Oh. Hey. I'm back after a brief-yet-extended vacation. What's that? Yes, Bayern Munich did extend their lead atop the table to 12 points, and Borussia Dortmund did leapfrog Bayer Leverkusen into second place. Elsewhere, Eintracht Frankfurt have put a healthy total between themselves and Mainz for the fourth and final Champions League spot. Will the promoted side hang on and make it to elite European football in the fall?
Saturday, February 9
Hannover vs Hoffenheim - 15:30 CET / 9:30 AM ET
With captain and starting right back Steve Cherundolo out for a few weeks following arthroscopic knee surgery, Hannover plays host to a Hoffenheim side that's coming off a big win over Freiburg. Szabolcs Huszti and Mame Biram Diouf have been the Hannover offense this season, and rumors have popped up this week linking the Senegalese forward with a move to Borussia Dortmund. Since recovering from an injury at the beginning of the season, Diouf has gone on a tear with eight goals. The key guy for Hoffenheim is going to be midfielder Kevin Volland. After an excellent season on loan at 1860 Munich, the 20 year old returned to Hoffenheim and has put on an excellent shift. With seven assists and a goal to his name, it's easy to see why Volland is highly thought of in the Bundesliga.
Prediction: Hannover 2 - 1 Hoffenheim
Borussia Dortmund vs Hamburg - 15:30 CET / 9:30 AM ET
Borussia Dortmund have been flying since returning from the winter break with three wins from three matches. They've outscored their opponents 11 to 2 in those matches. While Hamburg are currently comfortable midtable, it's tough to see how they can come away from Westfalenstadion with a victory. It doesn't seem like you can stop Marco Reus, Mario Götze, Jakub Blaszczykowski, and Robert Lewandowski. Hamburg's midfield will need to put pressure on the ball often to keep BVB's attack from running at them full sprint.
Prediction: Borussia Dortmund 3 - 1 Hamburg
Borussia Mönchengladbach vs Bayer Leverkusen - 15:30 CET / 9:30 AM ET
After only taking one point out of their last two matches, Bayer Leverkusen has dropped into third place in the table. Stefan Kießling has pounded in thirteen goals this season and sits second in the goalscoring charts behind Bayern Munich's Mario Mandzukic. Sami Hyypiä and Sasha Lewandowski have steered the ship impressively this season, but Saturday's match against Borussia Mönchengladbach is an important one. Failure to take all three points in this match, and they could find themselves in fourth place at the end of the day. Gladbach can pull themselves into a European place with a win this weekend. They'll need a good performance from the front four of Juan Arango, Luuk de Jong, Patrick Herrmann, and Thorben Marx.
Prediction: Borussia Mönchengladbach 1 - 2 Bayer Leverkusen
Greuther Fürth vs Wolfsburg - 15:30 CET / 9:30 AM ET
Greuther Fürth were on the receiving ends of lopsided matches against Bayern Munich and Mainz before traveling to Schalke last weekend. They shocked us all when they added to Schalke's misery with a 2-1 victory. Can they repeat that again versus Wolfsburg or will they fall back into the trap that has ensnared them all season long? The Wolves have been struggling again this season, and it remains to be seen if Dieter Hecking will find a way to move them up to midtable safety in the next few weeks. Since transferring into the club in January, Ivan Perisic has performed well. Being allowed the freedom and time on the pitch that wasn't afforded to him at Borussia Dortmund, the Croatian has two goals to his name and will be a significant piece for the club moving forward.
Prediction: Greuther Fürth 0 - 2 Wolfsburg
Stuttgart vs Werder Bremen - 15:30 CET / 9:30 AM ET
The new year hasn't been kind to Stuttgart. The Swabians have lost all three matches since the winter break ended, and they've fallen to twelfth in the table. Remarkably, scoring has been really difficult for Stuttgart so far this season. They brought in Federico Macheda in on loan from Manchester United to try and boost their attack. Werder Bremen returned from the break and were on the wrong end of a 5-0 beating at the hands of Borussia Dortmund. They followed it up with a 3-2 loss to Hamburg before finally rebounding last week. They beat Hannover 2-0 on a brace from Nils Petersen who's really come into his own at Bremen this season.
Prediction: Stuttgart 1 - 1 Werder Bremen
Eintracht Frankfurt vs Nürnberg - 15:30 CET / 9:30 AM ET
Eintracht Frankfurt are still riding high heading into Matchday 21 and sit in fourth place, six points ahead of fifth place Mainz. Manager Armin Veh has found all the right strings to pull this season. This was shown again by the brilliant move to bring in Srdjan Lakic on loan from Wolfsburg. The Croatian scored twice in his debut last weekend. Nürnberg are still floating perilously close to the relegation zone at this time. Der Club recovered from a beating at the hands of Borussia Dortmund to edge Borussia Mönchengladbach and put a little more distance between themselves and the relegation zone.
Prediction: Eintracht Frankfurt 2 - 1 Nürnberg
Bayern Munich vs Schalke - 18:30 CET / 12:30 PM ET
The leaders will welcome struggling Schalke to the Allianz Arena in Saturday's showcase match. Bayern Munich are currently on an eleven match unbeaten run and sit a remarkable twelve points clear at the top of the table. Mario Mandzukic pushed himself back to the top of the goalscoring charts last week in Bayern's victory over Mainz. The Croatian has now surpassed his tally from last season. Schalke have been struggling. Actually, struggling might not be a strong enough term. Schalke have managed only one win in their last nine matches, and that came in a wild 5-4 win over Hannover. They'll be without Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Ciprian Marica, and Christian Fuchs for this match. There is also the possibility that they will be without Julian Draxler. The midfielder came back from the international break with an illness. Uh oh, Schalke. Uh oh.
Prediction: Bayern Munich 3 - 0 Schalke
Sunday, February 10
Augsburg vs Mainz - 15:30 CET / 9:30 AM ET
Augsburg are unbeaten since returning from the winter break and will try to keep the run alive when Mainz visits on Sunday. Markus Weinzierl looked like a prime candidate for the sack throughout the first half of the season, but his side looks like their putting things together. They're now only two points away from getting out of the automatic relegation places. While getting Jan Moravek on loan from Schalke in January is big for the club, a healthy Sasha Mölders gives them huge confidence moving forward. Mainz will be relying on Adam Szalai as they have for a large portion of this season. The Hungarian has been instrumental in Mainz's success with timely goals.
Prediction: Augsburg 0 - 1 Mainz
Freiburg vs Fortuna Düsseldorf - 17:30 CET / 11:30 AM ET
After an impressive first half of the season, Freiburg hasn't managed to win in the three matches since the winter break. Last weekend's loss to Hoffenheim will be disappointing to Christian Streich but beating Fortuna Düsseldorf will be an easier proposition. Düsseldorf is coming off a huge 3-1 win over Stuttgart and will keep counting on Socceroo Robbie Kruse to perform at the level he currently is.
Prediction: Freiburg 2 - 1 Fortuna Düsseldorf