BERLIN - Midfield maestro Thiago Alcantara is expected to make his long-awaited return for Bayern Munich on Saturday, when the runaway Bundesliga leaders face Wolfsburg.
The Spaniard has been out for nearly three months after picking up a thigh injury against Anderlecht in November. Bayern are 18 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga, with RB Leipzig leading the chasing pack.
Fan protests are expected when Leipzig travel to Eintracht Frankfurt for what will be the first Monday night fixture in Bundesliga history.
Elsewhere, Borussia Dortmund will have key midfield trio Marco Reus, Andre Schuerrle and Mario Goetze fit to help fire them to victory over Borussia Moenchengladbach on Sunday.
Here are five things to look out for in this weekend’s Bundesliga action.
Alcantara has spent three months on the treatment table. Now back to match fitness, Thiago is expected to start against Wolfsburg on Saturday, filling in for the suspended Arturo Vidal.
The midfielder last played in the Bundesliga in a 3-1 victory over Dortmund a few days before his injury.
"It's very important to have creative players like Thiago," said Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes. "If I think back to the win against Dortmund, he played brilliantly in that game."
Fan protests are expected in Frankfurt when Eintracht Frankfurt host RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga's first ever Monday night fixture. The new Monday night slot is part of the league’s most recent TV broadcasting rights package, but it is unpopular with supporters.
Both Frankfurt and Leipzig fan groups are expected to voice their frustration during Monday's game.
On the pitch, Emil Forsberg is set to return to the Leipzig squad, having missed the last eight league games with a groin injury.
Sunday sees the battle of the Borussias, with Dortmund pinning hopes on their magical midfield trio against Moenchengladbach.
Schuerrle, Goetze and Marco Reus have all faced problems with form and fitness in recent years. All three of them, though, are expected to start against Gladbach amid hopes that they can return to their best form in the coming weeks.
"If they can get even close to the kind of performances we have seen from them in the past, there is no doubt that they can play together," said coach Peter Stoeger of the talented trio.
Gladbach, meanwhile, are expected to welcome back first choice goalkeeper Yann Sommer, who has missed the last two games through injury.
Uth faces future
Hoffenheim forward Mark Uth faces an awkward visit to future club Schalke on Saturday evening. Victory for Hoffenheim would see them draw level on points with sixth place Schalke in a key clash in the race for Europe.
For Uth, who will join Schalke on a free transfer in the summer, success on Saturday could endanger his own hopes of playing in European competition next season.
"I'll give everything for Hoffenheim on Saturday," Uth insisted. "If I have to score one against Schalke, then so be it."
Star striker Mario Gomez is a doubt for Stuttgart ahead of their trip to Augsburg on Sunday. Things are looking up at Stuttgart, who have picked up four points from two games under new coach Tayfun Korkut.
But Gomez is fighting to recover from a bout of illness.
"Mario Gomez is exactly the person we need up front,” said club president Wolfgang Dietrich. "We need personalities like him if we are going to avoid relegation."
Friday - Hertha Berlin v Mainz
Saturday - Cologne v Hannover 96, Hamburg v Bayer Leverkusen, Freiburg v Werder Bremen, Wolfsburg v Bayern Munich, Schalke v Hoffenheim
Sunday - Augsburg v VfB Stuttgart, Borussia Moenchengladbach v Borussia Dortmund
Monday - Eintracht Frankfurt v RB Leipzig