Bayern Munich will be without Franck Ribery when the Bundesliga resumes after the winter break with the champions taking on second-placed VfL Wolfsburg on Friday.
Ribery suffered a muscle injury in training on Wednesday and defender Rafinha injured ligaments with both ruled out for two weeks, Bayern said on Thursday.
But even without the pair, coach Pep Guardiola can choose from a growing squad with Holger Badstuber, Mehdi Benatia and David Alaba, among other, returning to full fitness after their injuries.
The Bavarians are unbeaten in the league this season and have conceded just four goals in 17 games so far to carve out an 11-point lead over Wolfsburg.
Guardiola is eager for his team to shoot out of the blocks with a win that would take them 14 points clear as they chase a third straight Bundesliga title, a second under the Spaniard.
“I think it is good to take on the second-placed team straightaway as it forces us to step on the gas,” Guardiola said.
“I repeat that for us the Bundesliga is the most important aim of the season. Only then it is a successful one. Wolfsburg have played an outstanding season so far so it will be tough.”
But Bayern remain the odds-on favourites with Wolfsburg still coming to terms with the death of their player Junior Malanda.
The Belgium youth international was killed when the car he was a passenger in went off the motorway and flipped over several times on January 10 as the team prepared to leave for a training camp in South Africa.
“We will be well prepared,” said sports director Klaus Allofs with the team offering continuous psychological support to the players, who also travelled the Brussels for the funeral last week.
At the other end of the table, former champions Borussia Dortmund are hoping they can finally start turning around their dismal domestic season and move out of the 17th spot, level on points with last placed Freiburg, reports Reuters.
With winger Marco Reus back from injury, Dortmund will need all hands on deck against third-placed Bayer Leverkusen, six points off Wolfsburg and eager to stay within striking distance of second place.
“We are not naive and optimistic and we know full well the pressure will not ease any time soon,” said Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp, who led them to the Bundesliga title as recently as 2011 and 2012.
“But we look at our prospects and know that we can do this.
“To end the year in 17th place felt like a holiday on a bed of nails.”