Coming up this week on GOAL!...
Top Game I
FC Bayern München against Bayer 04 Leverkusen is very much a table-topping clash, with first playing host to third. That said, the fact that Bayern are 24 points clear of their Rhineland visitors does rather dilute the potential for nail-biting tension in this one, all the more so given Bayer's ongoing form dip. After three successive defeats, the Werkself did at least manage to take a point off Hannover 96 at the weekend but ever since the impressive Matchday 15 win at Dortmund, their overall form curve has been distinctly downward.
On the other hand, Leverkusen are one of only two sides to have put a dent in FC Bayern's otherwise flawless league record this season, battling to a 1-1 draw on home turf. And if last season's 2-1 success at the Allianz Arena was likewise regarded as fortuitous in some quarters, Bayer will doubtless be more than happy to ride their luck to the same end for a third time on Saturday.
Top Game II
Next up we take a look at the meeting of Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Mönchengladbach, two sides who have been enjoying contrasting form and fortunes in recent weeks. Aside from the Matchday 22 blip that saw them hit for three by Hamburg, Dortmund have been very much on the up of late and if their latest maximum haul at Freiburg was a single-goal victory for substance over style, Jürgen Klopp's charges were content enough with a workmanlike shift that left them four points clear of Leverkusen in second place.
The visit of their fellow Borussians would until fairly recently have been a meeting of direct rivals in the race for a UEFA Champions League place - indeed Gladbach went into the winter break third in the table, a point ahead of BVB. 2014 has thus far been far from kind to the Foals however, who are without a win in the seven matches since the restart and went down to their fourth defeat of that sequence at home to Augsburg last time out, dropping to eighth in the table as a result. Late goals from Max Kruse and Raffael sealed a 2-0 victory for Mönchengladbach in the first season meeting and needless to say, a repeat showing at the Signal Iduna Park would be just the tonic for Lucien Favre's men right now.
It's a fairly safe bet that one player Bernd Leno would rather not have overly much to do with this coming Saturday is Franck Ribery. FC Bayern's French wing wizard marked his return from a lay-off for minor surgery on a burst blood vessel with a goal in the 6-1 win at Wolfsburg and should accordingly have plenty in the tank for the visit of Leverkusen.
UEFA's Best Player in Europe for 2012/13 is now on eight goals and nine assists from just thirteen Bundesliga starts, plus two stints off the bench, bearing testimony to his ongoing form high for the German, European and world champions. Now in his seventh season at Bayern and, at 30, having made no bones about his willingness to see out his playing days in the Bavarian capital, Ribery is eager to complete another fruitful campaign at home and in Europe, before heading even further afield with France this summer.