Tuesday’s soccer news starts with the Bundesliga’s winter break. League games resume on January 7, with die Winterpause starting on December 19. Since the Bundesliga break takes in the opening week of the January transfer window, there’s the chance for some rebuilding between games that count. Unfortunately for the rest of the league, the team most likely to make major moves is regular Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich.
Bayern’s lead is nine points at the top of the table after 17 rounds. They entered the break on a five-game winning streak, a run of results better than any other team in the topflight. Message sent then, with the transfer rumor mill of your choice likely linking them with improving in January. Considering that the last time Bayern Munich didn’t lift the Bundesliga shield was in 2011-12, none of this is exactly surprising. Neither is Borussia Dortmund slotting in at 2nd.
It’s the rest of the top ten that’s interesting. 3rd-place Freiburg and 4th-place Bayer Leverkusen currently hold the rest of the Champions League spots. Last season, Freiburg finished 10th and Leverkusen was 6th. RB Leipzig has dropped from a 2nd-place finish to 10th in the table, but it’s worth noticing that they’re seven points back of 3rd-place. That’s how close the first-half of the season left things.
4th-place Leverkusen and 5th-place Hoffenheim are level on points with 28. Just behind them, Eintracht and Union Berlin each have 27. Should the season end this way, 7th-place Union Berlin would be out of the European spots with 6th-place Eintracht in the Europa Conference League.
What that suggests is the opportunity for a top-half shakeup with enough clubs in touching distance of two of the Champions League spots. That includes last season’s European finishers. Leipzig in 2nd meant Dortmund finishing 3rd a point behind. Wolfsburg took 4th with Eintracht and Bayer Leverkusen rounding out the top six. Just behind them was Union Berlin, missing out on Europe by two points in 7th-place.
At the other end of the table, Furth’s disastrous promotion season has them with little hope of finishing higher than their current 18th. Arminia Bielefeld is in 17th on 16 points and Stuttgart holding the playoff slot in 16th a point ahead of them. Both have realistic chances of improving with 15th-place and safety at 18 points and less than a win away. Augsburg holds that spot with Gladbach a point ahead of them in 14th. Gladbach finished 8th last season, another team trying to figure out what’s happening so far in 2021-22.
They’re certainly not alone. Up and down the table, there are unmet expectations and worrying dips in form. It’s not just RB Leipzig falling off the lead. Instead, it’s a Bundesliga table with plenty of questions to consider while waiting for the season to restart.
Lynden Gooch’s Sunderland shutout Doncaster Rovers 3-0 away in League One. Ross Stewart converted a 7th minute penalty and Elliot Embleton doubled the lead in the 41st. An own-goal finished off the scoring in the 50th minute.
“I thought we defended really well,” Sunderland manager Lee Johnson said. “Nice to have the clean sheet. Still areas of our game that I want to try to pick up and improve. But I suppose I can’t be too harsh or too critical from a 3-nil away win a couple of days after Christmas.”
WEDNESDAY’S SOCCER TV
Primeira Liga on GolTV: Famalicao vs Belenenses at 12pm, Vitoria Guimaraes vs Boavista at 2pm, and Sporting vs Portimonense at 4pm. Premier League on NBCSN: Brentford vs Manchester City at 3:15pm ET.
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Photo by Imago via ZUMA Press – ISIPhotos.com