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What to watch out for on Matchday 18 in the Bundesliga

The second-half of the season officially gets underway with a mouth-watering top-of-the-table clash. And there are a couple of big-name strikers with a point to prove.

Sub-plots aplenty at the top

Unlikely as it may have seemed when they met on the opening day, RB Leipzig and Hoffenheim now face-off in second and third-place respectively. But it is not just the fact that these two teams are Bayern Munich's closest challengers at the top that makes this fixture so intriguing. These two are clubs loathed by traditionalists, yet admired in equal measure by football purists. Both reached the top-flight thanks to lavish funding by billionaire backers, but both play an exhilarating brand of football that is very easy on the eye. With 39 points from 17 games, Leipzig are the best promoted side in Bundesliga history. Hoffenheim, on the other hand, are the only side in Europe's top leagues yet to taste defeat. Throw in the fact that Leipzig sporting director Ralf Rangnick oversaw Hoffenheim's meteroric rise from village club to the top of the Bundesliga, and you have all the ingredients necessary for an absorbing 90 minutes. It promises to have plenty of goalmouth action too. In Timo Werner and Sandro Wagner, the match also sees the highest-scoring German players in the league go head-to-head…

TSG 1899 Hoffenheim - RB Leipzig

The two teams shared a 2-2 draw on the opening day of the season

A tale of two strikers

…whilst up in Bremen, the two most successful foreign strikers in Bundesliga history prepare to do battle. Werder Bremen veteran Claudio Pizarro has scored 190 times in the German top-flight in three spells at Bremen and two at Bayern. One of his successors in Munich,Robert Lewandowski, moved onto 135 following his brace in Freiburg last week. With 14 goals last season, Pizarro was Bremen's life insurance policy as they battled the drop. He is yet to score this time round, but is looking to end the drought against his former club. "I hope I can score," the 38-year-old said. "Goals are important for strikers for self-confidence. I'm working on scoring against Bayern." It won't be easy, however. Bremen have not scored in any of their last four home games against Bayern and have lost the previous seven.

Bayern Munich vs Bremen Pizarro

Claudio Pizarro is relishing the clash with his former club

Once upon a time in the West

Another sharpshooter aiming to finally hit the target once more is Chicharito. After grabbing five goals in his first five appearances of the season, the Bayer Leverkusen striker has now gone 11 games and 749 minutes without scoring. If rumors surrounding the Mexican superstar's private life are to be believed, Chicharito is now free to focus solely on his football. He did find the net in friendly matches during the winter break and will fancy his chances against a Borussia Mönchengladbach side that has failed to live up to growing expectations so far this season. And Chicharito certainly has happy memories of Leverkusen's Rhineland rivals. In the corresponding fixture last year, he scored a hat-trick in a 5-0 thrashing.

Chicharito holds head

Chicharito is on a frustrating run of form in front of goal

Happy Homecoming?

Borussia Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel can also look back fondly on time spent with his next opponent. During his six-year tenure with Mainz, Tuchel led the club to Europe for the first time in its history. A key member of that squad was Andre Schürrle, slowly hitting his top form again at Dortmund. Since taking charge over from Jürgen Klopp last season, Tuchel has faced his former club three times in the Bundesliga, and won every time. Victory in Bremen last week liftedDortmund back up to fourth and within touching distance of automatic Champions League qualification. But they have flattered to deceive so often this season and if they fail to win in Mainz, the pressure will be back on.

Watch video 00:56

Is Tuchel 'the special one?'

Friday 

Schalke - Eintracht Frankfurt (2030)

Saturday (1530)

RB Leipzig - Hoffenheim

Darmstadt - Cologne

Ingolstadt - Hamburg

Werder Bremen - Bayern Munich

Wolfsburg - Augsburg 

Bayer Leverkusen - Borussia Mönchengladbach (1830)

Sunday

Freiburg - Hertha Berlin (1530)

Mainz - Borussia Dortmund (1730)

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