The Bundesliga will return to action after a long break with the table leaders Bayern Munich taking on Gladbach Friday night. Gladbach sits fourth and in the final Champions League qualifying position after a horrific season last year. However, the story down the stretch may be the defending champion Dortmund closing in on FCB. Dortmund opens up 2012 with Hamburger SV, who have gone unbeaten in the last eight.
There will be some new faces in the league as the second half kicks off. Ricardo Rodriguez joins Wolfsburg from Zurich. Chinedu Obasi flops from Hoffenheim to third place Schalke. Alexander Ring is the third player to move from HJK Helsinki to Deutschland as he joins Gladbach. Sandro Wieser becomes the first player from Lichtenstein in the Bundesliga joining Hoffenheim. Vieirinha also joins Wolfsburg, a very active team in January. The Lower Saxony team could see up to 20 changes with six new players being added in the first week of the month.
Wolfsburg sits in 12th position, six points back of a Europa League qualifying position. Many feel the top four could play leap frog down the stretch although there is still questions surrounding Borussia Monchengladbach. Those could be answered this Friday night. Gladbach did beat Bremen in a tune up match despite news that one of their biggest players, Marco Reus, would leave in the summer.
Dortmund finished 2011 very hot and showing why they raise the “plate” last year. They hope to continue the streak despite a third place finish in the Winter Cup warm up. The majority of the club is back healthy. Hertha BSC has also been impressive of late as last year’s Bundesliga 2 champions feature Brazilian midfielder Ronny. They won all three of their training matches.
Schalke, Bremen, and Hannover are all in the race for qualifying positions, but the outlook is not great. Schalke will be without the banned Jermaine Jones and Lewis Holtby. Bremen’s run up has been hot and cold with good performance on the pitch, but injury and other distractions off. The 96ers in Hannover could be dealing with four injuries to primary players.
The Red Devils of Kaiserslautern have failed to score all year and are almost certainly heading to relegation. Koln (Cologne) maybe there too as they are a one man show relying too heavily on Lukas Podolski. Leverkusen could be the most curious case of the second half as they conceded seven goals to two Dutch teams in the run up and are dealing with injuries up front.