Big two prepare for showdown
The destiny of the 2012 Bundesliga title could become a little clearer this weekend when the holders face the current pacesetters in a game being billed as the biggest game of the season so far.
Borussia Dortmund's recent revival has enabled them to reduce the deficit on the league leaders Bayern Munich to just five points ahead of the two side's clash at the Allianz Arena on Saturday.
The last time Dortmund travelled to Munich in February, they all but wrapped up the title with a 3-1 win.
A home win this time could take Bayern eight points clear at the top and be a decisive step towards winning back the title from the Westphalians.
"I am convinced that we are stronger than Dortmund,'' said Bayern's Bastian Schweinsteiger, who will miss the game after breaking his collarbone recently.
"It will be a tight game, but we are full of self confidence and we will win the game. And that will be a big step for us. "If we play to our strengths, then it will be hard for Dortmund to stop us.''
Dortmund are also confident and their captain Sebastian Kehl sees no reason why they cannot repeat their exploit from nine months ago.
"We know that we can win there, especially since we have been able to gain lots of self-confidence lately,'' he said. "We can cause an upset.''
Werder Bremen and Borussia Monchengladbach will be focusing on another top-of-the-table battle, on the other hand.
They meet at the Borussia Park Stadion, where they will be bidding to become the sole third force in the league.
Both sides are level on 23 points together with Dortmund and one point ahead of Schalke, who will look to be the main beneficiary of other results this weekend by climbing into the top three with a win over Nurnberg.
Elsewhere, Wolfsburg and Hannover meet in a Lower Saxony derby at the VW-Arena and the nation's two carnival hotbeds of Cologne and Mainz meet at the start of the festive period.
The weekend's action starts in Kaiserslautern, where Bayer Leverkusen are the guests on Friday night, and proceeds with Freiburg's clash with Hertha Berlin on Saturday.
Sunday's games see Stuttgart host Augsburg and Hamburg entertain Hoffenheim.