At the close of this third month of the Bundesliga season, we're starting to wonder if there is a title race in Germany. Fortunately for Jürgen Klopp and Borussia Dortmund, the answer seems to be more decidedly negative every passing week. BVB kicked off Round 12 on Friday against Hamburg SV, and after a tepid first half came roaring out in the second with the type of performance that we have become accustomed to seeing from the Westphalian outfit this year, and won 2-0. Shinji Kagawa and Lucas Barrios were on target (their sixth and seventh of the season, respectively), and looking at the leaders' five fixtures before the winter break, it looks likely that BVB will have forty points, and probably more. For some perspective, the last two times a team has gone into the winter break on forty or more points (Bayern Munich in 2005-6 and 1998-9), that side has won the league comfortably.
Of course, BVB can't always play with the aggressive pressing and sharp interchanges of passes that have taken them to the top of the Bundesliga - and the first half against HSV was evidence of that. The hosts played with lethargy in the opening forty-five minutes, and while both sides' use of five-man midfields played a role in the lack of chances, Dortmund definitely lacked creativity. Shinji Kagawa is usually the man to supply the artistic, defence-splitting pass, but the Japanese midfielder has dropped off a bit from his (admittedly extremely high) level of the start of the season. However, BVB have plenty of depth in attack and Mario Götze has risen to pick up the slack left by Kagawa, to the delight of everyone in Dortmund bar Jakub Blaszczykowski, as Götze has taken his place in the starting XI. The eighteen-year-old attacking midfielder has even been called up by Nationalelf boss Joachim Löw for the friendly against Sweden, and could become one of Germany's youngest ever players should he feature in midweek.
Although it appears that Dortmund are quickly disappearing over the horizon, there are a few clubs that are trying to give chase. Mainz 05 were expected to be one of those after Dortmund had taken top spot from Thomas Tuchel's side, but die Nullfünfer have completely forgotten how to score and haven't been very good at the back either. Hannover 96 were the better side for much of the late game at the Stadion am Bruchweg on Saturday, and even after the visitors had been reduced to ten men, they still posed a potent threat on the counter-attack thanks to Didier Ya Konan and Konstantin Rausch, in particular.
Bayer Leverkusen are probably the side most likely to push Dortmund for the title, and they recorded a narrow, late win against St. Pauli thanks to an eighty-first minute goal by Renato Augusto. They are still without Stefan Kießling, Eren Derdiyok, Sami Hyypia, and Michael Ballack (although the last of those may be a blessing in disguise given his early-season form), but have been performing well and are still unbeaten away from home. Next week Leverkusen face up to a sterner test than St. Pauli as a seemingly resurgent FC Bayern will visit the BayArena.
Speaking of Germany's defending champions, they recorded a crucial 3-0 win in the Bavarian Derby against Nürnberg on Sunday, and look like they are finally finding some form. Mario Gómez scored twice and missed a penalty, but has seven goals in his last four games and will be aided in his quest for more by the return of Frank Ribéry. Bayern are beginning to get back a number of long-term absentees, as both Ribéry and Breno enjoyed substitute appearances against FCN. The former looked quite dangerous in his twenty minutes on the pitch and provided the assist for Gómez's second goal, while the latter did quite well in his first competitive game in eight months, and could be part of the solution to FCB's central defensive issues.
Elsewhere in the Bundesliga, Papiss Demba Cissé scored the only goal of the match (and his tenth of the season) for a second week in succession as Freiburg beat Hoffenheim and moved up to fourth place. Wolfsburg's abysmal home record continued against Schalke as they conceded a two-goal lead at the Volkswagen Arena for the third time this season, and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar should have won it with a good chance late on. Werder Bremen showed a much better side of their defensive game after their 6-0 mauling last week against Eintracht Frankfurt but could only take a point at home in a 0-0 draw. Borussia Mönchengladbach produced the shock of the weekend away to Köln, winning four-nil and dumping their hosts into last place - die Fohlen have yet to win at home, but have scored fourteen goals in just six games on their travels. Finally, any thoughts Stuttgart had of building up some momentum to break into the top half were dashed by a miserable second half as they gave up a three-goal lead with a half-hour to play away to Kaiserslautern. The two sides remain level on points, but Stuttgart hold on to fourteenth courtesy of their superior goal difference.