For 90 minutes on Saturday, two good friends will transform into striking foes in Sinsheim, where Bayer Leverkusen forward Kevin Volland and Hoffenheim striker Mark Uth are set to resume their challenge to finish 2017/18 as the Bundesliga's top German marksman.
With their respective teams separated by just one point in the standings and chasing a top-four finish, the stakes couldn't be higher as fifth-place Leverkusen visit the Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena to tackle Julian Nagelsmann's men, in seventh. Volland holds the edge over his pal Uth in the goalscoring charts, the 25-year-old boasting ten top-flight goals for the first time at this stage of a Bundesliga season. Uth is just one further back, level with RB Leipzig star Timo Werner on nine.
Watch: How Kevin Volland fits into B04's tactical scheme ...
"If you win, it's an important statement, and that's our aim in Hoffenheim," Volland said in the build-up to Die Werkself's first away trip in 2018. Victory is just one more reason the in-form striker will be looking to add to his goals tally at the weekend. A Germany international with ten caps to his name, Volland – and no doubt Uth, too – is aware of the importance of grabbing the attention of Die Mannschaft coach Joachim Löw with the FIFA World Cup just around the corner.
Yet immediate focus will be on helping Heiko Herrlich's side get back to winning ways after last weekend's 3-1 loss against Bayern Munich ended a run of 13 games without defeat. A former Hoffenheim player - Volland scored 33 goals in 132 Bundesliga games in Sinsheim prior to his 2016 switch to the Black and Reds - the Bavarian forward will no doubt seek out Uth when the teams gather in the tunnel prior to kick-off on Saturday. The pair keep in regular contact by WhatsApp and even spent part of their recent holidays together. Volland also attended Uth's wedding last summer.
When it comes to their striking rivalry, however, the Leverkusen goal-getter wasn't getting worked up. "We are not putting each other under huge pressure," the forward said in quotes appearing on Kicker. "I'm not saying that I want to finish in front of Mark, what we do, we do first and foremost for our clubs; that's what's important," he added. Since joining Leverkusen, Volland has yet to enjoy a victory against his old side, with Hoffenheim winning both meetings last term and the sides playing out a 2-2 draw last August.
A similarly high-scoring affair is being widely tipped this time around, and Saturday's hosts will be keen to edge it having won just once in their last four Bundesliga games. "It's often a case of just having to score that second goal in games," Uth told Hoffenheim's official website. "That strong desire to score, that must come back and I don't doubt that it will," the 26-year-old - who has netted four times in his last seven Bundesliga games - explained.
Watch: Mark Uth's top five Bundesliga goals ...
Uth recently agreed terms on a four-year contract at Schalke and will make the move at the end of this season. "That was a very difficult decision and one I had to sit down with my family to discuss," the former Heerenveen and Heracles striker explained.
However, that won't distract Uth from wanting to repay coach Nagelsmann for the remainder of the campaign. "Since [Julian] has been here, I've developed incredibly as a player and I'm of course grateful to the club and the coach; he worked with me to make me better," Uth said, adding, "I know I owe a lot to Hoffenheim."
The future Royal Blue will no doubt delight in trying to pay his Hoffenheim dues by outscoring friend Kevin Volland on Saturday. Let battle commence!