What to look out for on Matchday 18

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Top of the tree halfway through the season, FC Bayern start the second half of the campaign on Sunday afternoon (15:30 CET) with a visit to FC Schalke 04. The day before, the chasing pack have the chance to close the gap to the top of the table, at least temporarily. fcbayern.com takes a look at the most important games on Matchday 18, involving league rivals and Bayern's upcoming opponents.

Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs. VfL Wolfsburg

KO: Saturday, 23.01.2021, 15:30 (all times CET)

Look out for: With an important 2-1 win in the top match against Borussia Dortmund, Leverkusen, now third in the table, stopped their slide, after previously having only picked up a point in their last four games. Now, however, the Welkself face their next tough challenge with VfL Wolfsburg waiting in the wings. After five games without defeat, the Wolves are putting a lot of pressure on the Champions League places and could draw level on points with Leverkusen with a win.

Stats corner: Wolfsburg have only lost twice so far this season. That is a new VfL record in the Bundesliga. The task now is to carry this form into the second half of the campaign: In the past five years, the Wolves have never won the first match of the second half of the season (one draw, four defeats).

A 17-year-old as a match-winner: Florian Wirtz scored the winning goal in the Werkself's 2-1 win against Dortmund in Leverkusen.

1. FSV Mainz 05 vs. RB Leipzig

KO: Saturday, 23.01.2021, 15:30

Look out for: While Bayern travel to the team bottom of the table, second-placed Leipzig go to the team second-bottom. The Saxons fought their way to a 1-0 win against surprise package of the season Union Berlin during the week and thus remain the Munich team's closest rivals. "We are still within striking distance and of course want to step on the gas," said Julian Nagelsmann, who hopes to pick up "maybe even a few more points" in the second half of the season. And in that sense RB can ill-afford to lose concentration against Mainz: The Zerofivers showed just a week ago in their 1-1 draw in Dortmund how much they can frustrate the top teams despite their league placing.

Stats corner: FSV have not scored at home for almost seven hours (417 minutes) and are now hosting the best defence in the league: The Saxons have already kept 8 clean sheets this season and have conceded only 14 goals.

TSG 1899 Hoffenheim vs. 1. FC Köln

KO: Sunday, 24.01.2021, 18:00

Look out for: Bayern's next home opponents Hoffenheim (Saturday, 30.01.2021) face a game that will dictate where they set their sights this season. With a win against 16th-placed Köln, TSG would have a seven-point cushion on the relegation places - but with a defeat, TSG could be dragged into the relegation dogfight. Both teams earned a dose of confidence going into the clash: Köln celebrated a last-minute victory at Schalke (2-1), and Hoffenheim won 3-0 at Hertha BSC. "We need points and a sense of achievement. After this victory we have both," TSG coach Hoeneß (coach of Bayern's reserve side that won the third division title last season) said after the final whistle.

Stats corner: Köln have picked up 12 of their 15 points this Bundesliga season away from home. They are 9th in the 'away' table and 17th in the 'home' table.

Hoffenheim left the capital club behind them with a 3-0 win at Hertha BSC during the week.

Matchday 18 at a glance:

Friday, 22.01.2021 | 20:30 CET
Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Borussia Dortmund

Saturday, 23.01.2021 | 15:30 CET
Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs. VfL Wolfsburg
Sport-Club Freiburg vs. VfB Stuttgart
1. FSV Mainz 05 vs. RB Leipzig
FC Augsburg vs. 1. FC Union Berlin
DSC Arminia Bielefeld vs. Eintracht Frankfurt

Saturday, 23.01.2021 | 18:30CET
Hertha BSC vs. SV Werder Bremen

Sunday, 24.01.2021 | 15:30CET
FC Schalke 04 vs. FC Bayern München

Sunday, 24.01.2021 | 18:00CET
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim vs. 1. FC Köln

On Wednesday night, Manuel Neuer drew level with Oliver Kahn for the record of most Bundesliga clean sheets: