Fixtures in the Bundesliga do not now resume until the last weekend in January and as expected Bayern Munich lead the league table at the half-way stage of the season. Their 11 point gap to second placed Wolfsburg is a record after 17 matches and the reigning champions have conceded just four goals. A last minute winner by Arjen Robben at Mainz in the game before the Winter break merely confirmed that Bayern retain that ability to claim a victory when not performing at their full potential. At the opposite end of the table, it is a totally different story with several teams involved in a relegation tussle with one very surprising consider amongst the pack.
Borussia Dortmund won the Bundesliga title in 2012 and finished second in the following two campaigns but with the onset of the mid-season interval, they are currently 17th of 18 teams and it could have been much worse. Dortmund lost 2-1 at fellow strugglers Werder Bremen at the weekend and they have earned just four points away from home this term.
Had Freiburg beaten Hannover on Sunday evening, Dortmund would have dropped to the foot of the table and been cast adrift by two points. When Marc-Oliver Kempf added a second goal for Freiburg to claim a 2-0 lead with 10 minutes remaining, it appeared ominous for Jurgen Klopp’s team but perhaps the remaining minutes of that match offered a sign that Borussia Dortmund might yet escape their current predicament.
Within two minutes of Kempf’s goal, Hannover had reduced the arrears and lay siege to the home goal as the Freiburg supporters urged their team to victory. Several minutes into added time the ball landed at the feet of ‘keeper Roman Burki who just needed to clear the ball away from the danger area.
However, Burki inexplicably miss-kicked the ball straight to Hannover forward Jose Luis Sanmartin (Joselu) who was standing unmarked at the edge of the penalty area. He duly responded by despatching the ball into the Freiburg net to complete an unlikely comeback and secure a draw for the away team. As a result, Freiburg will occupy 18th position during the Winter break despite being level on points with Borussia Dortmund.
Dortmund will begin the second half of the campaign with a difficult fixture at Bayer Leverkusen and they will face an uneasy few months as they strive to secure their top flight status, but perhaps the events at Freiburg on Sunday evening offer an omen that fortune may eventually favour the team. Between now and the end of January, Dortmund will also be aware that they risk losing the services of both Marco Reus and Matts Hummels who are attracting the attention of other European clubs, although that possibility is unlikely to happen until the Summer transfer window.
When the Bundesliga resumes at the end of January, it may be a case of Bayern Munich strolling to another league title, but developments in the relegation zone may be far more interesting.