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Football is back - What to expect as the Bundesliga returns?

Live football is back this weekend with the return of the Bundesliga! Germany's top flight has been given the green light by state governments, allowing games to take place behind closed doors. A lot of leagues in other countries will be looking to the Bundesliga as a blueprint for how football in a coronavirus world can work, while football fans across the world may be tuning in to German soccer for the first time as there is no other top league back playing competitively. Four games kick-off at the same time on Saturday afternoon and the highlight surely must be the Revierderby, possibly the biggest game in the Bundesliga calendar. It sees Borussia Dortmund host bitter local rivals Schalke at Signal Iduna Park, where the famed Yellow Wall will be silent for the first time in the game's history. There is more than just regional pride riding on this game as the league title is Dortmund's last chance at silverware this season, having been knocked out of the Champions League by PSG. Schalke have bounced back from a disappointing 2018-19 and David Wagner's side are looking to take points on Saturday to help their battle for a place in Europe. Dortmund can close the lead at the top of the table to one point on leaders Bayern Munich, who do not play until Sunday, travelling to the old East Germany to take on Union Berlin. Their hosts usually turn their stadium into an unappealing away trip, but the lack of fans could work in Bayern's favour as the atmosphere will not be as intimidating as usual. The Bavarians are boosted by the return of top scorer Robert Lewandowski, who used the lockdown period to recover from injury.

RB Leipzig are the third team in the title hunt, sitting five points behind Bayern. They have also been handed a favourable fixture on paper as they host this season's surprise package Freiburg at the Red Bull Arena. Freiburg have been performing above all expectations under Christian Streich, but the coach meets his match in Leipzig's precocious Julian Nagelsmann, who is widely regarded as one of the best young managers in Europe. Timo Werner is expected to lead the line as usual for the Red Bulls and he has not let talk of a transfer to Liverpool distract him while on the pitch, as he has scored 21 league goals this season already. Monday night games have seen plenty of protests over the past few years, with the league's governing body actually caving in to fan pressure and scrapping them altogether from next year. However, with coronavirus causing such fixture congestion, they will continue for the next few months. This Monday sees Werder Bremen host Bayer Leverkusen, where there will be no protests because there will be no fans present. Werder have struggled with injuries all season and find themselves in a major battle for survival in the top tier. They are second from bottom at the moment, a full eight points away from guaranteed survival and four behind Fortuna Dusseldorf who occupy the relegation play-off spot. Bremen's fixture to resume the league after the break in play is an extremely tricky one as they play Peter Bosz's relentless Bayer Leverkusen side who will look to play at maximum speed and cause Bremen problems with tricky wingers like Leon Bailey and Karim Bellarabi. With no other major football on this weekend, every Bundesliga game is sure to prove popular, even for the neutral, with many current players such as Jadon Sancho, Kai Havertz and Werner all being tipped as potential summer transfers once the window opens and the world of football gets back to normal.

Ronan Murphy


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