrey Gouweleeuw has played every minute thus far, with the attacking trio of Caiuby, Michael Gregoritsch and Alfred Finnbogason a large reason for Augsburg’s success.
MVP: Gregoritsch has eight goals after his summer move from Hamburg, but Finnbogason could be back to his best with two hat-tricks on his way to 11 goals. The 28-year-old has struggled after scoring 29 goals in the 2013/14 Eredivisie season with Heerenveen, but the Icelandic striker is on his way to 20+ goals this season which would be a commendable achievement.
Goals: A mid table finish is probably the best Augsburg can achieve, but if their attacking trio continue to fire they are an outside chance at sixth position.
Manager: Pal Dardai continues his good work in Berlin but achieving another top-6 finish might be beyond him and his squad. Hertha’s failed Europa League campaign gave the club some experience and cash, but elimination in the Group Stage won’t worry Dardai too much.
Team: Mathew Leckie started the season on fire before cooling off, with Vedad Ibisevic and Salomon Kalou consistent performers up front. Hertha’s strength continues to come from full-backs Marvin Plattenhardt and Mitchell Weiser, while new signing Davie Selke finished the Hinrunde in sensational form after an lengthy injury lay-off.
MVP: He only made his debut in mid-October, but Davie Selke forced his way into the team with some standout performances. He scored seven goals in his last nine games in all competitions including two at former club Leipzig, who may regret letting him go for a measly €8.5m last summer.
Goals: Hertha will be aiming for a top six finish but with such fierce competition it may be beyond them. Elimination from the DFB-Pokal and Europa League will help their cause, and if Davie Selke can continue his upward trajectory then they are an outside chance.
Manager: André Breitenreiter began life in the Bundesliga with Hannover in great form, unbeaten in their first six games with only two goals conceded. He and his players have found the going difficult since, especially away from home where Die Roten have lost their past five games.
Team: New signings Ihlas Bebou and Jonathas have been strong for Hannover although Jonathas has been limited to eight appearances due to injury. Pirmin Schwegler has been solid in the middle of the park with Niclas Füllkrug and Martin Harnik carrying most of the load up front. Hannover’s strong early season form was very much due to the central defensive partnership of Waldemar Anton and Salif Sané.
MVP: Sané is in career best form, a monster at the back for Hannover and one of the best centre-backs in the Bundesliga this season. The 27-year-old’s best years are clearly in front of him and he could be prised away from the HDI-Arena sooner rather than later.
Goals: Hannover have drifted down the table after their strong start, but their goal remains the same. Survival.
Manager: Andries Jonker fell out of favour early on this season and was the first managerial casualty after just four games. Former Mainz manager Martin Schmidt took charge and presided over seven consecutive draws, he would have welcomed the Winterpause in order to prepare for a crucial Rückrunde for the Wolves.
Team: Ignacio Camacho began in solid form but hasn’t played since late October, the same time John Brooks came back from injury to strengthen the defence. Josuha Guilavogui, Yunus Malli and Daniel Didavi have been the better performers while Divock Origi has shown some promising signs after his loan move from Liverpool. Origi will surely get increased opportunities up front with Mario Gomez offloaded to Stuttgart.
MVP: Daniel Didavi has battled injuries throughout most of his career, but has managed to stay on the pitch this season and has contributed with five goals and five assists. The 27-year-old attacking midfielder is the driving force at Wolfsburg, and is set to be an important player in their quest to push into the top half.
Goals: After narrowly avoiding relegation last season, Wolfsburg have stabilised under Schmidt but are still just four points above the relegation zone. This team is too good to be relegated, and if they can keep their better players on the pitch a top half finish is achievable.
Manager: In charge since December 2011, Christian Streich continues to do well at Freiburg despite limited resources. Finishing the Hinrunde with three wins and two draws pulled his side four points clear of the relegation zone, but he will need to do something about his defence that conceded 25 goals away from home in just eight matches.
Team: It’s a collective effort from Freiburg without any genuine superstars in their squad. With their two best players Vincenzo Grifo and Maximilian Philipp sold last summer, most of the goals have been scored by Nils Petersen.
MVP: Having become known as a super sub, Petersen began the season as such and performed well in limited minutes. Streich then moved him into the starting XI and it worked out well for both parties, Petersen finishing 2017 with eight goals in his last six games in all competitions.
Goals: Avoiding relegation. Freiburg finished seventh last season but conceded 60 goals and have already given up 31 this season. They need to continue their strong form at home where they have conceded just six goals and lost one game, but a difficult start to the Rückrunde awaits them and they are likely to drift into the relegation zone.
Manager: Hannes Wolf has relied heavily on Stuttgart’s home form, Die Schwaben with six wins and a draw from their first seven games at the Mercedes-Benz Arena. He has been unable to halt the disastrous away form however, worst in the league with a draw and eight defeats in nine games.
Team: New signings Holger Badstuber and Santiago Ascacibar have the potential to be a solid defensive unit alongside Timo Baumgartl and Benjamin Pavard, while Chadrac Akolo looked promising up front with limited supply. The return of Mario Gomez is highly anticipated down south, but he managed just one Bundesliga goal for Wolfsburg in 938 minutes of action.
MVP: Benjamin Pavard adjusted to the Bundesliga with confidence, largely playing in a back three but also as a right wing-back. He hasn’t missed a minute of action this season and the 21-year-old was rewarded for his solid form with a debut for France in November.
Goals: To improve the horrendous away form, get Mario Gomez scoring goals and avoid a relegation battle.
Manager: Former Mainz player and youth team coach Sandro Schwarz took charge last summer but hasn’t found it easy in the top flight. His side haven’t won away from home and Yoshinori Muto is the top scorer with three goals.
Team: Danny Latza has been ever present in the middle of the pitch and has become an important player, with defensive players Jean-Philippe Gbamin, Stefan Bell and Abdou Diallo doing their best to keep Mainz in games.
There has been little assistance at the top end of the pitch however, with Mainz desperately in need of a consistent goal scorer. Emil Berggreen did well in limited minutes and should see more playing time, while Anthony Ujah returns to the Bundesliga after two years in China.
MVP: Signed from Monaco for just €5m last summer, 21-year-old central defender Abdou Diallo has had some strong games in a struggling team and will be vital if Mainz can avoid relegation.
Goals: Improve their away form, score more goals and avoid relegation.
Manager: Alexander Nouri didn’t last long, sacked after a 3-0 home defeat against Augsburg which completed 10 games without a win to start another dismal season for the northerners. Bremen stayed in house once more and promoted long term youth manager Florian Kohfeldt to the first team. Like his predecessor, most of Werder’s positive results have been due to goals and assists from Max Kruse.
Team: Thomas Delaney continued his strong form from last season while Fin Bartels still flies under the radar up front. Theodor Gebre Selassie has been consistent while Max Kruse spent some time on the injury table but returned with some match winning performances.
MVP: There was a big danger that Werder Bremen would be over reliant on Kruse and so it has proved. He is a class above the rest in this team, highlighted with a hat-trick in the 4-0 win against Hannover on Matchday 12 which secured Werder’s first win of the season. It seems if Kruse doesn’t perform, his team can’t which is a dangerous scenario.
Goals: Avoid relegation. Kohfeldt will be aiming to emulate his predecessor and go on a winning run which catapults his side out of the relegation zone.
Manager: Markus Gisdol does little to inspire confidence with Hamburg sitting in second last place. He won his first two games in charge this season, but it was a smokescreen as Hamburg lost seven of the next eight games. Watching his team play football doesn’t often bring much reward.
Team: Understandably there isn’t much to discuss with Hamburg. Kyriakos Papadopoulos’ antics are entertaining and Dennis Diekmeier tries hard, but they are in the relegation zone for a reason. One bright spark however has been the emergence of Jann-Fiete Arp.
MVP: Having just turned 18, Arp made his debut in late September and scored a goal in his next two games. He appears to have a bright future ahead of him, clever movement and confident in his ability, let’s hope for Hamburg’s sake he continues to improve.
Goals: Flirting with relegation for the past few seasons, Die Rothosen are firmly entrenched in another relegation battle. Their only concern is survival.
Manager: Long serving manager Peter Stöger couldn’t get a break this season until he left Köln and scored the Borussia Dortmund job. His season at Köln was a complete disaster. He was let go after 14 Bundesliga games without a win and replaced by Stefan Ruthenbeck. With Ruthenbeck managing only a handful of games, he will be judged at the end of the season.
Team: It’s difficult not to be too negative, but let’s just point out that Köln attempted to replace Anthony Modeste by paying €15m for Jhon Córdoba, signing 39-year-old Claudio Pizarro, and just signed Simon Terodde to go along with Sehrou Guirassy. Let’s not discuss the defence.
Injuries have been plentiful, their best player Jonas Hector played only three games, but there is no hiding awful recruitment by former Sporting Director Jörg Schmadtke who was sacked in October.
MVP: No comment.
Goals: Produce a miracle escape. but this is team that just signed 2. Bundesliga specialist Simon Terodde, so their goal might be surrender and keep a squad that can rebound back into the Bundesliga.