In the Bundesliga title race, football fans long for a change. Before the league restart with the top game RB Leipzig against FC Bayern on Friday, the Munich team is already enthroned at the top again. The eleventh championship in a row beckons.
Or can the pursuers around Freiburg, Leipzig or permanent challenger Borussia Dortmund provide more excitement and a new champion this time?
Bayern Munich (1st, 34 points)
The thorny question of the goalkeeper occupies FC Bayern more than it would like before the Bundesliga starts again. Who will replace the long-injured national goalkeeper Manuel Neuer? Sven Ulreich, six-time German champion, is definitely a good substitute nationally and has also been tried and tested internationally. But what if he gets injured too? And is Ulreich the right man internationally? In Leipzig, a victory should be there at the start. "It's up to us that we design our games in such a way that we stay where we are at the moment," says coach Julian Nagelsmann. As Ulreich's replacement, Johannes Schenk, who is only 20, does not yet have much experience.
SC Freiburg (2nd, 30 points)
Coach Christian Streich remains true to himself. He has not heard a declaration of war in the direction of Munich. The coach of the sports club would like to confirm the results of the outstanding first phase of the season. "The incentive is always to get the maximum out of it. If we don't make it, we mustn't fall into the vale of tears," said Streich. Both in the cup and in the Europa League, Freiburg, where Keven Schlotterbeck, Kevin Schade and Hugo Siquet are no longer part of the squad, are in the round of 16. Despite a triple burden in the stressful phase before the World Cup break, they didn't allow themselves to slump and the squad seems to be so well staffed that the Breisgau team should still be in the top third at the end of the season.
RB Leipzig (3rd, 28 points)
The start of the second half of the season will be a foretaste of the coming season for the cup winners. It will inevitably lead to the answer to the question: what can this team do without Christopher Nkunku. The outstanding player and goalscorer of the past year and a half is out with a knee injury and will probably switch to Chelsea in the summer. Coach Marco Rose must therefore find solutions to continue the success story that has been going on since the beginning of his tenure. "Everyone is invited to show themselves," said Rose before the start of the rest of the round against Bayern Munich. In terms of skills, Dani Olmo is most likely to fill the Nkunku gap. The Spaniard often played as outstandingly in the national team as he did in the most recent World Cup, and often struggled with injuries in the club.
Eintracht Frankfurt (4th, 27 points)
Eintracht Frankfurt won the only championship in 1959. After winning the Europa League, reaching the round of 16 in the Champions League and fourth place in the Bundesliga table, the Hessians want even more. "We're starting with a lot of motivation and with the intention of not only confirming the good first 15 Bundesliga games. We want to top it," announced Eintracht sports director Markus Krösche. That's why he made sure that none of the top players like Daichi Kamada, Evan Ndicka or Randal Kolo Muani left during the winter break. So far, however, no one in the Eintracht leadership has uttered the word winning the title. After all, things really get going in the Bundesliga: the home game against FC Schalke 04 is followed by games against second-placed SC Freiburg and leaders Bayern Munich.
1. FC Union Berlin (5th, 27 points)
As long as Union Berlin has not reached 40 points, there is no other goal for the Köpenickers than staying in the class. Only then will the club formulate new ambitions. "But even though we were first for seven days, I don't think it's our aim to challenge Bayern in the fight for the championship," says Union coach Urs Fischer about the starting position. Despite six wins in six friendlies, the Swiss was not satisfied with his team and decided before the home game against TSG 1899 Hoffenheim that the team was "still lacking".
Borussia Dortmund (6th, 25 points)
After the two defeats before the long winter break against Wolfsburg and Mönchengladbach, there are concerns about missing the Champions League. But unlike in most previous games, coach Edin Terzic can fall back on convalescents like Sébastien Haller, Marco Reus, Mahmoud Dahoud and Jamie Bynoe-Gittens. This strengthens the belief in a successful catch-up race. A lot will depend on how the sixth-placed side gets their defensive problems under control. In addition, the away record of a top team is unworthy. In the away table, BVB is tenth after five defeats.