Bundesliga wrap: Can Hyypia’s Leverkusen upset Ribery’s Bayern?

Bundesliga wrap: Barrie White reflects on the German top-flight season so far ahead of its return on 24 January

Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles
sami hyypia
Bayer Leverkusen manager Sami Hyypia Photo: Football.ua, via Wikimedia

The Winter ‘holiday’

It may be called a winter break, but the Bundesliga is more like a holiday. The league shuts down after match day 17 on 22 December and doesn’t pick up again until the 24th – a whole month away. Having four less league games a season helps with this, having only 18 team instead of 20 – something the Premier League promised to do a long, long time ago. Nearly every team has travelled to warmer climes, and some have taken the opportunity to win new fans as Stuttgart visited South Africa while HSV travelled to Indonesia. Bayern and Schalke did Qatar, and Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund travelled to Spain. They promise the batteries are charged.

He really is a bit special you know

Take everything else around – the impending court cases, the unfair jokes about his looks – and just marvel at the genius of Franck Ribéry. The Frenchman has been at the centre of guiding Bayern to the winter championship, and interestingly, the Bavarians have won the last 51 of the games the 30-year-old has scored in. He missed Bayern’s last action against HSV, and it showed. The champions looked disjointed and lacked a spark. Many won’t give Ribéry more than an outsider’s chance of being crowned the best in the world when the Ballon d’Or votes are tallied on Monday, but you will struggle to find anyone inside Germany – Munich fans or not – who would vote against him. If he can stay fit and not distracted by non-footballing issues, Ribéry, who has six Bundesliga goals this term, may just be a star of this summer’s World Cup.

Klopp’s men cannot be ruled out

It’s hard to write a Bundesliga piece nowadays without using the following two words: hipster and Klopp. Currently, Dortmund are fourth in the table, and if the league finished now, they would have to qualify for the Champions League. Of course, there are still 17 games to go, and nobody in their right mind would rule out BVB making a surge up the table in the second half of the season. Despite consecutive home league defeats, including a 3-0 reverse in Das Klassiker, and a shock 2-1 defeat by Hertha Berlin before the break, Klopp’s men are in the last 16 of the Champions League, and more importantly, are seeing the return of important figures, such as Manchester United target İlkay Gündoğan and former Liverpool midfielder Nuri Sahin, while with the news Neven Subotić is healing better than thought, Dortmund are dangerously placed to challenge.

Dark horses

It’s strange to suggest a team second in the league are dark horses, but Bayer Leverkusen seem that. Graeme Souness was rather uncomplimentary to Sami Hyypiä’s ‘Werkself’ after they were on the end of a rare moment of joy for David Moyes’s Manchester United in the Champions League, but that was an off-day for Leverkusen. If it were not for coming unstuck 1-0 at lowly Eintracht Braunschweig, Hyypiä’s side would have taken more momentum into their other campaigns. However, after a superb backs-to-the-wall defensive effort against Dortmund brought them all three points, there were back-to-back losses before the break against Eintracht Frankfurt and Werder Bremen respectively, and it will be interesting to see how the squad cope with the news, although expected, German international Sidney Sam will be heading to Schalke in the summer. The Werkself are ten points behind Munich, but that’s not their fight. Keeping BVB off their tail is.

MORE: Arsenal, Chelsea, Man United and Liverpool stars among players out of contract in 2018

MORE: Seven reasons why Chelsea must keep Cesc Fabregas

MORE: Do you know the top Muslim footballers in the Premier League?

MORE: Back to The Sport Review homepage

MORE: Man United latest news

MORE: Arsenal latest news

MORE: Chelsea latest news

MORE: Liverpool latest news

The Sport Review
Top 50 most stylish footballers in the world in 2017: Arsenal, Man United, Chelsea, Liverpool stars feature
The Sport Review
Top 25 Muslim football players in Premier League: Arsenal, Liverpool, Man United and Chelsea stars feature
The Sport Review
Arsenal WAGs 2017: Meet Granit Xhaka, Shkodran Mustafi and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s wives and girlfriends
The Sport Review
Roberto Firmino: 25 photos of the Liverpool forward’s stunning wife
The Sport Review
Top 40 Muslim footballers: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Man United stars feature
The Sport Review
Arsenal, Chelsea, Man United and Liverpool stars among 16 players out of contract in 2018
The Sport Review
London’s O2 remains host for World Tour finals until 2020
The Sport Review
Jose Mourinho explains his Europa League final celebration to Man United fans
The Sport Review
French Open 2017 essentials: Champions, finalists, schedules and some key numbers