With the fate of all 18 clubs still to be decided and the current standings at either end of the table tighter than ever before, there’s no doubting that there will be some edge-of-your-seat twists and turns to savour before the season reaches its conclusion, not least on Matchday 18.
As a result, bundesliga.com has delved into the archives to outline the expectations for the opening rounds of Bundesliga action in 2015…
What better way to get the ball rolling in the Rückrunde than with a top-of-the-table clash between VfL Wolfsburg and league leaders FC Bayern München on 30 January? A showdown at the summit is somewhat of a rarity on Matchday 18. The last time the Bundesliga’s top two opened up proceedings in the second half of a season was on 6 January 1966 as second-placed FC Bayern triumphed 3-0 over their city rivals and then table-toppers TSV 1860 Munich.
That’s not to say there haven’t been some thrilling Rückrunde openers in years past. FC Bayern’s encounter with third-placed Borussia Mönchengladbach last season didn’t disappoint as the league leaders collected a 2-0 win thanks to goals from Mario Götze and Thomas Müller, while few Bundesliga aficionados will forget the 2011/12 tie between the two sides - in first and fourth respectively - which ended in a 3-1 win for the Foals on a night to forget for Manuel Neuer.
In the 2012/13 campaign, the Friday night Matchday 18 fixture between seventh-placed FC Schalke 04 and Hannover 96 in eleventh didn’t promise much on paper, yet delivered one of the most exhilarating matches of recent seasons. Jens Keller’s first taste of being in the Bundesliga hot seat for the Royal Blues on 18 January 2013 will live long in the memory after his charges took all three points courtesy of a 5-4 win.
Just four points separate bottom-of-the-table SC Freiburg and newly-promoted SC Paderborn 07 in tenth, a margin only matched once since the introduction of the three-point rule in 1995, at this stage of the 2000/01 campaign. It’s a similar story in the top half of the standings as only the 2012/13 season boasted as tight a race for European qualification as the one raging at present, with ninth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt just five points adrift of Bayer 04 Leverkusen in third.
With several big-name sides in the bottom six - five-time champions Borussia Dortmund and Bundesliga ever-presents Hamburger SV chief amongst them - the Rückrunde presents an opportunity to quickly put some much-needed points on the board. The season restarts with an Englische Woche, putting nine points up for grabs in the space of 10 days, which could greatly alter the current complexion of Germany’s top flight.
13.2 million fans attended the 306 Bundesliga matches that took place in the top division’s 18 stadiums during the Hinrunde, which is an average of 43,000 per game. Using the average attendances for the individual clubs as a basis, more than one million fans are expected to flock to grounds around the country to witness the 27 encounters set to take place in the opening three rounds of the Rückrunde.