The New Champions
In the wake of last season's tumble at the last on three separate fronts, Bayern Munich took swift and decisive action. As well as a new director of sport in Matthias Sammer, the record champions from the Bavarian capital invested in a clutch of new signings, with the stated aim of creating a squad of effectively two teams of equal strength. The three new faces to have made the most radical impact in this memorable season at home and abroad have been , Javi Martinez and Mario Mandzukic. The first-mentioned, arriving from Mönchengladbach for a relatively modest fee, has exceeded even the most hopeful expectations, establishing himself almost from the off as Bayern's new defensive coordinator. , the Bundesliga's most expensive signing, has already justified his hefty price tag by way of his pivotal role in shoring up the space between defence and midfield - the team's 13 goals-against tally speaking for itself going into Matchday 30. And Croatia international , plucked from VfL Wolfsburg, is on course to finish his first season in Munich as Bayern's top scorer.
FC Schalke 04 against Hamburger SV is a meeting of old-time Bundesliga heavyweights, but rarely in recent years has so much been at stake for both clubs simultaneously in such a late-campaign clash, with the potential prize nothing less than a qualifying shot at next season's Champions League. As well as enjoying home advantage, the Royal Blues have a two-point cushion over their northern guests. However, the combination of Schalke losing at Eintracht Frankfurt - another direct rival - and Hamburg edging Düsseldorf thanks to two goals from Rafael van der Vaart has turned this Veltins Arena encounter into a veritable six-pointer. While Schalke have made no bones about their Champions League aspirations, HSV's stated aim all along has been "simply" a place in Europe. Now, though, the Bundesliga's only ever-present club can sniff their chance of making the main event - and victory here would take them a significant step closer to it.
3 Minutes with...
...Joel Matip. A Cameroon international born and bred in the Ruhr district, Matip will be in the thick of the action against Hamburg next weekend, paired up as usual with skipper Benedikt Höwedes at the heart of the Royal Blues' defence. On the books at Schalke since the age of nine, he worked his way through the youth ranks before being given a shotgun promotion, at 18, from the reserves in November 2009 - and memorably marking his Bundesliga debut by scoring the equaliser in a 1-1 draw with FC Bayern. The following March, Matip took his international bow for his father's homeland against Italy, going on to make one appearance for Cameroon at the World Cup finals in South Africa that summer. The Bochum native has since passed the 100-game mark for Schalke in the Bundesliga, and looks set to be one of its stand-out defenders for years to come.