Champions Bayern Munich will kick off 2018 with an almost complete squad after top scorer Robert Lewandowski, Mats Hummels and Joshua Kimmich were declared fit before their Bundesliga campaign resumes against Bayer Leverkusen on Friday.
The Bavarians, eyeing a record-extending sixth consecutive league title, are 11 points clear at the top, having won nine out of 10 league games under coach Jupp Heynckes, who took over in October following the sacking of Carlo Ancelotti.
The trio of players resumed training this week after being out for several days and could now be in Friday’s squad as the Bundesliga returns following its winter break.
Only Manuel Neuer and Thiago Alcantara, both long-term injury absentees, will be missing for their trip to Leverkusen though Heynckes will have new signing Sandro Wagner available, with the forward having joined from Hoffenheim.
“I think we are on a good track, we worked hard and are focused,” said Germany international Wagner, who is hoping to nail down a spot in Germany’s World Cup squad in June.
“No one is thinking about the lead in the standings,” Wagner said. “That is why everyone is working extra hard.”
With only two defeats in 17 league games few are betting against Bayern retaining their crown, with chasers RB Leipzig, Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 lacking their rivals’ consistency and squad depth.
Leverkusen, however, are unbeaten in their last 12 matches, having quietly climbed to fourth, and will have speedy wingers Leon Bailey and Karim Bellarabi back in the squad after they overcame a cold and a minor injury respectively.
The 20-year-old Bailey has enjoyed a sensational first full Bundesliga season, having scored six times, and was named as the league’s best winger so far this campaign.
Second-placed Schalke are enjoying their own good run, having gone 11 games without defeat, and are in second place on 30 points but their record will be put to the test at Leipzig on Saturday.
Leipzig, last season’s runners-up, are two points further back in fifth and are desperate to rebound after going four games without a win before the winter break.
Third-placed Dortmund will be hoping to continue their recovery under new coach Peter Stoeger, having won their last two league matches before the break, when they host VfL Wolfsburg on Sunday.