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The Bundesliga refuses to settle down. Going on recent years' form, normally by now Bayern Munich have fine-tuned their winning machine, while Borussia Dortmund have established themselves as the clear second-best in the division.
But in case you need reminding yet again, 2020 hasn't been a particularly normal year.
And this week, thanks to a covid-induced late start and the upcoming holidays, the organisers have squeezed the 12th round into midweek, with the 13th being played on the weekend. So for some players, the holiday break will be a welcoming chance to put their feet up for a day or two.
Round 12 action
Bayer Leverkusen have gone top of the Bundesliga as we approach the winter break, and yet neither that news, nor Bayern dropping two points in a 1-1 draw with Union Berlin, is the story of the week.
Lucien Favre has been sacked by Dortmund, who hit a new nadir on Saturday with their 5-1 loss to Stuttgart - taking their record to just one win from the last five (and only 4 points from a possible 15). The decline has been gradual and the news still came as something of a shock. Favre had been building something special, only for the walls to crumble swiftly.
With Dortmund only six points off the top, there is still time for Edin Turzic - the assistant manager promoted to caretaker for the rest of the season - to launch a title challenge. His first test is away to 13th-placed Werder Bremen, which should be a formality. Three of the teams we preview here sit above them in the table.
Bayern Munich v Wolfsburg
Wolfsburg, after beating Frankfurt 2-1 last week, sit fourth in the Bundesliga, remain undefeated and can boast four wins from their their last five outings. Confidence therefore is riding high, and they may prove formidable opponents for a Bayern team that is struggling to break down strong defensive opposition.
Last weekend, Union held their nerve and frustrated Hans-Dieter Flick’s team throughout the game. However, Wolfsburg will be more aggressive in their approach, and may ultimately pay the price for that. Their assertive vertical football is strong on the counter-attack, but this should also make them vulnerable going the other way, with a stretched end-to-end game likely to develop.
Such a scenario clearly favours the hosts, who with Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman can break at speed.
Back Bayern to win and over 3.5 goals.
Hoffenheim v RB Leipzig
Hoffenheim have endured a bit of a topsy-turvy season so far, the slight chaos of it all encapsulated neatly in last weekend’s 4-1 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen. Hoffenheim were repeatedly caught out by Leverkusen's pace - so much so that they ended up with just nine men on the field. Florian Grillitsch and Stefan Posch, who both received two yellow cards, will be sorely missed for the Leipzig game.
RB Leipzig are undefeated in five matches and sit third, just one point behind leaders Leverkusen and only behind Bayern Munich on goal difference. The clean sheet earned in a 2-0 win last weekend was very welcome, too, ending a sequence of conceding eight goals in their last three games in all competitions. Julien Nageslmann will expect that blip to be behind them now, looking for a solid win at Hoffenheim.
Back Leipzig to win with a -1 handicap.
Schalke v Freiburg (zero margin, offered at fairest odds)
Schalke are in absolute free fall and will curse their luck ahead of their meeting with Freiburg - their opponents were also struggling until very recently, but a 2-0 win over Arminia Bielefeld makes Freiburg undefeated in three, which should given them some confidence ahead of this match.
Schalke are yet to win in the Bundesliga, and while their 2-2 draw with Augbsurg gave them their fourth point of the season, this can hardly be considered progress - Augbsurg, themselves playing badly, spent most of the second half with just 10 men.
The hosts are simply bereft of confidence, leaking goals at one end and barely creating opportunities at the other.
That points to a Freiburg victory.
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