Bundesliga 2012, Week 17 preview and fixtures: Last week before the winter break

Thorsten Wagner

The Bundesliga returns this weekend for the last round of matches before the clubs take a month off for the winter break.

Sigh. This weekend marks the end of the Bundesliga 2012. With the upcoming winter break, the Bundesliga won't return until January 18. Can we last five weeks without the Bundesliga? I don't know. We'll try. However, before the dreaded month that is the winter break, we do have a full slate of matches this weekend!

Friday, December 14

Bayern Munich vs Borussia Mönchengladbach - 20:30 CET / 2:30 PM ET

One of the country's most historic encounters takes place this weekend as league leaders Bayern Munich host Borussia Mönchengladbach. The Bavarians have established an eleven point lead atop the Bundesliga table. A win on friday against Gladbach would put enormous pressure on second place Bayer Leverkusen to take all three points Saturday afternoon against Hamburg. Gladbach beat Bayern in both matches last season but will be happy if they're able to steal one point this week. They're unbeaten in four, and the defense is playing much better in recent weeks. Bayern are just too strong.
Prediction: Bayern Munich 2 - 0 Borussia Mönchengladbach

Saturday, December 15

Bayer Leverkusen vs Hamburg - 15:30 CET / 9:30 AM ET

If results go their way this weekend, Bayer Leverkusen could find themselves eight points behind Bayern. However, they could be as far as fourteen back if they lose to a determined Hamburg side on Saturday. Leverkusen lost to Hannover last weekend after four straight victories that saw them surge into second place. Stefan Kießling has been in incredible form for the last twelve months, and he's currently leading the league in scoring. The more remarkable story in the last three weeks has been the play of Hamburg without Rafael Van der Vaart. Since the Dutch playmaker has been out, they picked up seven out of nine points. That includes one match without Heung-Min Son and one without Maximilian Beister. What is going on here? I'll tell you. Thorsten Fink has figured out this defense. Unfortunately for Hamburg, Leverkusen has figured out this goal scoring thing.
Prediction: Bayer Leverkusen 2 - 1 Hamburg

Wolfsburg vs Eintracht Frankfurt - 15:30 CET / 9:30 AM ET

It appeared that Wolfsburg were going to get things turned around after Felix Magath's firing, and results have been pretty positive in recent weeks. They have only lost once in the last six matches, and that includes two wins over Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund. Bas Dost has come alive for them with four goals during that stretch. The big surprise this season has been the great play of Eintracht Frankfurt. They were relegated from the Bundesliga two years ago with 34 points, and they're already on 27 points this season. Their "balls to the wall" style under Armin Veh has been incredibly fun to watch. Alexander Meier and Stefan Aigner are knocking in goals to make up for the lack of competent forward play from Olivier Occean and others. Frankfurt could be in trouble in the second half of the season if the goals dry up at any point, because they're conceding just as often as they're scoring.
Prediction: Wolfsburg 1 - 2 Eintracht Frankfurt

Mainz vs Stuttgart - 15:30 CET / 9:30 AM ET

Mainz will host Stuttgart in what could secretly be the match of the weekend. Stuttgart have put together a nice little run with three straight wins, but those are against awful Augsburg, awful Greuther Fürth, and struggling Schalke. Vedad Ibisevic has come up huge in those games with four goals including a hat trick against Schalke. The Bosnian is going to cause problems for the Mainz backline.
Prediction: Mainz 1 - 2 Stuttgart

Greuther Fürth vs Augsburg - 15:30 CET / 9:30 AM ET

I have absolutely no idea why I'm picking goals in this game. Both teams are on eight points and a full ten behind 15th place Fortuna Düsseldorf. Is there any chance that either of these teams aren't the two relegated at the end of the season?
Prediction: Greuther Fürth 1 -1 Augsburg

Fortuna Düsseldorf vs Hannover - 15:30 CET / 9:30 AM ET

Fortuna Düsseldorf took seven out of their last twelve points and thought they were going to move up the table a little bit. Well, everyone else around them had the same idea. They remain in 15th place but have put six points between themselves and the relegation playoff position and ten points between themselves and the direct relegation places. Hannover has been up and down this season, and they ended Bayer Leverkusen's winning streak last weekend. Szabolcs Huszti performed well in the midfield and remains a key component if they're to win this weekend.
Prediction: Fortuna Düsseldorf 1 - 2 Hannover

Schalke vs Freiburg - 18:30 CET / 12:30 PM ET

Make no mistake about it: Schalke has been awful in recent weeks. They've only managed to take two points out of a possible fifteen and have fallen sixteen points behind Bayern Munich in the title race. Things quickly got out of hand. It's not just in one area of the pitch either. Schalke has just been awful everywhere. For that reason, I think they'll rebound and beat Freiburg this weekend. Schalke need the three points to keep pace with the Champions League positions going into the winter break, and they'll get them.
Prediction: Schalke 2 - 0 Freiburg

Sunday, December 16

Hoffenheim vs Borussia Dortmund - 15:30 CET / 9:30 AM ET

Borussia Dortmund are angry about last weekend's result that didn't go their way. A questionable red card was shown to Marcel Schmelzer, and BVB lost 2-3 to Wolfsburg. I expect that we'll see BVB come out and bombard the Hoffenheim goal with shot after shot. Seriously, this won't be close as a contest.
Prediction: Hoffenheim 0 - 3 Borussia Dortmund

Werder Bremen vs Nürnberg - 17:30 CET / 11:30 AM ET

I like everything about Werder Bremen except for their defense. The play of the Bremen front players has been tremendous so far this year. The goals and assists have been pouring out of Nils Petersen, Marko Arnautovic, Kevin De Bruyne, and Aaron Hunt. The issues have been defensively with only two sides conceding more goals so far this season. If Thomas Schaaf can figure out the defense, they'll be a formidable side.
Prediction: Werder Bremen 2 - 1 Nürnberg

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