Bundesliga Preview: Bayern aim to stay on track, tricky games for chasing pack
Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich will look to move back towards top gear when they host Hamburg on Saturday.
Pep Guardiola's defending champions endured a stuttering return from the mid-season break, following up a stunning 4-1 loss to second-place Wolfsburg with a 1-1 draw against Schalke.
Basement boys Stuttgart were dispatched 2-0 last weekend and Guardiola will hope for further improvement against a resurgent Hamburg, who head into the fixture on the back of recording consecutive wins for the first time this season.
Wolfsburg are eight points adrift of Bayern and face a tricky test of their pursuit at Bayer Leverkusen.
Dieter Hecking's men have a shinning light in Kevin De Bruyne, the Belgium attacking midfielder boasting five goals in three outings since the Bundesliga action resumed.
Leverkusen lie sixth and are unbeaten at home in the league this season, although thy have drawn their past three matches at the BayArena.
Schalke and Augsburg are level on points in third and fourth and are both on the road this weekend.
Roberto Di Matteo has lifted Schalke from 11th position since his appointment in succeeding Jens Keller at Schalke, and they travel to Eintracht Frankfurt having beaten fellow UEFA Champions League hopefuls Borussia Monchengladbach.
Augsburg have proved to be the surprise package of the Bundesliga season so far but they face one of the division's form sides in Werder Bremen.
Viktor Skripnik's 12 matches in the Bremen dugout since replacing Robin Dutt in October have yielded eight wins, including an on-going run of four in a row.
Austrian free-kick specialist Zlatko Junuzovic has been central to that upturn with four goals in his past seven games.
Borussia Dortmund's slump has been one of the season's talking points and Jurgen Klopp's men face another vital game in their unlikely scrap against relegation.
An opener from Marco Reus - who showed his loyalty by signing a new contract this week - and a brace from fellow forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang secured a restorative win over fellow strugglers Freiburg last weekend - only Dortmund's fifth in the Bundesliga this term.
Victory against Klopp's former club Mainz at Signal Iduna Park on Friday would haul the 2011 and 2012 champions level with their opponents on 22 points.
Stuttgart are propping up the table, a situation they will hope to remedy when they face seventh-place Hoffenheim on Saturday - themselves aiming to end a slump of three straight losses.
Monchengladbach welcome Cologne in the remaining Saturday fixture, while Sunday's matches see Hertha Berlin host Freiburg and Paderborn travel to Hannover.