Munich - One final flurry of goals and drama can be expected on Matchday 17 as clubs bid to end the year 2013 on a high with a win, and Saturday's matches promise just that.
Hamburger SV - 1.FSV Mainz 05
bundesliga.com looks out to three matches which are bound to tick all of the boxes...
Hamburger SV captain has sounded a battle cry ahead of his side's meeting with 1. FSV Mainz 05 this Saturday.
"This is the time when we've got to turn things around," said the Dutchman. "Many of us are still young, but we're also men. We want to go into the winter break well." The 30-year-old should be able to lead Hamburg onto the field, despite having been recently hampered by a knee complaint, and it will be his duty to lead by example.
Eric's maximum mission
One former Hamburg star will not be singing to van der Vaart's tune, however: , who swapped Hamburg for Mainz in 2011, and has not looked back since. "I've taken a great step in my career with Mainz," said the Cameroonian international to Germany's Bild newspaper. "We're ahead of them in the standings, in good form and I definitely want three points. And we can get them."
Victory for ninth-placed Mainz would put eight points between the two sides. "It's been a good first half to the season on the whole," added Choupo-Moting. "There have been highs and lows, and we could have had a few more points, but we've had to integrate plenty of new faces. We're a great group and there's a great atmosphere." It could get even better still, should they return from Hamburg with a win.
SC Freiburg - Hannover 96
Energy may be in short supply when SC Freiburg host Hannover 96, but both sides will be looking to draw on all whatever is left in the tank to end 2013 on a high.
Few clubs have featured in as many games as Freiburg this season with Christian Streich's men taking to the field on Saturday for the 29th time since August. "That's a game every three and a half days," said the coach. "Our biggest priority for this match is going to be to summon up our last reserves of energy," he said. "We've really been up against it this season."
Down to the bone
With such a threadbare squad, the Freiburg coach has not been able to dose the energy across the Bundesliga, UEFA Europa League and DFB Cup as much as he would have liked, meaning rotation has not been possible, with players such as , , , receiving virtually no rest.
The situation is not a great deal better with Hannover, however, who are still without and Christian Schulz due to injury. The Reds meanwhile are also yet to pick up a single point on the road all season, a statistic they are particularly keen to rectify at the MAGE SOLAR Stadion.
"If keeps a clean sheet on his 100th Bundesliga appearance, then we've got at least a point, and if marks his 50th game with a goal then maybe we'll get all three," said coach Mirko Slomka, who will be missing newly-crowned Hungarian Footballer of the Year Szabolcs Huszti.
Eintracht Braunschweig - 1899 Hoffenheim
Eintracht Braunschweig's return to the top flight after a 28-year absence may not have been too much to write home about so far, as they continue to prop up the table. Yet as Torsten Lieberknecht's men approach the halfway mark of the campaign, they can still take plenty of positives out of their experience so far, according to midfielder Mirko Boland.
Boland has featured in all 16 of the cellar dwellers' fixtures so far this term and he believes the league newcomers can look back on a promising first half of the season. "The good thing is we're still within touching distance [of safety]," the 26-year-old insisted. "There were games where we could have got a lot more than we did. We've got to work hard on taking our chances in future."
'Won't change our ways'
Boland wants a win so that Braunschweig can go into the New Year "with a good feeling and positive energy," but Hoffenheim share those aspirations, and they have the clout to back it up. Roberto Firmino has scored eight goals this season, with Kevin Volland on seven and both Sejad Salihovic and Anthony Modeste chipping in six apiece. Scoring has not been Hoffenheim's Achilles heel; that’s been at the other end - alongside SV Werder Bremen, their 37 goals against is the highest number in the division.
"We play a very attacking football because that suits us," said schemer Salihovic. "The amount of goals we've scored shows that we're not wrong. We've lacked some fine-tuning at the back and we've been working on that, but we aren't going to give up our philosophy. You're rarely going to see us win games 1-0. I personally think it's better to aim at scoring goals rather than focus on preventing them, so it's all good."