New signings, goalkeeping sagas and a feel-good story: The Bundesliga returns with a bang this weekend
Photo via gettyimages/DeFodi Images

For football fans in Germany, it has been quite the wait to watch their beloved clubs again. The Bundesliga has been in hibernation since the 13th November when Freiburg dismantled Union Berlin 4-1. A clash between two of the standout sides this season and it is set to return with a bang.

But what are the five main areas that supporters should be excited about going into the Ruckründe?

Sebastien Haller returns

Let's start off with the most heartwarming story over the past few months. Borussia Dortmund striker, Sebastien Haller has recovered from testicular cancer. The 28-year-old marked his return to football on the 10th January in a friendly against Fortuna Dusseldorf which was followed by a hat-trick in a 6-1 victory against Swiss side Basel, three days later.

After the game, Haller told reporters, "It's the best feeling possible to come back, to score goals, to help the team. I feel my body improving day by day so it's the best thing I could imagine. Not only for me but also for the team, for everyone. I'll try to keep pushing like that, keep working together, and I hope I can be effective and useful for the team."

Edin Terzic will certainly hope that is the case as Dortmund have struggled throughout the first half of the season.

Die Schwarzgelben currently sit in sixth spot, two points off Eintracht Frankfurt. Part of the problem is their issue in front of goal.  Youssoufa Moukouko is the only consistent scoring force but happens to be embroiled in contract talks with the club and there is the possibility that the 18-year-old will leave either in January or in the summer.

Haller's cover, Anthony Modeste has contributed little, bar an exhilarating last-minute equaliser against Bayern. While Donyell Malen and Karim Adeyemi are yet to score with Malen providing one assist between the pair. As a result, Haller's return is a welcome one but Dortmund will need to start scoring if they are to move up the league table.

New arrivals

The transfer window has been open for over two weeks but we have only seen a few transfers so far. As ever, this should pick up as January reaches its conclusion. 

The likes of Hoffenheim and Freiburg have benefitted from the Premier League gravy train so far, by selling talented youngsters, Georginio Rutter and Kevin Schade for sizeable fees. Schade's deal is slightly more complex though due to an initial loan deal being agreed with Brentford before the deal is expected to be made permanent for a club-record fee in the summer.

As for arrivals, the most high profile is 32-year-old Daley Blind who surprisingly left Ajax to join Bayern. The league leaders' decision to sign the Dutchman was swayed by the long-term injury Lucas Hernandez picked up at the World Cup.

Although he doesn't possess the same mobility as Hernandez, Blind offers a significant level of game intelligence as well as the versatility to play as both a centre-back and a left-back, something that the French defender is also capable of.

On top of Blind, Paxten Aaronson has followed in his older brother's (Brenden) footsteps by leaving the USA to head for Europe.

The 19-year-old has joined Eintracht Frankfurt for a reported sum of $4 million. Augsburg have ventured into the Croatian market by signing Dion Drena Beljo and David čolina. While Kasper Dolberg's tour of Europe has seen him end up at Hoffenheim on a loan until the end of the campaign, the Dane will be tasked in replacing the departed Rutter's goals.

Manuel Neuer's injury

After Germany's elimination from the World Cup, Manuel Neuer decided to go skiing for a few days. Unfortunately for both him and Bayern, he broke his leg while on vacation and will miss the rest of the season.

This has led to a highly-reported chase of a number of goalkeepers to cover for their stricken captain as the club clearly feel that current second-choice, Sven Ulreich is inadequate to do so. Bayern first tried to recall Alexander Nübel from his loan at Monaco but Nübel was reluctant to return unless he was guaranteed game-time when Neuer recovers.

The Bavarians have turned their attention to two Bundesliga veterans in Kevin Trapp and Yann Sommer, with the latter becoming the more likely option.

Sommer has been at current club, Borussia Mönchengladbach for almost a decade but looks set to cut ties with Die Fohlen in the summer. However, they are hesitant to let Sommer leave unless a replacement can be found. His fellow countryman, Jonas Omlin, who currently plays for Montpellier has been one name mentioned.

Can Freiburg and Union keep up their impressive seasons ?

Union were the early pace-setters, after Matchweek 10 they sat top of the table with four more points than Bayern Munich. However, Urs Fischer's side only won one of their next five games and find themselves in fifth place upon the Bundesliga's return.

Their league position shouldn't take anything away from their exploits this season but recent performances have been slightly concerning. A home defeat to VFL Bochum, a thrashing by Xabi Alonso's Bayer Leverkusen and being comfortably dispatched by SC Freiburg should all signal concern.

Freiburg and Union share many similarities; a manager who is ingrained in the club, a similar recruitment strategy and a work ethic that transfers from the supporters onto the pitch.

Christian Streich's Freiburg are arguably the more expansive of the two and are more tactically flexible than ever. They can switch between a three-back or a four-back with an industrious midfield that compliments their creative wingers.

Ritsu Doan showcased his quality to the world in Qatar as Japan made the round of 16. The 24-year-old is full of energy and fits perfectly into Freiburg's philosophy. On the other flank is their talisman though, Vincenzo Grifo. The Italian is heralded in the South-Western city, a truly exceptional footballer to watch and extremely consistent as well. He has already equalled his tally of nine from last season and looks set to make double figures.

The way Streich has the Breisgau-Brasilianer performing, it would be a surprise to many if they don't finally qualify for the Champions League after years of continued progress.

How will the relegation battle pan out ?

As it stands Schalke are in the biggest trouble as they sit cut adrift, bottom of the division. Moving upwards, Bochum have 13 points, Stuttgart and Hertha Berlin are on 14 while Augsburg have 15 points next to their name.

Frank Kramer was fired after a disastrous start to his reign in Gelsenkirchen and has since been replaced by Thomas Reis, who performed exceptionally at Bochum last season but disagreements with the board and a poor start to the campaign saw him leave.  

His successor, Thomas Letsch has done well since taking over and has them in a position where they could stay up. As for the other sides down there, Stuttgart have turned to Bundesliga survival specialist, Bruno Labbadia to ensure they stay in the first division.

While Hertha and Augsburg are banking on their managers, Sandro Schwarz and Enrico Maaßen to arrest their form. Both were appointed in the summer and Maaßen initially received a lot of praise but a downturn in results has seen Augsburg drop closer to the relegation zone.

Whatever happens, you can follow all the drama right here on VAVEL.

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