German powerhouse Bayern Munich will have to wait until the new year to continue their impressive Bundesliga reign. But while the defending champions and league leaders will be missed in the final weekend before the winter break, there will be plenty of intriguing Week 17 matchups for fans to enjoy.
Sunday's showdown between Borussia Monchengladbach and Wolfsburg will headline Matchday 17's loaded slate, as fourth-place Die Fohlen look to remain ahead of Die Wolfe in the league table.
With only one match in the books and seven more on tap for the weekend, here’s a look at how things stand in the Bundesliga:
|Eintracht Frankfurt||1-1||FC Augsburg|
|Borussia Dortmund||1-2||Hertha Berlin|
|SC Freiburg||2-1||Hannover 96|
|TSV Eintracht Braunschweig||1-0||TSG Hoffenheim|
|Werder Bremen||1-0||Bayer Leverkusen|
|Borussia Monchengladbach||2-2||VfL Wolfsburg|
Matchday 17 action got off to a competitive start on Friday as Eintracht Frankfurt and Augsburg played to a 1-1 draw at Commerzbank-Arena.
Raul Bobadilla was the early hero for Augsburg, breaking the scoreless deadlock with a shot to the bottom right corner in the 33rd minute. However, Jan Rosenthal would equalize for Die Adler in the 42nd minute, firing a gorgeous shot past Marwin Hitz and into the top corner of the goal.
Sebastian Rode and Pirmin Schwegler would pick up yellow cards late for Frankfurt, but goal-scoring chances proved limited and defense prevailed for both sides, as Die Adler were forced to settle for their sixth league draw of the season.
As football commentator Derek Rae points out, the draw is a historic one for Frankfurt:
Frankfurt have never gone an entire first half of season without a home Bundesliga win. Fail to beat Augsburg and they will make history.— Derek Rae (@RaeComm) December 20, 2013
Saturday's slate will feature six matches, five of which will be played simultaneously, starting at 9:30 a.m. ET (2:30 p.m. GMT). Saturday's final matchup will pit struggling Nurnberg up against Schalke, with kickoff scheduled for 12:30 p.m. ET (5:30 p.m. GMT).
One of Saturday's best matches is sure to be Borussia Dortmund vs. Hertha Berlin. The 2012-13 Champions League runners-up are currently third in the league table and can further distance themselves from Berlin with an 11th win in Week 17.
This matchup will also offer fans an opportunity to watch one of the league's top talents in Robert Lewandowski. The 25-year-old Dortmund star was shutout of Dec. 14's draw with TSG Hoffenheim but leads all Bundesliga scorers with 11 goals and four assists through 16 games.
Based on recent comments from the Pole, it's clear Lewandowski isn't satisfied with his club's play and will bring a healthy dose of intensity to Saturday's match against Hertha, per ESPN FC's Stephan Uersfeld:
We all know we need to start winning again. We want to start against Hertha. We must really get going in the second part of the season and reduce the gap to Leverkusen and Bayern. We are not allowed to drop any more points.
Despite my 11 goals, I could have scored many more. That’s why I am not satisfied. But that’s not only my problem—that applies to the whole team. We did not drop that many points because we played badly, but because we were too wasteful in front of goal. That’s annoying.
Dortmund, who finished second in the Bundesliga a year ago, 25 points back of champions Bayern, currently trail Die Roten by 12 points through 16 weeks.
Matchday 17 will conclude on Sunday with a battle between two top-four contenders in Monchengladbach and Wolfsburg. If Wolfsburg can earn their fourth league win on the road, they'll draw even with Die Fohlen heading into the winter break.
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