I decided that in the last weekly preview in the year 2011, things should be switched up a little bit. The winter break begins on December 19. Basically what I'm saying is you BETTER enjoy the matches this weekend. All of them.
Bayern Munich takes on Lukas Podolski... Oh, yeah, and Köln.
Friday's Bundesliga match sees the mighty Bayern Munich playing host to Köln. I'm sure you're expecting me to continue to talk about how great the mighty Bavarians have been this season --- and I could, trust me ---- I'm not doing that today. Today this is all about the absolute brilliance that is the Prinz Poldi. Lukas Podolski's form over the last several weeks has been nothing short of world class. In matches against Mainz, Freiburg, and Stuttgart, Podolski has five goals. The total has pulled him level with Klaas Jan-Huntelaar in the golden boot race, and only one behind Bayern's Mario Gomez.
Podolski's form has also helped Köln remain solidly mid-table. When manager Ståle Solbakken took over the club at the beginning of the year, he decided to give the captain's armband to Pedro Geromel instead of Podolski. Instead of sulking, the German international seems to have a new lease on life. With fourteen goals in sixteen matches, it's easy to see why Podolski has been the subject of transfer rumors for the last six months. I would be shocked if Köln parted with their guy in January, but I do think he will be sold this summer.
Thorsten Fink Can Coach
The great people running Hamburg finally wised up in September and fired Michael Oenning in September. Frank Arnesen then found his way in Switzerland where he managed to convince FC Basel manager Thorsten Fink to leave his team and came to Germany. Fink appeared to have built a solid club winning two Swiss Super League titles and had his club performing well in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League.
When Fink took over on October 13, the club only had 4 points. Heading into the last matchday of 2011, they now have 18 points. That's impressive. Defensive liabilities and midfield instabilities have ruled the season for Hamburg so far. This weekend they have a very winnable match with Augsburg coming to the Volksparkstadion. A win will push them to 21 points. Plus, the team hasn't lost since he arrived. An impressive haul to end the first half of the season considering where the club sat just two months ago.
How much of this is down to Fink? I'd say a majority of it. I do understand that Oenning is not a quality manager whether he's coaching a Bundesliga team or a local co-ed indoor team. That doesn't matter. Thorsten Fink is here to stay. Remember his name.
Marco Reus Is Out For Gladbach... Uh Oh
Marco Reus is 100% hands down the player of the first half of the season. This is not even debatable. As a team, Borussia Mönchengladbach are much improved under manager Lucien Favre this year. They are a good team with the x-factor in Reus to make them even better. Last year he finished the season with eleven goals, and he already has ten goals through half of this season. Reus will be missing his third straight match with a broken toe this weekend.
I've been very harsh on Mainz all season long, but they're currently unbeaten in five straight. Can they make it six in a row on Sunday in Mönchengladbach? It's going to be a difficult task, but it's not impossible. I don't know what it is about some of these teams near the bottom of the table, but whenever I doubt them they play much better and prove me wrong. Mainz has down that now. The run can continue in Gladbach, but let's not forget that this is the same Gladbach team that drew Borussia Dortmund just two weeks ago. I'm going to make a prediction that Maxim Choupo-Moting is going to be the difference maker and lead Mainz to victory.
Best Match: Schalke vs Werder Bremen
The potential is there to make this match very exciting for all viewers this weekend. We have two great goal scorers in Schalke's Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Bremen's Claudio Pizarro. So far this season, the two have combined for 26 goals. That's quite impressive. As long as both clubs bring their attacking boots, the match should be one of the most entertaining in the world this weekend.
We've seen Schalke coach Huub Stevens experiment with his squad trying to find the right "fit". Last week's match saw Jermaine Jones sitting deep as the only defensive midfielder with Jose Jurado and Lewis Holtby out wide. The biggest issue Schalke faces is defensively. Last week they went with Joel Matip and Kyriakos Papadopolous in central defense. They need to do whatever they can to get Benedikt Höwedes back to the center of defense to have a successful season.
Bremen's a good team. They aren't a great team. They need to figure out who they can count on to continuously play the ball up top to their forwards in dangerous positions. Right now, they don't have it. They're not close.
Bayern Munich vs Köln - Friday, December 16
Bayer Leverkusen vs Nürnberg - Saturday, December 17
Hamburg vs Augsburg
Freiburg vs Borussia Dortmund
1899 Hoffenheim vs Hertha Berlin
Wolfsburg vs Stuttgart
Schalke vs Werder Bremen
Kaiserslautern vs Hannover 96 - Sunday, December 18
Borussia Mönchengladbach vs Mainz