With Bundesliga action for the second half of the season about to kick off on Friday with Bayern facing off against Hamburg, here are the five things we are looking out for:

Four In A Row  For Bayern?

Audi Cup - Bayern Munich vs Real MadridAfter winning three Bundesliga titles in a row without much competition from closest rivals, Borussia Dortmund’s tenacious form this season poses a genuine title challenge for Bayern. Though Dortmund rode on their blistering attack’s heroics to become table toppers, it has only opening week happiness for the Yellow and Blacks.

Bayern with their ruthless consistency have grabbed the top spot gaining on their bitter rivals’ occasional slipups. But it has not been easy going for the Bavarian giants as they had to dig deep to gain points this season and even tasted their first defeat for the first time in three years in the Hinrunde against a revitalized Monchengladbach.

When it comes to their chances of winning the fourth consecutive title, they clearly have the right personnel for it and Pep Guardiola’s departure at the end of the season will be an added motivation for the team. Last time when the current coach announced departure before the end led the team to go and win the treble which could be a possibility this term as well.

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Dortmund’s Defence Key For Title Hopes:

Borussia Dortmund vs Darmstadt 98For a team sitting second in the table and having scored the highest number of league goals, Mats Hummels & co. have conceded 23 goals which is shocking. And the conceded tally ranks seventh best in the league which is really not a rank that Dortmund would be satisfied with.

Die Schwarzgelben’s resurgence can be mostly credit to their brilliant forward line which have set the goal charts ablaze with 47 goals.  With the unstoppable Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leading the line, Tuchel’s men have scored 4 goals or more on six occasions this season, averaging an astonishing 2.8 goals per game.

This have come to their aid on as many as three occasions as their offensive strength have managed to save the day by either scoring a vital winner or by securing a draw with an equalizer.The frailties in Dortmund’s defence were totally exposed in the game against Bayern where the gap between the centre backs was brutally exploited by Bayern’s marauding frontline.

This was even evident in their defeat against Hamburg where they really looked like recovering after allowing two goals in the opening half of the game. Their mentality to come from behind is also a problem as they have managed to win only once from from four matches when they were trailing behind.

If Dortmund have to scale the eight point difference between them and Bayern, defensive errors have to be their primary concern. Bringing in another centre back to increase competition for places would be a good step towards addressing the issue, but a quiet January window means that Thomas Tuchel has decided to keep his faith in his current defensive line. But the result will be interesting to see if they manage to keep up with league leaders Bayern.

Who Will Finish The Season As The Top Scorer?

FC Augsburg vs Borussia DortmundIt has been a season of strikers in the Bundesliga so far as three super charged marksmen compete for the Golden Cannon. The first one is the man behind Dortmund’s turnaround this year; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The Gabon international has scored 18 goals from 17 Bundesliga matches and is second in the domestic goal scoring charts across Europe’s top five leagues. The African Player of The Year also averages 1.05 goals per game which is pretty impressive considering his entire team has a ratio of 2.8 goals per game.

The second in the race is Aubameyang’s ex teammate and Bayern’s current No.9 Robert Lewandowski. He has never looked back this season after scoring 5 goals inside 9 minutes on an unbelievable night against VfL Wolfsburg . The Poland Captain boasts a goals ratio of 0.9 goals per game which is even greater than Premier League top scorers Romelu Lukaku and Jamie Vardy’s 0.6 goals per game.

The third and surprise contender is Lewandowski’s strike partner Thomas Muller. Enjoying his most fruitful Bundesliga season, Bayern’s “Space Finder ” has surpassed his previous best tally of 13 goals in a single season in just 17 games this season. The Germany international’s unorthodox ways of finding goals and passes through the opposition defences has helped him forge a deadly partnership with Lewandowski.

Javier “Chicharito” Hernández needs a special mention if talked about Bundesliga’s strikers as the ex Manchester United man is prospering in the Bundesliga and has already racked up 11 goals in just 14 matches for his new club Bayer Leverkusen. If not a contender to become the top scorer this season, the Mexican can be expected to finish the season with at least 20 league goals to his name.

Can Hertha Hold On To Their Position?

Hertha BSC vs FSV Mainz 05Every year there is always a surprise entry at the top. The previous season it has been Augsburg’s surge into the European race by pushing the likes of Schalke to secure automatic qualification to the Europa League. Even though the Bavarian side has slipped up this season, their run at the top has been nothing short of remarkable last season.

For this season, it is Pal Dardai’s Hertha Berlin who against all expectations are in the Champions League spot at the end of Hinrunde. They have let in just 18 goals this season the second best defence after Bayern Munich, who have let in 8 goals.

Their impressive back line led by USA international John Anthony Brooks has been undoubtedly one of their greatest strengths. Their strike pair of Salomon Kalou and Vedad Ibisevic have been able to guide the team to impressive wins against tough opponents. But despite all their hard work will the Old Lady hold on to their place at the top?

In the past few seasons only three teams who have finished in the European spots have been able to hold on to their berths at the end of the season. SC Freiburg in 2012-13 and Hannover in 2010-11 have been the only teams in recent memory to finish the season in the same  European spot after 17 games.

Hertha’s shot conversion in front of the goals has probably been their weakness this season as their goal scorers have needed 16 shots per goal which is lowest in the division. It will be another great stories that will be told if they qualify for a European competition, but can Pal Dardai lead his men to that dream is to be seen.

Survival Battle Interesting Once Again:

FC Augsburg vs Athletic BilbaoMatchday 34 in the Bundesliga for 2014-15 season was probably the most nail biting finishes in the whole of Europe as 8 clubs were involved in the relegation battle, which went down to the last minute of the season. SC Paderborn and SC Freiburg took the fall at last as Hamburger SV who are nicknamed “Bundesliga Dinosaurs” were given a chance to keep their tag, as they hung by the last thread then went on to win the dramatic Play-Off match against Karlsruher.

Though Hamburg have vastly improved this season and currently sit tenth in the table, all the teams below them, they still face the danger of getting relegated with only 7 points difference separating them from bottom placed TSG Hoffenheim. FC Augsburg who gained European qualification for the first time in their history have been unable to handle the burden of three competitions, and have been in the relegation spots for most of the time in the Hinrunde, but managed to climb out of it to 12th.

Last season’s another European aspirant Hoffenheim have collapsed this term as they have been unable to replicate last season’s fantastic run at the top. New entries Ingolstadt and Darmstadt have impressed many at the start of the season, but still hover around the drop zone.

The story is far worse down the table as Eintracht Frankfurt, Werder Bremen and Hannover are unable to pick up even 5 points from their last five games. There has been some recent good news for Stuttgart fans as the club have climbed out of the bottom three under new coach Jurgen Krammy and also have landed former Borussia Dortmund midfielder Kevin Grosskreutz from Galatasaray, but are still very much in the relegation quagmire. Can neutral fans expect another final day showdown? It looks very much on the cards.

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