Back from exotic training camps and leisurely runs on sun-kissed beaches, Germany's soccer stars get ready for the rough and tumble of the Bundesliga once more. The restart beckons and match day 18 is on the horizon.
DW's pundits wake from their sleep with new predictions
The winter break is over and for the Bundesliga's teams there are no excuses for wearing tights, gloves or the notorious 'snood' (a tubular neck scarf adopted by players who obviously don't run around enough to stay warm). It's back to business - which also goes for DW's team of soccer pundits. After a few weeks of going to sleep in front of the ski-jumping, we're back with the predictions for the opening games of 2011. Hopefully the visions we received during our own hibernation will prove accurate.
Friday, Jan. 14
Leverkusen – Dortmund
Juergen Klopp and his Dortmund team must have had the most relaxed winter breaks out of all the Bundesliga teams. Ten points clear at the top is a very plump cushion to be sat on. One expects that Klopp will not have let his team get too comfortable, however, and with a trip to third placed Leverkusen as their first game of 2011, BVB should be ready for a stern test of their character. It should be business at usual but if Dortmund's concentration isn't sharp from the word go, that cushion could rapidly lose some stuffing.
Prediction: Dortmund 2-1
Saturday, Jan 15
Bremen – Hoffenheim
Werder are in need of some team spirit - and three points
Four points off the relegation places, Bremen's season has been a stinker so far. Thomas Schaaf's team should have spent the winter break taking a long, hard look at not just their performances but their attitude. For Bremen's sake, the pause should have been one for reflection. Hoffenheim have also had much to think about, with a new coach coming in just before the break and their early season form continuing to dissipate. If Bremen have discovered their fighting spirit, it could be very tough indeed for Marco Pezzaiuoli and his side. But – it's a big ‘if'.
Prediction: Draw 2-2
Stuttgart have struggled to escape the pull of relegation despite a smattering of results in their favor and the efforts of three coaches. Mostly, though, it's been one disaster after another. The problems at VfB are too engrained to have been solved during one winter break and with Mainz proving they're no flash in the pan at the opposite end of the table, Stuttgart are not favorites for the points going into this one. Mainz have proved resilient despite losing six games, a total which could have destroyed the confidence of lesser sides. They're still in the mix and are odds-on to begin 2011 with a win.
Prediction: Mainz 3-1
Wolfsburg – Bayern
Robben is in line for his first start of the season after injury
Edin who? A Dzeko-less era begins on Saturday for Wolfsburg and what better way for the rest of the side to step up and prove they weren't a one man team than a clash with Bayern Munich. Now all the speculation is over, it's up to players like Grafite and Diego to take center-stage. But grabbing the headlines may be a little difficult if Arjen Robben is deemed fit to start his first game of the season – and with Franck Ribery pledging to put his nightmare 2010 behind him, the Wolves will have their work cut out to start this new era with three points.
Prediction: Bayern 3-0
Nuremberg – Gladbach
Gladbach were by far the worst team of the first half of the season and with such stiff competition coming from Cologne and Stuttgart, that's no mean feat. What would be a mean feat is for the bottom club to get anything out of a trip to Nuremberg this weekend. Rather than galvanizing themselves for an improbable escape act, it's more likely Gladbach are dreading getting back on the field. It could've been worse though – they might have had to face a good team. Nuremberg, one of the league's average ones, will still turn them over.
Prediction: Nuremberg 2-0
St. Pauli – Freiburg
Freiburg's Papiss Cisse could heap more misery on Pauli
St. Pauli have been sliding towards the drop zone after a month of heady expectation saw them troubling the top half of the league. They now sit perilously above the bottom three with only two points separating them from Cologne. When you're in need of valuable points to haul yourselves out of trouble, it's probably not the best start to begin the New Year against a team which is reveling in its overachievement. Freiburg put the brakes on a slight drift of their own before the break and may have the momentum and confidence to add to Pauli's woes.
Prediction: Freiburg 1-0
Schalke – Hamburg
A tasty clash even if their league form and positions mean that it's really just a matter of pride. Schalke have left the shackles of the relegation zone behind but still face an uphill struggle to make it into the European places while Hamburg's inconsistency suggests that they'll hover around their current ninth place for the rest of the season, one place above their opponents. Schalke went into the break on the back of three straight wins while Hamburg lost two and won one. A season of mediocrity beckons for both but the spoils of this game between two potentially attractive sides could still provide an explosive encounter.
Prediction: Schalke 4-2
Sunday, Jan. 16
Frankfurt – Hanover
Hannover have been enjoying themselves so far this season
Much has been said and written about Hanover's form in the first half of the season but to see them in fourth is still something of a pleasant surprise. Marked for relegation before the start, Mirko Slomka's team was on a run of five straight wins until they slipped up at Nuremberg just before the break. Frankfurt appear to have enjoyed their best run of the season in the early weeks but have still managed to grab vital wins in between dark periods without points to keep them safely in mid-table. They may have to wait for their first of 2011, however.
Prediction: Hanover 3-1
Kaiserslautern – Cologne
Kaiserslautern signed off before the break with an away win over Werder Bremen but their most impressive result of December – if not the season – was the 5-0 thrashing of Schalke. This win suggested that when everything comes together, Kaiserslautern can match the supposed big boys of the Bundesliga, as Bayern also found out to their detriment earlier in the campaign. If only they didn't keep coming unstuck against the minnows…Cologne can be classed as such and therefore could prove problematic but with only four wins to their name, Kaiserslautern should ease past Frank Schaefer's team
Prediction: Kaiserslautern 1-0
Last week's results: 7 points
Total for the season: 73
Gladbach – Hamburg 1-2 (DW Prediction: 2-1)
Schalke – Cologne 3-0 (DW Prediction: 4-1)
Bremen – Kaiserslautern 1-2 (DW Prediction: 2-0)
Wolfsburg – Hoffenheim 2-2 (DW Prediction: 1-2)
Frankfurt – Dortmund 1-0 (DW Prediction: 1-0)
Nuremberg – Hannover 3-1 (DW Prediction: 0-1)
St. Pauli – Mainz 2-4 (DW Prediction: 1-3)
Leverkusen – Freiburg 2-2 (DW Prediction: 3-2)
Stuttgart – Bayern 3-5 (DW Prediction: 2-1)
Three points for a correct score prediction
Two points for a correct margin prediction
One point for a correct winner prediction
Author: Nick Amies
Editor: Rob Turner