And so to the final round of Bundesliga matches in the calendar year 2014. After casting an eye back over some of the top Matchday 16 stories, the Preview Show turns its attention to the upcoming programme, which kicks off on Friday with 1. FSV Mainz 05 entertaining FC Bayern München. We stay in Mainz for a Kids' Club special while elsewhere, in these troubled times for Borussia Dortmund, the return of Jakub Blaszczykowski comes as a timely piece of welcome news.
Not the least of Borussia Dortmund's problems this season has been their extensive ongoing casualty list. That, at least, is gradually starting to clear and alongside Nuri Sahin, Jakub Blaszczykowski also made a long overdue return to the competitive fray when he came off the bench in the final UEFA Champions League group stage game against RSC Anderlecht. It was a moment the dynamic Poland international and BVB fans' favourite had been waiting 318 long days for, after rupturing a cruciate ligament against FC Augsburg back in January. Now, Blaszczykowski is desperate to make up for lost time and do his bit for the club in their hour of need.
FC Bayern München are steaming ahead in their defence of the Bundesliga title. They have won their last six games straight, and conceded one solitary goal in their last 13. 1. FSV Mainz 05 are treading water mid-table after making a decent start to the campaign, and their previous home game ended in a rather lacklustre share of the spoils with cellar dwellers VfB Stuttgart. All of which might seem to point towards the sides' Matchday 17 meeting at the Coface Arena being something of a one-sided affair. Recent history tells a different tale, however, with Mainz putting one over on Bayern in 2010 – and repeating the trick the following year.
The Coface Arena was also the venue for a very special Christmas party, thrown for the 05ers' Kids' Club. The next generation of Mainz fans – and who knows, perhaps even the odd future player – got a privileged peek inside the changing room and a chance to talk about their beloved team, before turning reporter themselves in a Q&A with a few of the FSV stars.
VfL Wolfsburg have added another standout talent to their already packed-to-bursting squad, with the signing of Xizhe Xhang from Beijing Guoan FC. The 23-year-old attacking midfielder will be the 11th Chinese player to try his luck in Germany's top two professional divisions and sporting director Klaus Allofs expects him to be competing for a first-team place before too long – as well as raising the Wolves' profile considerably in the world's most populous country.