Bundesliga fans will be hoping for another thrilling title race in the second half of the 2023/24 season as Bayer Leverkusen continue to pose a bold threat to champions Bayern Munich.
The final weekend of the 2022/23 campaign saw Borussia Dortmund fall at the last hurdle to allow Bayern retain their crown and avoid breaking their incredible streak of domestic success.
Thomas Tuchel’s side have held off multiple challenges in recent years to win 11 successive Bundesliga titles since 2012/13 as Dortmund and others have fallen short.
The picture for 2023/24 is altered slightly due to Leverkusen’s emergence under Xabi Alonso, and they have a key advantage at the mid-season stage: Alonso’s men are guaranteed to enter Germany’s winter break as the league leaders.
So, what does that mean for their title chances?
Bundesliga winter champions: How often do they win the title?
The term ‘winter champions’ is often used to describe the team that sits top of the Bundesliga before the league pauses for a winter break. In German, the term is actually Herbstmeister, or ‘autumn champion’.
Bayer Leverkusen will be the team that enters the 2023/24 winter break at the top of the standings. Fans will be cautiously optimistic over their title chances but recent halfway leads have not always led to a title win.
As part of Bayern’s current impressive run, they were top of the table at the end of the calendar in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, before going on to win the title in the second half of the season.
That pattern was broken in 2019 and 2020, as the Bavarians overhauled Dortmund and RB Leipzig in successive seasons to win the Bundesliga after trailing at halfway.
Those were the only two examples since 2012/13 of a halfway leader not going on to win the title. Overall, in 60 seasons of the modern Bundesliga, there have been just 19 instances of a winter champion not going on to win the title. Back in 2009/10, the last time Leverkusen were the winter champions, Bayern were the team to lift the trophy at the end of the season.
Years in which Bundesliga winter champions have NOT won title
When is the Bundesliga winter break 2023/24?
The Bundesliga season will enter into a mid-season break from December 20, 2023 to January 12, 2024 with the majority of teams already playing 16 of their 34 league games this season.
Alonso’s Leverkusen will head into the break as Bundesliga leaders, with a narrow lead over Bayern Munich, but with the Bavarians having played one league game less.
Who will win the Bundesliga 2023/24 title?
At the start of 2024, the title race looks to be locked between Bayern Munich and Leverkusen, with RB Leipzig and Dortmund still hoping to have a role in the run-in.
Alonso’s team is packed with talent, and the Spanish boss is establishing himself as one of the brightest young coaches in Europe, with growing links to a possible summer return to Real Madrid.
However, despite the excitement surrounding the likes of Florian Wirtz and Victor Boniface in Alonso’s squad, Bayern’s roster has years of title-winning experience, with the added bonus this season of a free-scoring Harry Kane.
A 2-2 draw between the two sides in Munich in September was a thriller for the neutral and their February reunion in Leverkusen could be a potential title-decider.