- Bayern need a point to be crowned winter champions.
- Aubameyang absence gives Ramos, Dembele and Pulisic chance to shine.
- Wolves ready to bare teeth after impressive transfer window.
Finally, after four weeks, one day, 22 hours, 36 minutes and 41 seconds, the Bundesliga will swing back into action on Friday when FC Bayern München head to SC Freiburg (kick-off: 20:30CET). The league leaders have RB Leipzig hot on their heels, but what else is there to look out for on Matchday 17?
bundesliga.com takes a look at the five things you have to know ahead of the first weekend of Bundesliga action in 2017.
The Bundesliga title race is only approaching the halfway mark, but there are still honours to play for on Matchday 17. The Herbstmeisterschaft is on the line, and while it may be a symbolic title, it is also a significant mid-season yardstick for Bundesliga clubs. Bayern are in pole position to claim their sixth successive winter crown, with a point at Freiburg enough to secure the honour ahead of Leipzig. It would be the 22nd time Bayern have claimed the title in their 52nd Bundesliga campaign, and is typically a positive omen for the record champions: they have lifted the Bundesliga title on 18 of the 21 occasions they have been top at the end of the Hinrunde.
Watch: Highlights of Bayern reclaiming top spot from Leipzig before the winter break!:
An Auba-sized hole to fill
Bayern might be top of the table, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leads the goal chase - both in the Bundesliga and for the European Golden Shoe. The flying forward is captaining Gabon in the Africa Cup of Nations, though, leaving a 16-goal hole in Thomas Tuchel’s attack. How might he fill it? Colombia striker Adrian Ramos is a like-for-like replacement who has averaged a goal every other game this season. But might the tactician nudge another man forward against SV Werder Bremen? Ousmane Dembele has four goals and seven assists from the wing; Marco Reus has had a direct hand in 10 goals in just four games since he returned from injury in November. Tuchel might not have Aubameyang, but he does have options aplenty.
Watch: Can Aubameyang's challengers for the Torjägerkanone make ground during his AFCON absence?
Wolves bare teeth in transfer market
VfL Wolfsburg will be looking to rebound after a disappointing Hinrunde return of 16 points from their 16 games. Following the departure of Julian Draxler to Paris Saint-Germain, the Wolves have invested throughout their squad. Paul-Georges Ntep arrives from Stade Rennais FC as a tricky winger who can both make and take chances. A former teammate of Dembele at Rennes, Wolfsburg would be delighted if Ntep can emulate the Dortmund prodigy. Yunus Malli brings attacking guile from 1. FSV Mainz 05, with emerging Netherlands midfielder Riechedly Bazoer also signed from AFC Ajax. Now to see if they can click into gear in time to pick up all three points against Hamburger SV.
New to the Wolfpack! Attacker @pg_ntep7 becomes the fourth @vfl.wolfsburg signing of the winter transfer window, making a move from French side @staderennaisfc. Neu im Wölfe-Rudel: Offensivmann Paul-Georges Ntep (zuletzt Stade Rennes) ist der vierte Winter-Neuzugang beim VfL Wolfsburg! . . . #Bundesliga #Soccer #Football #WOB
There are fresh faces on the sidelines too. Both SV Darmstadt 98 and Borussia Mönchengladbach appointed new coaches in the winter break, with former SV Werder Bremen and Germany stalwart Torsten Frings taking up the reigns at the former, and Dieter Hecking succeeding Andre Schubert at the latter. They go head-to-head at the Jonathan-Heimes-Stadion am Böllenfalltor. Frings is making his senior managerial debut; Hecking, meanwhile, is the most tenured coach in the division, having overseen 332 top-flight games to date.
Watch: The managerial comings and goings at the end of 2016:
Unexpected European hopefuls
Few at the start of this season would have expected the Leipzig-Eintracht Frankfurt game to be a top-four clash in 2017. RB are statistically the best promoted side of all time after 16 matches, in second with 36 points. Eintracht only maintained their Bundesliga status last term via a promotion/relegation play-off win over 1. FC Nürnberg, but they have been on fire in recent months. Marco Fabian has proved their most potent attacking threat with three goals and four assists from midfield, while the defence behind him have only conceded 12 goals - the second-best record in the league after Bayern.
Watch: Owo meets Marco Fabian: