This afternoon marks the return to action of the Bundesliga, after the shortest winner break in memory. Only two weeks ago World Footballer of the Year, Robert Lewandowski scored in the last minute of added time to give Bayern Munich a 2-1 victory against Bayer Leverkusen, allowing them to leapfrog over their rivals and retake top spot. Now the question is whether they can retain that lead as they look to secure a 9th straight league title.
Leverkusen had played some magnificent football leading up that defeat to Munich, their first of the season, and now need to try and recreate the kind of attacking flair that saw them score almost at will at times. This is usually the time when aspiring challengers to Bayern’s crown wilt under the pressure. Last year RB Leipzig were leading the table in January but then seemingly lost the winning habit that had propelled them to the top as they couldn’t do anything but draw for games on end. Two years ago Borussia Dortmund were in the same position, but they simply faded away once the season resumed.
At the other end of the table FSV Mainz and Schalke 04 have got a major job on their hands if they are to avoid dropping down to Bundesliga 2. Both clubs have installed new coaches over the winter break. At Mainz Jan Moritz Lichte was dismissed after only four months in charge following a run of games which saw them win only once. The final straw was a defeat to second division VfL Bochum in the DFB Pokal days before Christmas. Former Huddersfield Town manager Jan Siewert has been promoted from his role as academy manager to coach the first team this weekend, although this is likely only a temporary appointment. It may well be a baptism of fire for Siewert as his team have the unenviable task of a trip to the Aliianz Arena to face Bayern Munich.
Meanwhile at Schalke, which started off the season with Siewert’s predecessor at Huddersfield, David Wagner, in charge have moved on to their fourth, yes fourth, coach of the season by appointing veteran Christian Gross, who had been managing in Saudi Arabia until early last year. It can only be described as a left field manoeuvre, but nothing that Schalke, who last won a league game in January 2020, do can be regarded as surprising. Gross last managed in Germany in 2010, when he was dismissed after nine months in charge of VfB Stuttgart. It is will be interesting to see what, if any, effect he has on a club whose confidence is at rock bottom. It couldn’t possibly get worse...could it..?