What to watch out for on Matchday 17 in the Bundesliga | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 19.01.2017
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What to watch out for on Matchday 17 in the Bundesliga

The Bundesliga returns after the mid-season break. Schalke's Choupo-Moting is given permission to play, there are new managers at Darmstadt and Gladbach, and the relegation battle gets serious.

Schalke vs Ingolstadt. Choupo-Moting given permisson to play by FIFA

The Gelsenkirchen side tweeted to say that FIFA had ruled that striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting was eligible to play on Saturday. The forward opted out of the African Nations Cup but, as Cameroon had named him in their initial squad, there was uncertainty over whether he could play for his club - who have no other fit strikers.

RB Leipzig vs Eintracht Frankfurt. Can Leipzig keep flying or will Eagles clip their wings?

Bundesliga, SC Freiburg - RB Leipzig (picture alliance / Patrick Seeger/dpa)

Timo Werner will look to continue his great form

Controversial newcomers RB Leipzig got off to a flying start in the first half of their debut Bundesliga season but were brought back down to earth by the comprehensive 3-0 defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich last time out in December.

The RB hierarchy insist that a "carefree" season remains the aim but Ralph Hasenhüttl's young side will be determined to show that they are good enough to hold on to a European place - or even better.

Leipzig will be without Emil Forsberg - one of the stars of the Bundesliga season so far - for the visit of Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday after the Swede was sent off against Bayern. Defender Lukas Klostermann is still injured but midfield dynamo Naby Keita is fit to play.

Fourth-placed Frankfurt are also in the hunt for a Champions League place after an impressive first half of the season so Leipzig face a difficult task.

Darmstadt vs Borussia Mönchengladbach. The "new manager bounce" - does it exist?

Deutschland Mönchengladbach Max Eberl und Dieter Hecking (Getty Images/Bongarts/M. Hitij)

Dieter Hecking was last at Wolfsburg

The "new manager bounce" is the name given to the often positive effect a new coach can have on a team as the players look to impress the new boss and respond to a fresh personality, a different routine and new ideas. Or so the theory goes. It will certainly be put to the test on Saturday as bottom-of-the-table Darmstadt welcome Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Gladbach fans know what they're getting with new manager Dieter Hecking. The 52-year-old has a wealth of Bundesliga experience but will have to do without a number of key players including Ibrahima Traoré, Patrick Herrmann, Tobias Strobl and Nico Elvedi. His first challenge is to end the Foals' dismal run of only one win in their last 18 away games - although that did come on their last visit to Darmstadt.

New Darmstadt head coach Torsten Frings is an unknown quantity in contrast to Hecking. Darmstadt is the first managerial appointment for the former Germany international and club president Rüdiger Fritsch is expecting Frings to bring a "straightforward authenticity" to life at the relegation-threatened club.

Center back Immanuel Höhn is the only injury concern as the Lillies launch what could be a mission impossible to stay in the Bundesliga.

Werder Bremen vs Borussia Dortmund. Can Bremen punish injury-hit Dortmund?

1. Bundesliga 15. Spieltag - TSG 1899 Hoffenheim vs. Borussia Dortmund | Trainer Thomas Tuchel (Getty Images/Bongarts/A. Grimm)

Thomas Tuchel has injury worries

Dortmund endured a roller-coaster first half of the season. Thomas Tuchel's young side showed they were capable of tactically mature performances against the likes of Bayern Munich and Real Madrid and of scoring goals against lesser opposition. But they also demonstrated a propensity to collapse under pressure and already find themselves 12 points adrift of leaders Bayern in sixth.

Injuries haven't helped either and Dortmund will be without Marco Reus and Sven Bender in Bremen. Sokratis and Ousmane Dembele have been training individually but aren't guaranteed to play. "I would be lying if I said everything was fine," Tuchel told German media. "We have too many injuries and it's often the same players. It's definitely a problem."

Top-scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will also miss the trip north while he remains on international duty with Gabon at the African Cup of Nations.

Werder Bremen will be without midfielder Florian Grillitsch after the Austrian dislocated his shoulder in training on Wednesday but will be boosted by the return of Claudio Pizarro and Max Kruse. With Serge Gnabry (7 goals, 1 assist) also raring to go after the break, Dortmund face a stern test at the Weserstadion.

Wolfsburg vs Hamburg. The relegation battle starts here

Deutschland Fußball Bundesliga - Hamburger SV vs. FC Schalke 04 (Getty Images/Bongarts/O. Hardt)

Nicolai Müller is so often Hamburg's hero

It's all change in Wolfsburg after Julian Draxler became the latest unsettled star to jump ship. But Valerien Ismael has invested the €40m received from Paris St Germain wisely and all eyes will be on Yunus Malli - the Turkish international who scored eight goals and set up eight more for Mainz before joining the Wolves this month.

With Paul-Georges Ntep (€5m from Stade Rennes) and Riechedly Bazoer (€12m from Ajax) also available, it will be a new-look Wolfsburg hoping to distance themselves from the relegation zone.

Their visitors on Saturday are already experienced when it comes to dropzone dogfights - this is the third time in four seasons that Hamburg have found themselves battling against a first ever relegation from the top flight. Defender Mergim Mavraj could make his debut while Kyriakos Papadopoulos, on loan from Bayer Leverkusen, could also strengthen the back four.

Who will get off to the best start in the battle to avoid the drop?

Friday 

Freiburg 1 - 2 Bayern Munich 

Saturday (1530)

Schalke - Ingolstadt

Wolfsburg - Hamburg

Augsburg - Hoffenheim

Werder Bremen - Borussia Dortmund

Darmstadt - Borussia Mönchengladbach

RB Leipzig - Eintracht Frankfurt (1830)

Sunday

Bayer Leverkusen - Hertha Berlin (1530)

Mainz - Cologne (1730)

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