I am not a Bayern Munich hater. Far from it. I actually think they're going to win the Champions League this season, and I'll enjoy watching them do it, because I like their style of football and ownership more than any of the English teams, Spain's big two or Juventus. But seriously, would it hurt you guys to screw up for a few weeks?
Bayer Leverkusen found their form just before the winter break and came back from the Bundesliga's time off with a comfortable 3-1 win last weekend. Bayern's two draws in their last four games have allowed Bayer to close the gap to single-digits. Bayer Leverkusen are, incredibly, doing this without Andre Schürrle in his best form, without Junior Fernandes finding his stride and without an extended run of health from Sidney Sam. They're nowhere near their ceiling.
But still, nine points is a lot to make up. They're not going to do it unless Bayern start screwing up, which they shouldn't do because they have such a well-balanced squad with basically no weaknesses. So, Bayer is going to need for them to incur some injuries and/or bad luck, and no one wants to wish injury on anyone. Can we get some crazy deflected own goals flying past Manuel Neuer, please?
Stuttgart are Bayern's hosts this weekend, and they're generally pretty poor away from home. However, they have notched wins in two of their last five road matches, against Greuther Fürth and Borussia Mönchengladbach. They've been downright poor in their last two road games, though, including last week's loss to a very average Wolfsburg team. If Bayern's going to slip up, it's probably not going to come in this match.
Meanwhile, Bayer go away to over-performing Freiburg, who have been money this winter against everyone not named Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. The visitors are going to have to be excellent to pick up all three points.
Oh. Crap. At the end of this week, Bayern Munich will probably have an 11- or 12-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga, and the title will be wrapped up before February hits. Thanks, Bayern.
In other action, Hamburg SV take on Werder Bremen in a northern derby that's way less cool than it used to be. Hamburg's young players and manager have them on an excellent long-term path to sustainable success, however, and Werder can't possibly be as poor as their form. This has the potential to be a good match, but it's lost its luster in recent years.
Expect Borussia Dortmund, Eintracht Frankfurt and Schalke to all pick up wins and hold their positions in their battle for Champions League places. Schalke broke out of their slump with a thrilling 5-4 win over Hannover last week, and should beat relegation-battlers Augsburg. Frankfurt and Dortmund are at home against relegation battlers as well.
Schedule (all times ET)
Borussia Dortmund vs. Nürnburg - Friday, 2:30 p.m.
Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Fortuna Düsseldorf - Saturday, 9:30 a.m.
Hannover 96 vs. Wolfsburg - Saturday, 9:30 a.m.
Augsburg vs. Schalke 04 - Saturday, 9:30 a.m.
Greuther Fürth vs. Mainz 05 - Saturday, 9:30 a.m.
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Hoffenheim - Saturday, 9:30 a.m.
Freiburg vs. Bayer Leverkusen - Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
Hamburg SV vs. Werder Bremen - Sunday, 9:30 a.m.
Stuttgart vs. Bayern Munich - Sunday, 11:30 a.m.