After being left in the annual six-week winter lurch, Germany's soccer teams restart the chase for the Bundesliga trophy this weekend. Hamburg and Bremen have the best chances of toppling Bayern Munich.
Bremen lost a snowy midweek German Cup match to third division St. Pauli
Brazilian striker Ailton helped Werder Bremen take the German Championship from the hands of Bayern Munich two years ago, now Hamburg hope he'll do the same for them.
Hamburg paid Turkish side Besiktas 450,000 euros ($548,212) to take the 32-year-old Ailton on loan until the end of the season, and the forward hopes to repay that faith by shooting the club to their first title since 1983.
Six-point lead "not a problem"
Ailton may put his new jersey to use this weekend
"I am delighted to be back in Germany and hope to have 17 great games for Hamburg in the second half of the season," Ailton said. "I want to hunt Bayern again."
The Bavarians are currently six points up on Hamburg, a fact Ailton, who may make his debut against Nuremburg on Saturday, said "is not a problem."
Bayern only dropped seven points in an impressive first half of the season and most league observers expect them to collect a sixth domestic title in eight trophy-laden years.
Bremen down but not out
Ballack said he's ready to reopen the Bundesliga season
"People will say that it was a workout we did not want," said German international captain Michael Ballack (photo). "But in contrast to Gladbach, we have the extra edge as we have already been tested since the winter break."
Third-placed Werder Bremen, eight points adrift of Bayern, also had a midweek cup match and will take some lifting after losing 3-1 to regional side St. Pauli.
Bremen travel to Arminia Bielefeld on Sunday with doubts over German international striker Miroslav Klose, the Bundesliga's top scorer with 16 goals, who left the St. Pauli game with a shoulder injury. Team officials expect him back in three weeks, as the injury proved less serious than originally feared.
Table closer at bottom
Down at the bottom of the table, things are very tight with nine teams -- half of the teams in the Bundesliga -- concerned about falling into the second division.
Kaiserslautern, German champions in 1998, prop up the rest, but MSV Duisburg and FC Cologne are only above them on goal difference with the bottom three all on a meger 12 points.