BERLIN - Despite spending freely on new players last year, Bayern Munich has found itself caught up in the closest Bundesliga race in 20 years.
Four teams are separated by only one point for the first time after 18 games since 1991-92. Bayern leads defending champion Borussia Dortmund and in-form Schalke on goal difference, while Borussia Moenchengladbach is a point behind.
"You could put four dice with the respective club logos in a cup, shake, and whoever comes out first will be German champions," said Udo Lattek, the former Bayern, Moenchengladbach and Barcelona coach.
After losing to Moenchengladbach 3-1 last weekend, Bayern is hoping to get back on track when it hosts Wolfsburg on Saturday.
Wolfsburg has been the only side to rival Bayern's spending this season, paying out a reported €27.2 million ($35.4 million) for eight players in January to make up for a disappointing first half to the season.
"You could see their potential," Wolfsburg coach Felix Magath said about his new players after a 1-0 win over Cologne last week.
Also Saturday, Dortmund hosts Hoffenheim and Schalke visits Cologne, while Moenchengladbach travels to Stuttgart on Sunday.
Bayern lost its opening game of the season 1-0 to Moenchengladbach and responded by winning its next 10 games in all competitions, scoring 28 goals and conceding none.
"There was a real song and dance (after the first loss to Moenchengladbach) and it'll happen again this time," director of sports Christian Nerlinger said. "Once we're out on the field, we'll give the same answer as last summer."
Jerome Boateng is likely to start in central defence for Bayern after Daniel van Buyten broke a metatarsal in the loss to Moenchengladbach. The Belgian defender will be out for two months.
"We have enough quality in defence," said Boateng, who has mostly featured at right back. "I'm always delighted when I get to play in the centre. Every player has a favoured position, and mine's centre back."
Boateng knows that Bayern will have to quickly recover its early season form to keep its rivals at bay.
"As we saw back then, we're capable of playing better football than now," Boateng said. "We have to watch ourselves and turn the corner."
Bayern will be able to count on French winger Franck Ribery, who returns from suspension and is likely to start despite a minor back problem.
Bastian Schweinsteiger should also play after shaking off a knee problem. The Germany midfielder has only recently returned from a broken collarbone.
"If we show what we can do we should take the three points," Schweinsteiger said Thursday.
Wolfsburg has only claimed one point from 14 Bundesliga games in Munich, but welcomes back top scorer Mario Mandzukic from injury. The Croatian is keen to add to his eight goals.
"We needn't be afraid. These days we can beat anyone, even Bayern," Mandzukic said. "I'm fired up for this game."
Poland captain Jakub Blaszczykowski, who scored twice in Dortmund's 5-1 rout of Hamburg, will start again in place of the injured Mario Goetze, who has been ruled out for two months because of a pubic bone injury.
"For Mario and for us it's a big blow," said Dortmund sports director Michael Zorc. "We have to try and compensate for his absence as well as possible."
Schalke also has its injury concerns, with captain Benedikt Hoewedes ruled out for two weeks after breaking his cheekbone in the 3-1 win over Stuttgart.
Spanish striker Raul Gonzalez has been unable to train since Tuesday due to a calf problem.
"Raul is being looked after. We'll have to see how it looks for him on Saturday," Schalke coach Huub Stevens said.
Stuttgart has reinforced its forward line with the signing of Vedad Ibisevic from Hoffenheim, and the Bosnian is likely to start against Moenchengladbach, which hasn't won in Stuttgart since December 1994.
Also Sunday, Mainz hosts Freiburg.
In the rest of Saturday's games, Werder Bremen hosts Bayer Leverkusen, Hamburger SV visits Hertha Berlin, and Augsburg hosts Kaiserslautern in a relegation battle.
Nuremberg gets the weekend's action under way at Hannover on Friday.
- PHOTOS: Celebrities attend 'Avengers: Endgame' premiere in Los Angeles29 Pictures
- PHOTOS: This Pakistani waiter looks just like Peter Dinklage8 Pictures