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Round 13 action
The final round of Bundesliga games before the winter break is upon us. Normally by this point we are approaching the halfway stage of the season, but the late start means there are plenty of fixtures to be packed in next year. Nevertheless, the table is taking shape and the league leader at the break holds significance: What a confidence boost it would be for Bayer Leverkusen to hold top spot for three uninterrupted weeks.
They face Bayern Munich on Saturday in a vital clash at the top of the table. That is the big story of the weekend, although with a new manager at Dortmund it will be interesting to see how their form looks heading into the break.
The midweek round was the first time in two months that all of the Bundesliga’s top four clubs won, and it leaves just a single point separating the top three - with Dortmund only slightly further behind and hopeful of a new manager bounce.
Bayer Leverkusen v Bayern Munich
For all of Bayern’s attacking quality, Hans-Dieter Flick is not blessed with much depth, which explains why six players have featured in at least 11 of their 12 Bundesliga games so far. Fatigue could be the decisive factor in this game, then, given Bayern were involved in an energy-sapping 2-1 win over Wolfsburg on Wednesday.
Leroy Sane, Serge Gnabry and Thomas Muller have all slowed down recently, and that probably means the visitors won’t respond particularly well to a purposeful and hard-pressing Bayer Leverkusen. Peter Bosz’s side are very good at counter-attacking, which points to a fairly open contest this weekend in which the fitter side should come out on top.
The key battles are on the flanks, where Moussa Diaby and Leon Bailey should have the run on their Bayern counterparts, and ought to be able to get behind the fullbacks. It will be a tight game, but the hosts should have enough to pull clear of the current champions.
Union Berlin v Borussia Dortmund
Edin Terzic has taken temporary charge of Dortmund following Lucien Favre’s dismissal and his impact has been instant. Not only did they beat Werder Bremen 2-1 mid-week, but Dortmund also moved from Favre’s 3-4-3 to a 4-2-3-1 formation - a dramatic shift that saw youngster Giovanni Reyna move to the left wing and Marco Reus restored to a Number 10 role.
This brought back some fluency, even without the injured Erling Haaland. There is a good chance Terzic’s side will carry this momentum into the next match, which points to a difficult day at a defensively solid Union Berlin.
Union are a tough nut to crack, and are sitting sixth on the table with only one home loss. Their best result was a recent 1-1 draw with Bayern, in which they sat deep and frustrated the stronger team throughout. That’s likely to be the tactical pattern of this game too, although ultimately the dynamism of a newly freed Dortmund should give them just enough to record a narrow win.
Freiburg v Hertha Berlin (zero margin game - offering the fairest odds)
Separated by just a single point in the middle of the table, these two sides are unlikely to be embroiled in a relegation battle or a fight for European places. This isn’t the most important game leading into the break, and it is possible it will be won by whichever team is more focused as we approach Christmas break: the winter equivalent of already being on the beach.
If that’s the case, then Freiburg should be favourites. They have won each of their last two matches while Hertha have drawn successive games, and so the hosts will be more confident and in sync with each other on Sunday evening. Freiburg’s 2-0 victory over Arminia Bielefeld last weekend was their first home win of the season, and should kick-start some better form.
Hertha have been good on the road, although their record is getting worse over time.
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