The stadiums to the Bundesliga will be opening their gates again to start the second leg of the season. In the winter break, teams were wheeling and dealing to improve their position. Now they will see if it pays off.
Will Bayern Munich be celebrating their 19th league title in the end?
The first match of the second leg on Friday evening begins with a classic north-south rivalry -- Bayern Munich vs. Hamburg.
Bayern do not give up many points at home against HSV. In fact, it has been 23 years since Hamburg have won in the Bavarian capital. But Hamburg is flying high under new coach Thomas Doll, who took over for the deposed Klaus Toppmöller last Fall.
Bayern's Michael Ballack will watch from the bench. He's serving a one-game suspension in Friday's match
Former Munich midfielder David Jarolim believes Hamburg can rewrite history. The team's chances increase with Bayern's midfield leader Michael Ballack on the sidelines serving a one game suspension.
The home crowd at Munich's Olympic Stadium will also welcome back an old face. Bixente Lizarazu, who left the team after last season to play out his career in his native France, returned to Munich after a disappointing stint at Olympique Marseille.
Schalke, Bremen clash
On the field, the most attractive game on Saturday is definitely Schalke vs. Bremen. Off the field, Bremen have frequently been in the headlines during the winter break.
The high point was a fight between Fabian Ernst and French midfielder Johan Micoud. Ernst came away with eight stitches over his eye. Thomas Schaaf's midfielders have apparently settled the matter, but not before Ernst considered leaving the club, according to the kicker sports magazine.
Schalke (in blue) had the upper hand in the first-leg contest, winning 1-0
Schalks's excitement has been limited to the front office, where manager Rudi Assauer has been engaged in a war of words with Bayern manager Uli Hoeneß. Ralf Rangnick's crew is even on points (34) with Bayern Munich and looking to distance themselves from the defending champions Bremen who stand six points back.
Third place side Stuttgart travel to Mainz. The biggest news out of Stuttgart is that international goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand will not return to the club after this season.
Mainz played exciting football throughout much of the first leg before running out of energy towards the end. They are strong at home and coach hopes to give a good start to his second leg goal of staying in the top league.
Gladbach busy in winter
Borussia Mönchengladbach were one of the busiest teams in the break. Coach Dick Advokaat has been given practically carte blanche in reshaping the squad.
Mönchengladbach's players, here Marcelo Pletsch, have an uncertain future under coach Dick Advokaat
He brought in five new faces, including former Belgian league scoring champion Wesley Sonck from Ajax Amsterdam and Schalke’s unhappy midfielder Jörg Böhme. 15th place Gladbach hosts Arminia Bielefeld.
Last place Freiburg used the five week break to fetch another three players and true to its international character, Freiburg and coach Volker Finke brought in three non-Germans. Two of them are meant to shore up Freiburg’s suspect defense. The final man is Dutch striker Samuel Koejoe who should help an equally suspect offense, which found the net only 14 times in 17 first leg matches.
To start the second leg Freiburg travels to 17th place Rostock. Rostock failed to win a single home match in the first leg and Freiburg is particularly weak on the road. Smells like a draw.