Coming up this week on GOAL!...
Top game I
A 30-point differential will be neither here nor there on the day as 1. FSV Mainz 05 play host to FC Bayern München seeking to sustain an impressive run of form which has brought them to within touching distance of a UEFA Champions League qualifying place. A 4-2 victory at Hoffenheim made it six wins, four draws and just a single defeat in the last eleven outings for Thomas Tuchel's men, leaving them now only three points behind fourth-place Leverkusen in the standings.
It is a remarkable feat already on the part of the modestly-resourced club from the city on the confluence of the rivers Rhine and Main, and were they to further raise that win-tally at the visitors' expense on Saturday, it would approach the realm of the truly spectacular. In doing Mainz a potential favour by themselves seeing off Bayer 04 Leverkusen last time out, Bayern racked up their 17th league win in a row and the 23rd in 25 outings this season. If results elsewhere go their way, they could even put the title beyond mathematical doubt here with eight games to spare - and yes, that would be yet another Bundesliga record...
Top game II
It was a long time coming, but well worth the wait when it came: a 2-1 victory at Dortmund put the brakes on a nine-game winless streak for Borussia Mönchengladbach and reinvigorated their bid for a place on the international stage next season. Next up, Lucien Favre's men need a repeat performance on home turf against a Hertha Berlin side struggling to recapture their impressive pre-winter break form.
Winless in three and heading west on the back of a 3-0 home loss to Hannover, the capital club have seen their own hopes, expressed or otherwise, of following up on promotion with an immediate return to the European arena fade as the mid-table battle intensifies. That said, a maximum haul at the Borussia Park would bring them level with the Foals again on 39 points - and still in with a decent shout of altogether more than mere Bundesliga survival in their first season back.
Arguably the pick of an impressive crop of Japanese Bundesliga imports over the past couple of years, Hiroshi Kiyotake will once again have a big say in 1. FC Nürnberg's fortunes this season as they battle to beat the drop. Like his predecessors in the head coach's hot seat, Gertjan Verbeek is in no doubt as to Kiyotake's importance to a team in which he has once again been a virtual ever-present through thick and thin - a playmaker in the modern mould, as willing to grind out the mileage on tracking back and counter-pressing duties as he is able to deliver the pinpoint, match-changing pass.
Big in Nuremberg, even bigger in Japan, the 24-year-old midfield maestro has a packed diary over the coming months. Top-flight survival with the Franconians dominates the agenda at the moment. Once that has hopefully been achieved, Kiyotake will be off to measure himself against the best in the game in its spiritual homeland, Brazil.