By Lehlohonolo Lehana.
There’s another action-packed Bundesliga weekend to enjoy on Matchday 16 as champions FC Bayern München look to bounce back from defeat, RB Leipzig seek to apply the pressure, Borussia Dortmund aim to cut the gap at the top, and FC Schalke 04 continue California Dreamin’ in their relegation battle.
FC Bayern München blew a 2-0 lead away at Borussia Mönchengladbach last Friday on Matchday 15, as their traditional rivals came back to win 3-2. Then on Wednesday evening, they were knocked out of the DFB Cup in just the second round by Holstein Kiel in sudden death penalties, marking only their fifth loss in any competition under Hansi Flick. The Bavarians will be focused on making amends in their next Bundesliga clash against SC Freiburg on Sunday. Robert Lewandowski has equalled Gerd Müller’s long-standing record of 20 goals after 15 matchdays and now faces a Freiburg side against whom he has 17 in 16 Bundesliga games. However, Christian Streich’s men are the form team in the league with five straight wins – including a 5-0 thrashing of 1. FC Köln last week – and will see no better chance at a first-ever win away at the record champions.
FC Bayern could well be off top spot by the time they kick off. Leipzig missed the chance to climb to the summit last week with their defeat at home to Dortmund, but have never lost back-to-back league games under Julian Nagelsmann and can this time apply early pressure when they head to VfL Wolfsburg. The Wolves, though, are yet to lose at home this season and are spearheaded by Wout Weghorst, whose 10 goals are more than all of Leipzig’s forwards combined.
At the same time, Dortmund will aim to make up ground at the top as well. Led by the fitagain Erling Haaland and resurgent Jadon Sancho, they were the only top-six team to win last weekend. They will fancy their chances of repeating the feat again on Matchday 16 at home to now bottom side 1. FSV Mainz 05. Things may not be so straightforward, though, as the 05ers have won two of their last three visits to the Signal Iduna Park.
The weekend also kicks off in style with a perhaps surprising top-five clash. 1. FC Union Berlin are unbeaten in five and haven’t lost to a team in the top half of the table this season. They welcome Bayer 04 Leverkusen to the capital, who are only four points off the top, but without a win in three and at risk of slipping off the pace after their 12-match unbeaten start.
A few days ago, the thought of Sunday, 17 January, would have filled Schalke fans with dread as the anniversary of their last Bundesliga victory. But those fears evaporated in California sunshine as Orange County native Matthew Hoppe’s hat-trick – the first by an American in the Bundesliga – ended the Royal Blues’ 30-match winless run and moved them off the foot of the table with a 4-0 victory over TSG Hoffenheim. Now only four points from safety, their goal is to ensure it wasn’t just a flash in the pan when they visit Eintracht Frankfurt, who are on a run of three straight wins and unbeaten at home this season.
Saturday’s late game sees Bayern’s conquerors Gladbach head south to VfB Stuttgart. Taking charge of his 50th Bundesliga game, coach Marco Rose will again lean on hero Jonas Hofmann, who has been involved in all four of the team’s goals in 2021. However, a slip could see the Foals overtaken by their hosts if Pellegrino Matarazzo’s promoted Stuttgart can claim a first home win of the season.
Elsewhere, 1. FC Köln are also seeking a first three points on home turf in 2020/21 when they host a Hertha Berlin side who have more wins in Cologne than any other city bar the capital; injury-ravaged Hoffenheim need Andrej Kramaric firing again if they’re to arrest their slide at home to DSC Arminia Bielefeld with only two points between them; and SV Werder Bremen can put some distance between themselves and the drop if they manage to snap a three-match losing run at home when they host FC Augsburg seeking a recordequalling third straight away win in the Bundesliga.