After what feels like 29 painfully long days, the Bundesliga roars back into action this weekend for the start of the second half of the season.
Known as the Rückrunde, the final 17 matchdays in the German top-flight are defining ones that ultimately shape the outcome of the table come to the end of the campaign. And Matchday 18’s resumption has some cracking fixtures for us to sink our teeth into as we turn the mid-season corner.
One of the most interesting matchups comes from the capital where Hertha Berlin welcome reigning champions FC Bayern München to the Olympiastadion for Sunday’s penultimate game of the weekend (kick-off: 15:30 CET).
Things are made fascinating by the presence of former FC Bayern player and coach Jürgen Klinsmann who claimed league glory in the red of the record Bundesliga champions as a world-class striker in his playing days back in 1996/97. He later returned as coach from July 2008 to April 2009 following a two-year spell as a German boss.
Klinsmann’s new side have gone four games unbeaten under the former Germany World Cup winner and have even made it three consecutive games without conceding a goal.
Meanwhile, his old outfit -now under the stewardship of Hansi Flick until at least the end of the season -sit third in the table. FC Bayern is currently on a three-match winning streak and, if results go their way elsewhere, could end the matchday just a point off league-leaders RB Leipzig.
As for the Herbstmeister (autumn champions), Leipzig entertains Union Berlin in an East German clash of some intrigue at the Red Bull Arena in Saturday’s late kick-off (kick-off: 18:30 CET).
Julian Nagelsmann’s men are eight games unbeaten in the league (W7, D1) and have been jet-propelled towards a first Bundesliga title in their short history by Timo Werner. The German forward’s 18 league goals are currently only bettered by Robert Lewandowski’s 19 strikes and Union will have to be at their best against a side they lost 4-0 to in Matchday 1’s reverse fixture.
Borussia Mönchengladbach is currently riding on Leipzig’s coattails in second place and they go to Schalke for the opening game of Matchday 17 on Friday night (kick-off: 20:30 CET).
It promises to be a fascinating affair against two sides thriving under coaches David Wagner and Marco Rose, who both arrived last summer and have been exceptional in their first Bundesliga campaigns.
Schalke have gone from relegation candidates last season to fifth place at the halfway stage under Wagner, while Mönchengladbach is just two points off Leipzig and are enjoying their best campaign in recent memory with Rose at the helm.
As for Saturday’s remaining matches (all kick-offs: 15.30 CET), Borussia Dortmund travels to Augsburg, Cologne visit Wolfsburg, Eintracht Frankfurt go to Hoffenheim, Freiburg to Mainz, and Werder Bremen travel to Fortuna Düsseldorf in a tie that could shape the relegation places at the end of the season.
Sunday’s Matchday 18 finale then sees Paderborn and Bayer Leverkusen face off at the Benteler Arena, a game that has consequences at both ends of the table.
Watch all this weekend’s Bundesliga games live on StarTimes