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The Bundesliga is back, back, back.
Should it be? Possibly not, but it is, and we’re grateful for it. The first post-lockdown round of games begins this weekend, and there are a few eye-catchers lined up.
But Rafa Honigstein is slightly fearful for some of the potential title contenders as they come back after two months away from the game. Borussia Dortmund are the team most likely to challenge Bayern Munich at the top of the table, but they face a big local derby on Saturday.
“You worry a little for Dortmund in that Schalke game,” said Rafa on the Totally Football Show. “Especially without their key midfielders Emre Can and Axel Witsel – I think they might not be at their dominating best. They need those players: we saw time and time again that when it comes to having that presence in midfield, having an aerial presence when it comes to corners and free-kicks which has been an achilles heel for them over the last 18 months. Schalke, who have most of their injured players back, will look at this as a really good opportunity.”
That’s not to say that Bayern are a shoo-in for three points either.
Rafa said: “Bayern going to Union Berlin would otherwise have been a really heated affair, in this small ground – not so much without the fans – but still a rusty Bayern against a very hard running, hard fighting Union Berlin side…maybe it’s the sort of game you can see a surprise result.”
In third place, just behind Dortmund are RB Leipzig, who have a ticklish tie at home to Freiburg.
“Freiburg are one of those sides where you never quite understand what it is they’re doing so well,” said Rafa. “Individually they’re not that special and collectively they don’t really do anything that interesting either, but they have found a way under Christian Streich to continuously over-perform, and they have an outside chance of the European places. They beat Leipzig back in October.
“Leipzig still have a chance of winning this league. They will be approaching this game in a really interesting mindset: Julian Nagelsmann told his players “you’d be in the Euros otherwise, so just consider this your Euros. You have nine games, let’s win them all, let’s win the Euros.” And that might be enough to win the league.”
Werder Bremen are not one of the teams in with a chance of winning the title, but Duncan Alexander had a stat about them anyway: “Werder Bremen, as a team, have a lower xG over the season than Erling Haaland.”
Of course, the big overarching question about this round of games, to be held behind closed doors, is how teams will react to these very strange conditions.
“A lot of people are unsure whether we’ll see lots of good teams pulling away without the crowds, or whether actually the good teams being taken down a peg because they find the strange atmosphere unsettling, and those that are a little bit more reactive and defensive come to the fore.”
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