Bundesliga matchday 18 preview: And we’re back!


We are back from Winter Break and it’s time for the Ruckrunde. The English Premier League may for all intents and purposes be decided already, but there is a lot to decide in Germany. Welcome to Matchday 18 (All times CT).

Julian Nagelsmann and RB Leipzing leads the table as we head into the second half of the season with Borussia Mönchengladbach in second, two points back.

Bayern are in third, followed by Borussia Dortmund and Schalke.


Weston McKinnie rermains sidelined until February with a shoulder injury. Also missing are Alexander Nubel (suspension), Salif Sane (knee), and Benjamin Stambouli (fractured metatarsal). Amine Harit leads Schalke with six goals and four assists, but is without a goal in his last five matches. 

Much like Schalke has been revitalized under David Wagner, Marco Rose has revitalized the Foals. After finishing their best Hinrunde in 43 years, Gladbach is hoping that they will avoid a similar fade like last season. Their strikers have 22 goals to their name compared to Schalke’s seven. They also have the joint-best defense in the league allowing just 18 goals so far. 

FC AUGSBURG vs. BORUSSIA DORTMUND (Saturday at 8:30am, FS1)

Augsburg started the season with just one win in their first ten, but ended the Hinrunde with five wins from their last seven. As a result, they are tenth and five points out of the top six. Florian Niederlechner leads Augsburg with eight goals and six assists.

New signing Erling Haaland could debut for Dortmund on Saturday. Haaland joins BVB from Red Bull Salzburg. BVB looks deep in attack with Marco Reus, Paco Alcacer, Mario Götze, and Jadon Sancho. The last of that list was nominated for December Player of the Month for his form before the Winter Break. 


Hoffenheim begin the Ruckrunde a point outside the top six. However, they will be without goalkeeper Oliver Baumann for at least a month after suffering meniscal damage in winter training camp. Philipp Pentke will deputize in goal. Augsburg actually have a better return from the first half (27 points) than they did in the last two seasons under Julian Nagelsmann (25 & 26).

Frankfurt starts the Ruckrunde in 13th place after lack of consistent play and injuries to players such as Daichi Kamade and Gelson Fernandes among others. However, this is usually the time that Andrej Kramaric turns things on. He has scored 38 of his 55 Bundesliga goals in the second half of the season. 

MAINZ vs. SC FREIBURG (Saturday at 8:30am, Fox Soccer Plus)

Ji Dong-won might make his debut with Mainz after missing the entire first half of the season due to a knee injury. Jean-Philippe Mateta may make his first start for Mainz after a similar injury. Edimilson Fernandes is out for similar reasons. 

Freiburg spent a majority of the Hinrunde in the top six, but a three-match winless streak dropped them to eighth. Luca Waldschmidt is back to full fitness and is expected to feature to get Freiburg back up the table. They are just two points out of sixth. 

FORTUNA DUSSELDORF vs. WERDER BREMEN (Saturday at 8:30am, Fox Soccer Matchpass)

Fortuna ended a six-match winless streak on matchday 17 that got them above Bremen and above the automatic trap door. Steven Skrzybski could debut for Fortuna coming in on loan from Schalke over the break. 

The Green-Whites have lost four on the bounce and are in the automatic relegation zone as a result. A win will get them back past Fortuna. They will get help in the form of Kevin Vogt who comes in on loan from Hoffenheim. Josh Sargent could make a start after an impressive winter break. 

FC COLOGNE vs. WOLFSBURG (Saturday at 8:30am, Fox Soccer Matchpass)

On the topic of loan signings still, Mark Uth is now with the Billy Goats on loan from Schalke. The Goats ended the Hinrunde with three straight wins and that has got them two points clear of the danger zone. Jhon Cordoba has four goals in his last six matches. Uth will look to help Cordoba boost the league’s third-worst attack on just 19 goals. 

Wolfsburg have the joint-best defence conceding just 18 goals. But they also have the joint-worst offence scoring just 18 goals. Wout Weghorst leads the Wolves with seven goals, but is goalless in his last four. The Wolves have also won just once in their last five. 

RB LEIPZIG vs. UNION BERLIN (Saturday at 11:30am, FS2)

Leipzig are on an eight-match unbeaten run in the league. During that run, they scored 31 goals including scoring at least three goals in each of those eight matches which is a Bundesliga first. Timo Werner has 18 goals which is as many as Wolfsburg and Fortuna have scored each as teams. 

HERTHA BERLIN vs. BAYERN MUNICH (Sunday at 8:30am, FS1)

Jurgen Klinsmann has ambitions for Berlin to become a “superclub”. He faces one of his former teams that he both played and managed for in Bayern. Hertha won their last three in the league and are four points clear of the danger zone entering the second half of the season. New signing Santiago Ascacibar could go straight into central defence. 

Robert Lewandowski took the winter break to have a minor operation on his groin and is expected to feature for the seven-time defending champs. He leads the Bundesliga with 19 goals which is one more than two teams have as a whole. Joshua Kimmich is suspended, so the back four from left to right will likely be Alphonso Davies, Jerome Boateng, David Alaba, and Benjamin Pavard. Thomas Muller, Philippe Coutinho, and Ivan Perisic could line in behind Lewandowski.


Paderborn gave themselves hope with a win over Frankfurt to end the Hinrunde. They are still five points adrift from total safety, though, as they entertain Leverkusen. Dennis Srbeny is back with the club after a loan spell at Norwich City. 

Die Werkself start the Ruckrunde in sixth, but will also start with Leon Bailey, Wendell, and new signing Exequiel Palacios suspended. Expect Kevin Volland, Lucas Alario, and Kai Havertz to take on the attacking load. 


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