Bayern Munich start the second half of the season holding a nine-point lead.
By Lehlohonolo Lehana.
The winter wait is finally over and eager Bundesliga fans are about to be treated to an explosive return to on-field action with the big Rückrunde kick-off this weekend.
A fantastic Matchday 18 fixture list, featuring several high-profile encounters, is on the menu for the keenly anticipated restart to Germany's top division, with FC Bayern München versus Borussia Mönchengladbach providing the tastiest of Friday-night starters.
Champions Bayern are in devastating form once again in 2021/22, with Julian Nagelsmann's side nine points ahead of the rest following a superb first half to the campaign in which they scored a record 56 goals. Polish marksman Robert Lewandowski was once more chief among their scorers with 19 and is now on the hunt to break his own records.
Chasing an unprecedented ten top-flight titles in a row, the Bavarians host their old rivals Gladbach under the Allianz Arena lights this week. And despite Adi Hütter's men enduring a dip in form prior to the break, the Foals have a been a thorn in the side of Bayern all season. A 1-1 draw in the teams' opening-day encounter last August preceded a sensational 5-0 win for Gladbach that knocked Nagelsmann's men out of the DFB Cup in the second round.
No less tantalising a prospect is in-form Eintracht Frankfurt's battle with second-placed Borussia Dortmund on Saturday. Filip Kostic & Co. were slow starters to the season (a win against Bayern aside) but the Eagles have since hit the afterburners to rocket their way up the standings to sixth thanks to six wins in their last seven outings. Dortmund and their awesome attacker Erling Haaland, meanwhile, hit one or two obstacles during their Hinrunde challenge and will be keen to bounce back from a Matchday 17 reverse at Hertha Berlin.
And what of this season's surprise package, SC Freiburg? Coach Christian Streich celebrated ten years in charge at the Baden-Württemberg based-team by leading his men to their bestever position at the mid-point of a Bundesliga season. Not only did they post the division's longest unbeaten run of 11 games, Freiburg finished the first half of the campaign boasting the Bundesliga's joint-meanest defence and will start the Rückrunde in third place when they host DSC Arminia Bielefeld - in 17th - this Saturday.
The battle right behind Freiburg remains intense, with only goal difference separating Bayer 04 Leverkusen and TSG Hoffenheim in fourth and fifth respectively. Indeed, Die Werkself's Matchday 18 opponents, 1. FC Union Berlin (in seventh) are also enjoying a solid season. Watching the Berliners' talismanic Max Kruse square up against Leverkusen goal machine Patrik Schick and young attacking wizard Florian Wirtz will set pulses racing at the BayArena. A hungry Hoffenheim, meanwhile, will get to grips with an FC Augsburg side who recently added exciting United States international Ricardo Pepi to their ranks. With Chris Richards lining up on the opposite side, it’s an all-American clash in Sinsheim.
While the Bundesliga's basement club SpVgg Greuther Fürth go looking for what would be only their second win of the season against fellow relegation battlers VfB Stuttgart, RB Leipzig are hoping to raise the levels after making their worst-ever start to a season in the top flight.
Recently appointed coach Domenico Tedesco will need to do his homework with mid-table 1. FSV Mainz 05 in town. The 05ers are just three points off the top six and 17 points better off than at the same stage last season.
The five-star entertainment spills over into Sunday when 1. FC Köln and super striker Anthony Modeste travel to the capital to play a Hertha Berlin side still on a high after downing Dortmund. VfL Bochum then get a chance to showcase their ambitions of remaining in the Bundesliga with VfL Wolfsburg – directly behind them in the standings – due at the Ruhrstadion.