The Hinrunde – or halfway point – of the Bundesliga season arrived at the weekend and there were several things to take note of as the players put in one last push ahead of the holiday period. We take a look at five things learned from the last match of 2017.
Better late than never
It was a long time coming but FC Koln finally picked up a first win of the season. Perhaps inspired by their narrow 1-0 defeat to table toppers FC Bayern Munchen in midweek, an energised Koln took the game to Wolfsburg and were deserved winners thanks to Christian Clemens’ second-half strike. It was the Billy Goats’ first win since the final match of last season.
Despite the long-awaited win, Koln and interim coach Stefan Ruthenbeck still have an almighty struggle on their hands if they are to avoid relegation given that they are still a massive nine points behind second-from-bottom Hamburger SV. The fact that four of the last five clubs bottom of the table at this point in the season have been relegated will also mean that Koln’s Christmas break is anything but merry.
Cometh the hour, cometh the Bog-eyman
Augsburg completed a satisfying first half of the season on a high thanks to hitman Alfred Finnbogason heroics as the Icelandic striker kept his cool to bag two-injury time goals and complete a hat-trick that saw his side rescue an unlikely point in a 3-3 draw at home to Freiburg.
The point sees Augsburg end the year in ninth position, just four points off a European spot. It also completes a spectacular first half of the season for Finnbogason, who now has an impressive 11 goals in 14 games for the Bavarians. Augsburg will be hoping he can continue in the same vein in the New Year.
Schalke – Hard to beat
If ever there was a Christmas movie to sum up FC Schalke’s first half of the Bundesliga campaign then it would have to be the Bruce Willis classic Die Hard given the ‘never say die’ attitude of Domenico Tedesco’s side.
Just three weeks after their sensational four-goal second-half comeback against Dortmund in the Revierderby, Schalke were at it again on Saturday as Naldo (who also netted the equaliser at Dortmund) scored five minutes into injury time to cap another late, late show.
The point stretched Schalke’s domestic unbeaten run to 11 games and kept them in second place behind runaway leaders Bayern. It will be interesting to see if Tedesco’s side can keep their impressive run going in the second half of the season.
Bayern – boring yet efficient
With an 11-point lead going into the Ruckrunde, few would bet against Bayern Munich wrapping up a sixth consecutive Bundesliga title. Things have certainly taken a turn for the better since Jupp Heynckes was brought back into the fold following a disappointing start to the season saw Carlo Ancelotti get the sack. Bayern are unbeaten in fifteen games under the veteran coach, and although they have not been at their fluent best in recent weeks (three consecutive 1-0 wins), they still have far too much quality for most of their opponents. Winning when not at your best is the hallmark of a strong team and one that looks destined to secure yet another title.
Leipzig struggling to live up to the hype
One question that fascinated pundits at the beginning of the season was whether last term’s surprise package RB Leipzig would be able to keep up the form that saw them finish their debut top-flight season as runners up. After a slow start to the season, Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side looked to have answered their critics as they re-assumed second place behind Jupp Heynckes revitalised Bayern.
The wheels, however, seem to have come off in recent weeks and Die Roten Bullen are now winless in four domestic games. Coupled with a poor showing on their Champions League debut and coach Hassenhuttl certainly has his work cut out if he is to answer the critics that suggested that Leipzig would prove be a one-season wonder.