Bayern set for Gladbach showdown
Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich are keen to hit the ground running when they kick-off the second half of the season with a trip to title rivals Borussia Monchengladbach on Friday night.
Gladbach, who won 1-0 at the Allianz Arena on the opening day of the season, are just four points adrift of Bayern, who are also being pursued by Borussia Dortmund and Schalke.
Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge knows it is going to be a difficult four months for his side, who are looking to win the title back from Dortmund in May.
"We have got to realise that, from Friday, the hunt for Bayern begins,'' he said on Bayern's official website. "Our goal is clearly to win the title.''
Midfielder Toni Kroos added: "We want to march ahead at the top and send out a clear signal to all of the other teams who will be watching us tomorrow.''
The rest of the Bundesliga will be watching to see if Gladbach can close up the title race by completing the double over Bayern
Schalke then take to the field on Saturday when they host Stuttgart while Dortmund are next up at Hamburg on Sunday.
Only Werder Bremen may prefer a different result at the Borussia Park Stadion as they still harbour hopes of catching Gladbach to clinch the fourth Champions League qualification berth in the Bundesliga. They trail their rivals by four points ahead of their meeting with Kaiserslautern on Saturday.
Below them, Bayer Leverkusen, Hannover, Stuttgart and Hoffenheim are all candidates for a place in the Europa League next season.
Bayer Leverkusen host Mainz in the last game of the weekend on Sunday while Hoffenheim and Hannover clash at the Rhein-Neckar Arena on Saturday.
At the bottom of the table, Freiburg have a bleak future as they play Augsburg in their first game under their new coach Christian Streich, who replaced Marcus Sorg during the winter break, and their first game without Papiss Demba Cisse, their top goalscorer who has moved to Newcastle.
"We cannot compensate the loss of Papiss - he was too amazing,'' Strech said to Bild.
Elsewhere, Nurnberg host Hertha Berlin and their new coach Michael Skibbe and Wolfsburg welcome Cologne to the VW-Arena.