Summary

  • Defending champions Bayern chasing fifth successive Bundesliga title.
  • Newcomers RB Leipzig three points behind in second place.
  • Last season's runners-up Dortmund 12 points adrift of top spot.

FC Bayern München have been Bundesliga champions in each of the last four seasons. Is there anyone who can stop them making it five in a row?

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bundesliga.com looks at the pretenders to the crown.

The Main Contender - RB Leipzig

Ralph Hasenhüttl's youthful squad have not so much hit the ground running in the top flight, but ridden roughshod over the established elite to tickle the toes of the record champions perched just three points above them come the winter break.

They were outclassed at the Allianz Arena before Christmas, but Leipzig have had time to catch their breath. They will need it ahead of a testing restart featuring home games with Eintracht Frankfurt and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, and a trip to Borussia Dortmund. But three of their upcoming four games are at home, while Bayern have four of their next five league games on the road. 

Watch: Relive the highlights of Bayern's Matchday 16 win over Leipzig:

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With Carlo Ancelotti's men also perhaps distracted by their UEFA Champions League Last 16 collision with Arsenal FC, and Leipzig's sole focus on domestic matters, that three-point cushion does not look all that plump.

Will they stop Bayern? It would be an incredible achievement to match 1. FC Kaiserslautern's promotion-to-champions feat of 1997/98, but will their inexperience at the business end of the season cost them?

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The Outsiders - Hertha, Frankfurt and Hoffenheim

Trailing Leipzig by six points, Hertha Berlin are the closest to the top two. They have become a formidable side under Pal Dardai, especially at home, where the Old Lady have won seven out of eight league games this term. A question mark remains, however, as Hertha enjoyed a similarly impressive run in the first half of last season before fading badly in the Rückrunde to finish seventh.

Watch: Highlights of Hertha's routine win over SV Darmstadt 98 on Matchfday 16:

Frankfurt, meanwhile, currently have just seven points fewer than they amassed in the whole of the 2015/16 campaign, where they narrowly escaped relegation via the play-offs. The Eagles have enjoyed a remarkable turnaround under boss Niko Kovac and are a disciplined, well-organised outfit, but they have scored fewer goals (22) than any other club in the top six, a shortcoming that would need to be rectified to mount a sustained push for silverware.

As for Hoffenheim, the fact they are the only team still undefeated in any of Europe's top five leagues this season speaks volumes for the work being done by young coach Julian Nagelsmann. Solid at the back and dangerous going forward, particularly with Sandro Wagner's aerial threat, the Sinsheim club have all the right ingredients to be successful. They just need to find a killer instinct: ten of their 16 league games so far have ended in draws.

Watch: Hoffenheim put 1. FC Köln to the sword on Matchday 13:

Dark Horses  - Dortmund

Currently 12 points off the pace, Thomas Tuchel's side will need to put together an impressive string of results if they are to stop the reigning champions from defending their crown.

Nevertheless, Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer stated recently that "our main rivals in the long term are Dortmund." Indeed, if any side has the firepower to close such a large gap it is BVB, who are spoilt for choice in the attacking department and can rotate to good effect across the three competitions they are still participating in.

Watch: Dortmund's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leads the race for the Tojägerkanone:

Click here for the lowdown on the upcoming Bundesliga restart