Wolfsburg v Bayern Munich: Guardiola eyes 'big step' to Bundesliga title
Bayern Munich return to Bundesliga action on Friday with arguably the hardest remaining game of their league campaign as they visit nearest challengers Wolfsburg.
The champions are well on course for a third consecutive German title and enjoyed an 11-point gap from Wolfsburg in second during the mid-season break.
Pep Guardiola's side ended 2014 with eight successive league victories and could be boosted by the returns of Bastian Schweinsteiger (ankle), Mario Gotze (groin) and Mehdi Benatia (back).
Philipp Lahm (ankle) is less likely to feature, despite showing positive signs in his recovery during the club's training camp in Doha.
Whoever lines up as Bayern resume top-flight action, Guardiola is eager to see his side hit the ground running.
"I think we're well prepared for Wolfsburg," he told the club's official website.
"It's good to face the team in second immediately because it forces us to pick up the pace. Wolfsburg have played an outstanding season so far so that will be tough.
"However, we will try our best and it just depends on how well we play.
"We know how important the first two or three games will be and if we can win our first couple of games of 2015 then we will realise we can take a big step towards defending our Bundesliga title."
Dieter Hecking has seen his Wolfsburg side lose just once in their last 12 Bundesliga outings and bristled recently when quizzed about his side's tag in the media as 'Bayern Hunters'.
Wolfsburg are a much-improved side from their last meeting with Bayern at the Volkswagen Arena - a 6-1 defeat in March last year - and Hecking could be able to call on Ivan Perisic (groin) and Naldo (knee).
The pair are back in training after injuries along with Josuha Guilavogui, although the Frenchman is not as far forward in his recovery from a groin operation.
Naldo in particular has been key to Wolfsburg's strong season - starting every Bundesliga game and scoring five times - with the Brazilian defender set to feature again on Friday after hurting himself in training.
"I'm not overly concerned about Friday," explained sporting director Klaus Allofs.
"[The injury] is nothing to worry about. The break will have done him good and he should be available for selection."