Bundesliga Matchday 17: Brilliant Bayern target nine-point Christmas lead
It is a familiar picture in the Bundesliga ahead of the winter break, with Bayern Munich clear at the summit.
Julian Nagelsmann's side kick off Matchday 17 against Wolfsburg tonight, while Borussia Dortmund will aim to maintain their already fading title hopes when they travel to Hertha Berlin on Saturday.
Elsewhere, fifth plays third as Freiburg face Leverkusen, Eintracht Frankfurt will try to leapfrog Mainz into the top six and form team Hoffenheim host a sliding Borussia Monchengladbach.
Game of the week: Bayern Munich vs Wolfsburg (Friday, 7.30pm)
It feels inevitable that Bayern will extend their lead at the top to nine points — at least until Dortmund play — as they meet woeful Wolfsburg at the Allianz Arena.
The visitors have tumbled down the table after taking just one point from their previous five games, of which they have lost the last four. By contrast, the Bavarians have won their last four — and thrashed Stuttgart 5-0 on Tuesday.
Bayern have scored more than three times as many Bundesliga goals (52) as Wolfsburg (17) this season. In fact, Robert Lewandowski has out-scored the Wolves by himself, registering 18 times already.
Here are the other big games to watch this weekend…
Hertha Berlin vs Borussia Dortmund (Saturday, 5.30pm)
Hertha will lean on their recent solid home form, as they try to put some distance between themselves and the drop zone.
The club from the capital take on a Dortmund side who returned to winning ways on Wednesday, beating Greuther Furth 3-0.
And Hertha boss Tayfun Korkut will want a reaction from his team, after they went down 4-0 at Mainz on Tuesday.
They have scored in every home game this season — while Dortmund’s only away clean sheet came in the first round of the DFB-Pokal, against third-tier Wehen Wiesbaden.
Having bagged a brace in midweek, BVB’s star man Erling Haaland needs just one more goal to make it 20 for the season in all competitions.
The hosts will be hoping to avoid a repeat of his last visit to the Olympiastadion when he found the net four times.
Hoffenheim vs Borussia Monchengladbach (Saturday, 2.30pm)
Victory for Hoffenheim will see them end the year in the Champions League spots — and they will fancy their chances against a side who have lost four consecutive matches, conceding a staggering 17 goals in the process.
Die Fohlen were only narrowly defeated 3-2 by Eintracht Frankfurt on Wednesday but they head to the PreZero Arena having picked up just four points on the road this term.
As for Hoffenheim, they have won their last six home games in all competitions. Sebastian Hoeness’ team have racked up 20 goals across those fixtures, keeping three clean sheets.
Eintracht Frankfurt vs Mainz (Saturday, 2.30pm)
Five wins from six games has put Eintracht in position to potentially end 2021 level on points with the top four — and making the trip to Frankfurt are the team currently one place above them on goal difference.
Eintracht have been draw specialists at home this term, with four of their seven matches at the Deutsche Bank Park ending all square. Mainz, meanwhile, have not drawn any of their seven away outings.
There ought to be goals in this one, with the hosts netting eight times in their last two games and the visitors scoring eight in three.
Freiburg vs Bayer Leverkusen (Sunday, 2.30pm)
A first home victory for Freiburg since October will take them back into the top four — and could see Leverkusen drop out of it.
The Breisgau Brazilians have suffered successive losses at the SC-Stadion and — rather ominously for them — only Bayern have picked up more points away from home (19) than Sunday’s visitors (15).
Then again, Gerardo Seoane’s men were thumped 5-2 by Eintracht in their most recent away match — the third time in this campaign that they have conceded four or more goals.
Freiburg, on the other hand, have not let in more than two since the final day of last season.
The weekend’s other games:
Bochum vs Union Berlin (Saturday, 2.30pm)
Greuther Furth vs Augsburg (Saturday, 2.30pm)
RB Leipzig vs Arminia Bielefeld (Saturday, 2.30pm)
Koln vs Stuttgart (Sunday, 4.30pm)