Germany's top teams switch their attention to the transfer window following the start of the winter break on Sunday and Goal takes a look at their plans
By Enis Koylu
Can anyone catch them? After an unbeaten opening half of the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich sit seven points clear of their nearest challengers in the Bundesliga, Bayer Leverkusen, despite having played a game less.
January, though, gives their rivals a chance to rebuild and take the Bavarians' quest for a second straight national title to the wire.
With that in mind, Goal is here to give you the low-down on what each of Germany's big guns can be expected to do in the winter transfer window.
The January transfer window remains largely neglected by Bayern Munich. The only major mid-season arrivals in Bavaria over the last decade were Landon Donovan on an unsuccessful loan, Breno - who ultimately was fired for burning down his own house - and Luiz Gustavo. The latter can be classed as the sole success.
That is not to say that Bayern will not be active, though, having used it in recent years to negotiate summer deals early, most notably when they secured the summer arrival of Xherdan Shaqiri back in 2012.
And perhaps the biggest - and most controversial - Bundesliga deal of next summer, Robert Lewandowski's long-awaited free transfer from Dortmund to the Allianz Arena, could be confirmed, with the Polish striker free to negotiate with other clubs from the start of the month.
Another Bundesliga talent set for Munich is Sebastian Rode of Eintracht Frankfurt, whose president is resigned to losing the defensive midfielder, who can arguably fill the only hole in Bayern's stellar squad. Like Lewandowski, he is available on a Bosman and Bayern will be eager to snap him up to ward off competition.
Elsehwere, the only order of business will be to extend the contracts of players already at the club. Arjen Robben's deal expires in 18 months' time, as does that of fellow attacking midfielder Toni Kroos, and Uli Hoeness & Co. will be eager to tie them down.
January will hardly be a busier time for Borussia Dortmund, despite their abominable run of form in recent weeks following a spate of ill-timed injuries to key players.
Mats Hummels, Neven Subotic, Marcel Schmelzer, Ilkay Gundogan and Lukasz Piszczek have all missed significant chunks of the season, but, with the exception of the Serb, are expected to be firing on all cylinders in the second half of the season.
They have had particular problems at centre-back but Marian Sarr's emergence in December eases the problem somewhat, while Manuel Friedrich, signed on a free transfer in November, will be far better off with a mid-season training camp.
Dortmund are, however, resigned to losing Robert Lewandowski in the summer and must start to think about who will replace the Polish striker as their main striker. Porto's Jackson Martinez and Adrian Ramos of Hertha Berlin are both named targets, but they may seek to move for Hoffenheim forward Kevin Volland instead due to his cost and youth, though any transfer will only come in the summer.
Equally pressing is the need to keep their current squad together. Ilkay Gundogan, who has barely kicked a ball this season due to injury, is the subject of serious interest from Real Madrid and Manchester United, and will have just one year left on his current deal come the summer. BVB have spoken of their determination to tie him down and a successful conclusion to talks is a must.
Another player they will want to sign a new contract as soon as possible is Marco Reus. The Germany forward is the club's undisputed star and a buyout clause worth around €35 million in his current deal is certainly cause for concern, though the club are optimistic that he won't do 'a Mario Gotze' and leave behind their back due to his local roots and lifelong affection for the club.
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Schalke are in serious danger of losing their Champions League place this term after a hit-and-miss start to the season and it is vital that they use the January market to strengthen.
Club general manger Horst Heldt has already announced his intention to bring Bayer Leverkusen star Sidney Sam, whether in the summer or the winter, to the Veltins Arena and Fabian Giefer of Fortuna Dusseldorf is likely to move to Gelsenkirchen to help with their goalkeeping crisis.
Bayer Leverkusen, meanwhile, were desperately short of fitness in the final few weeks before the winter break, as evidenced by back-to-back defeats to Werder Bremen and Eintracht Frankfurt and have already brought in a new face: Julian Brandt from Wolfsburg's youth ranks. The 17-year-old brings a stellar scoring record with him and may well get some gametime towards the end of the season.
The Werkself also carried out a very public pursuit of Kevin De Bruyne in the summer, but the Belgian ultimately decided to remain and fight for his place at Chelsea. His subsequent spell frozen out of the first team has changed his situation and B04 will attempt to move for him again.
They will, of course, face competition from Wolfsburg for De Bruyne, with the Volkswagen Arena club having already announced their intention to move for the 22-year-old.