FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The Bundesliga resumes with the biggest match of the season so far when defending champion and front-runner Bayern Munich visits closest challenger Borussia Dortmund on Saturday in a repeat of the Champions League final in May, which Bayern won 2-1. Bayern is four points clear of Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen.
Here are the 5 things to know about the Bundesliga weekend:
Borussia Dortmund is severely short-handed going into the derby against Bayern: The side's entire back four from its championship 2011-12 season are out with injuries: Neven Subotic is out for the season with a knee injury, Mats Hummels out for the year with a foot injury, left back Marcel Schmelzer is sidelined for three weeks with a calf injury and right back Lukasz Piszczek is just beginning his comeback after hip surgery. Piszczek could be forced into action ahead of plans and although he's had only limited playing time with the reserves. Manuel Friedrich was signed at short notice although the 34-year-old former Germany defender has been without a club since his contract with Bayer Leverkusen expired at the end of the last season.
Dortmund's defense so far has been the second best in the Bundesliga after Bayern's, conceding 11 goals in 12 games. Bayern has allowed seven.
While its defense is decimated, Dortmund still boasts an awe-inspiring attack and tops the league with 32 goals. Robert Lewandowski leads the Bundesliga with nine goals, while Germany international Marco Reus and summer signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are not far behind on seven goals apiece. With attacking midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan and back-in-form Nuri Sahin also dangerous from the second row, Dortmund has enough fire power to trouble Bayern.
Bayern is not without weapons either, although it suffered a late setback when Franck Ribery was ruled out with a cracked rib.
Mario Mandzukic has scored eight in the Bundesliga and is coming off personal success, having helped Croatia qualify for the World Cup.
Arjen Robben, who scored the winner in the Champions League final, is also available, but Bastian Schweinsteiger is on the long-term injury list.
Note: Lewandowski has never lost against Bayern, likely his next club, in six league games; Mandzukic has never won against Dortmund in five.
Dortmund is unbeaten in its six last Bundesliga games against Bayern, with four wins and two draws. Bayern is unbeaten on the road in its last 24 games, with 20 wins and four draws. Bayern's last loss away was on April 11, 2012 — a 1-0 defeat in Dortmund after a goal by Lewandowski. Dortmund has not dropped a point at home this season.
Bayern is coming off a record-setting 37th consecutive game without a loss after a 3-0 win Augsburg and already has booked a place in the knockout stage of the Champions League. Dortmund is coming off two consecutive losses, to Arsenal in the Champions League and in Wolfsburg (2-1), during which Subotic also sustained his season-ending injury.
Germany midfielder Mario Goetze faces a tricky return to Dortmund, the club where he grew up before leaving in the offseason for a set transfer fee of 37 million euros. Many Dortmund fans have not forgiven Goetze for going to the club's biggest rival, although coach Juergen Klopp and other Dortmund officials have been philosophical about it, particularly in view of the transfer fee.
"I am not afraid of the return in any way," Goetze said this week. "I can understand the fans, I am sure they'd prefer to see me in Dortmund's colors. But I am looking forward to the return."
"I'll have to get used to it that not every reaction will be positive ... Dortmund played a great part of my past on which I look back with joy," Goetze said.
With all eyes on Dortmund, Leverkusen has a chance of taking sole possession of second place with a win at promoted Hertha Berlin. Hertha has played well and is in seventh place, but has suffered two defeats at home, to Stuttgart and Schalke.
Going back to the time when Hertha was in the top division, Leverkusen has not beaten the Berlin side in seven games, the longest such run against any Bundesliga club.
Leverkusen's coach Sami Hyypia says his team "has to make more out of our opportunities." Especially with an attack that features forwards such as Stefan Kiessling, Sydney Sam and Son Heung-min, who is coming off a hat trick against Hamburger SV. Sam and Kiessling have combined for 14 goals this season.