From the race for the coveted Torjägerkanone to individuals and teams looking to open their accounts in 2016, Matchday 19 promises to pack as much punch as the previous 18.
bundesliga.com examines the biggest pre-match talking points ahead of the coming weekend...
Tussle at the top of the charts
While FC Bayern München have breathing room ahead of Borussia Dortmund at the top of the table, their two star frontmen are embroiled in a ferocious battle to finish as the Bundesliga top goalscorer in 2015/16. After failing to find the net against Borussia Mönchengladbach, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang saw his lead cut to just one goal, with Robert Lewandowski bagging a brace in the record titleholders’ 2-1 win over Hamburger SV. Both strikers netted one apiece on Matchday 2 in the reverse fixtures of this weekend’s encounters and BVB’s speed demon will be keen, at the very least, to maintain his one-goal advantage over the Pole.
Chicharito to open his 2016 account?
Having already chipped in with 42 per cent of Bayer 04 Leverkusen’s 26 goals this season, Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez’s influence in dictating his side’s fortunes is undeniable. He drew a blank in the 1-1 draw with TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, but the Mexican will have his sights set on opening his account in the new calendar year when rock-bottom Hannover 96, one of just four sides to have conceded 30 goals or more this season, come to town. Taking into account their aspirations of finishing in the top four, Die Werkself cannot afford to drop points against the side propping up the table for a second week in a row, but it would not be a stretch to say that if Chicharito doesn’t find the net, they may struggle.
Didavi’s magic touch
Saturday evening's encounter pits two traditional heavyweights against one another as VfB Stuttgart host Hamburger SV. The sides suffered contrasting fortunes in their first games back since the winter break, but while this should be an evenly matched affair, the Swabians have an ace in the pack in the form of Daniel Didavi. The 25-year-old looks to have put his well-documented injury problems behind him and has emerged as the creative force in Stuttgart’s front line. The Nürtigen native has directly contributed to 11 (eight goals, three assists) of the 25 goals Jürgen Kramny’s side have scored this season, whilst bringing out the best in the likes of Timo Werner and Filip Kostic, who were underperforming at the start of the season. Hamburg will have to keep him quiet to prevent Stuttgart closing the gap between the two sides to just a point.
Wolfsburg out of form
For a side currently in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 and determined to compete in Europe’s premier club competition again next year, Wolfsburg’s run of five league games without a win simply is not good enough. The Wolves let leads slip in their two games either side of the winter break, most recently in a 3-2 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt. With Bas Dost out injured and big-name players such as Julian Draxler and Andre Schürrle failing to meet expectations, Dieter Hecking has a job on his hands to turn his sides’ form around. However, the visit of Köln, who themselves have won just one of their last six outings, could be the perfect opportunity for Wolfsburg to get their year up and running.
Fabian eyeing maiden start
After making a real impact off the bench in his Bundesliga bow, Eintracht Frankfurt’s Marco Fabian will be hoping to make his full debut when the Eagles travel to face in-form FC Augsburg on Saturday. The Mexican international’s introduction at half-time in Frankfurt’s 3-2 win over Wolfsburg allowed Alexander Meier to adopt the lone striker role, with Fabian providing the assist for the veteran’s winning goal. Having had his first taste of Bundesliga action, it seems the 26-year-old has already understood the key to success for the relegation threatened side: "You just need to give the ball to Alex Meier, and he'll stick it in the back of the net," joked Fabian. Augsburg are unbeaten in six, but may have their hands full with Eintracht’s new dynamic duo.
Volland vs Neuer: round 2!
Rewind to Bundesliga Matchday 2 of the current campaign. Hoffenheim had lost their opening fixture of the season and few were giving them a chance of causing an upset against defending champions FC Bayern. Then within nine seconds and before some fans hadn’t even found their seats yet, Kevin Volland capitalised on a rare mistake in the record titleholders’ backline to score the fastest goal in Bundesliga history after just nine seconds, against Manuel Neuer no less. With Lewandowski scoring in the 90th minute it was Bayern who ultimately clinched a 2-1 win, but Neuer took to Twitter to issue a response following the game. The ball’s now in Volland’s court. Could lighting possibly strike twice on Sunday?
"You won't be doing it again..."