With Bayern away, others have opportunity to shine
Posted Saturday, December 21 2013 at 02:00
Bayern Munich attacker Franck Ribery has been named the 2013 Bundesliga Player of the Year following his fine performances in the past 12 months.
With Bayern Munich competing for the FIFA Club World Cup on Saturday, the rest of the Bundesliga has the chance to steal some of the limelight for themselves this weekend.
Bayern will play their scheduled game at Stuttgart on January 29, allowing their nearest challengers to reduce the arrears at the top of the table.
However, given the results from last weekend, Bayern will nevertheless go into the winter break with a sizeable advantage of at least four points, and confident of defending their title.
“We have a seven-point cushion and that is something we can smile about,” said Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
“There are still 18 games to go and, so long as it is not mathematically certain, then we won’t be celebrating or taking any compliments.
“We will continue to work without any arrogance, and the coach and his team have managed that rather well so far.”
Bayer Leverkusen are Bayern’s nearest rivals and they end 2013 with a trip to Werder Bremen while Borussia Dortmund, who are a further five points back, need to “turn the corner and put a winning streak together as soon as possible,” according to forward Robert Lewandowski.
They can begin that streak at home to Hertha Berlin on Saturday, otherwise Borussia Monchengladbach could break into the top three with a win over Wolfsburg in the only fixture being played on Sunday.
Defeat for the Foals, however, could see them relinquish fourth spot to their opponents.
Sixth place belongs to Schalke and if that is not the case come Saturday night, their coach Jens Keller could find himself out of work going into the new year. Already out of the DFB-Pokal, he is under pressure to deliver three points against winless Nurnberg on Saturday to keep him in a job, with the club reported to be sounding out former Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf about replacing him.
At the foot of the table, Eintracht Frankfurt will be looking to move further clear of the bottom three with victory over Augsburg on Friday night while Freiburg host Hannover, who are falling even closer to the danger zone.
Eintracht Braunschweig are also desperately in need of a win against Hoffenheim while Hamburg risk being dragged into danger if they cannot get the better of Mainz.
Meanwhile Bayern Munich right-back Rafinha has signed a contract extension to keep him at the club until 2017.
The 28-year-old’s existing deal was due to expire at the end of next season.
But a post on Bayern’s official Twitter feed read: “Official: Rafinha (28) just extended his contract with FCB by 3 years to 2017!”
The Brazilian, who was signed from Genoa in 2011, has made 24 appearances in all competitions for Bayern this season. He featured 17 times, scoring twice, in their treble-winning 2012-13 campaign.