Have we all had a chance to catch our breath yet?

While football elsewhere in Europe continues to come thick and fast, the Bundesliga's annual hibernation gives us a chance to look back on a fascinating Hinrunde which provided fans with more than their fair share of talking points.

The narratives from the first half of the season were some of the best we've ever seen in Germany's top flight and there's an awful lot to look forward to ahead of the Rückrunde.

So with a few weeks left before the Bundesliga makes a highly anticipated return, here's a look at some of the key things that you'll want to keep an eye on during the second half of the season.

Who's Getting Promoted?

Orel Mangala,Marcel Hartel

A lot of eyes will (rightly) be on what happens in the German first division during the second half of the season, but a lot of football fans will also be keeping tabs on what always proves to be one of the most bizarre leagues every single season - the 2. Bundesliga.

Although German giants like Hamburger SV and VfB Stuttgart fighting it out for promotion back into the Bundesliga, it's actually Arminia Bielefeld who are sitting at the top of the pile during the winter break.

Hamburg and Stuttgart are level on points in second and third respectively, while Heidenheim and Erzgebirge Aue are sitting just outside the promotion places.

Two teams will get automatically promoted, while the third-placed team go into a two-legged play-off match against the team who finished 16th in the top flight to decide who gets the final place in the Bundesliga next season.

Can Leipzig Juggle the Champions League?

Konrad Laimer,Patrik Schick,Nordi Mukiele,Emil Forsberg

Red Bull's project in Germany might be about to break the Bundesliga's duopoly, becoming the first team that isn't Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund to win the Meisterschale since VfL Wolfsburg, but RB Leipzig will have to balance a title push with knockout stage football in Europe.

They've only got a short 10-year history, but a lot of attention is on one of Germany's most exciting and controversial teams as they prepare to face Tottenham Hotspur in the knockout stages of the Champions League.

The club from Lower Saxony have largely been written off by the English media as they prepare to play against last year's finalists, but Bundesliga fans might even have RB Leipzig down as favourites - something which opens up the possibility of a fascinating title race in the Rückrunde.

Hansi Flick & Injuries

Hansi Flick

It's been a rough season for Bayern Munich, who even by the most pessimistic of standards are having an awful campaign.

The pressure of the job eventually told for Niko Kovač as he was removed just after a shocking 5-1 defeat against his former side Eintracht Frankfurt, and the Berlin-born Croatian was replaced at the Allianz Arena by Hansi Flick - Joachim Löw's right-hand man at the 2014 World Cup.

Flick lost his fifth and sixth game in charge, but Bayern Munich have won every other match since Flick's appointment and are now back in the Bundesliga title race.

Crucially, Bayern Munich will be boosted like no one else in the new year as a handful of key first-team are set to return from injury.

Club-record signing Lucas Hernandez will return to the first-team by the end of January, while Germany international Niklas Süle is also due back before the end of the season after suffering a cruciate ligament rupture against Augsburg.

Leon Goretzka, Corentin Tolisso, Michaël Cuisance and Kingsley Coman will also be available after missing the last few weeks of the season.

Werder Bremen in Freefall


They finished just one point away from qualification to the Europa League last season, while £12m worth of new players (that's quite a lot for midtable Bundesliga standards) were brought in to offset the departure of Max Kruse.

But Die Werderaner haven't been higher than 10th in the Bundesliga table so far this season and they're currently in the automatic relegation spots.

Star man Milot Rashica has scored seven goals and picked up three assists, but unlike his vital contributions last season, the Kosovo international has only been involved in one of Werder Bremen's wins throughout 2019/20.

Florian Kohfeldt's side aren't among the worst three teams in the Bundesliga this season so should be able to find their way out of trouble, but it's certainly worth keeping one eye on exactly how Bremen get on during the Rückrunde.

The Torjägerkanone

Timo Werner

It's Robert Lewandowski's trophy, but this time there's a young striker who's looking to become the first German to win the Torjägerkanone since Alexander Meier for Eintracht Frankfurt during the 2014/15 season.

Meier's 19-goal tally that season is already close to being overtaken by RB Leipzig striker and Germany international Timo Werner, who scored 18 in 17 games during the first half of the season.

Lewandowski has already reached 19 for the season and the Poland international will be looking to break his personal best of 30 goals that he reached during the 2015/16 campaign.

Fortuna Düsseldorf's Rouwen Hennings (11) is the only other player have reached double figures after the Hinrunde.

Alfred Schreuder's Working His Magic


Before the season kicked off in August, TSG Hoffenheim were being tipped as potential relegation contenders.

Die Kraichgauer's potential struggles were clear to see after they'd lost highly-rated manager Julian Nagelsmann to RB Leipzig, while Joelinton, Kerem Demirbay, Nico Schulz and Nadiem Amiri were among 10 first-team players to leave during the transfer window.

Hoffenheim spent less than £30m on new players and they brought in Alfred Schreuder as the new head coach - the Dutchman had past experience at the club as an assistant, but the only senior managerial gig of his career came with FC Twente over four years ago.

The club looked destined for trouble and that belief was cemented after their loss to Eintracht Frankfurt on the opening day of the season, but since then the club have gone on to pick up eight wins and three draws - sitting 10 points behind first-place Leipzig in the Bundesliga table.

During their impressive run, Hoffenheim have picked wins against Bayern Munich, Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund.

Surprising Relegation Contenders

Dodi Lukebakio,Martin Hinteregger

Most teams in the league have been criminally underperforming this season, but for Eintracht Frankfurt and Hertha BSC things have been particularly frustrating.

Neither side are as close to the bottom as the likes of Werder Bremen heading into the winter break, but Hertha have spent quite a few weeks in the bottom three already, while Frankfurt are on an unbelievable decline. 

Even as two of the sleeping giants of Bundesliga football, both sides have spent the majority of the season looking over their shoulders instead of what could be in front of them.

Realistically, both Hertha BSC and Eintracht Frankfurt will be just fine.

But some bad results during the opening few weeks of the Rückrunde could see their form snowball out of control, leaving either side close to joining the list of Bundesliga giants who dropped into obscurity in the lower leagues.

The Best Club in the Ruhr

Fan Dortmund vermummt

While it looks like RB Leipzig will battle it out with Bayern Munich and maybe even Borussia Mönchengladbach for the Bundesliga title, Ruhr rivals Borussia Dortmund and Schalke could fight between themselves for the last Champions League spot.

Neither side has shown anywhere near enough consistency to come close to really challenging for the Meisterschale this season - Erling Haaland's arrival might change that for Dortmund - but the Royal Blues could finish above their local for an impressive ninth time in the 21st century.

Both level on 30 points after the opening 17 games, Borussia Dortmund's weekly battle to stay above Schalke will be a fascinating watch throughout the rest of the campaign - March's Revierderby could well prove to be the game of the season too.

For more from Ben Carter, follow him on Twitter!