Live sporting action is about to return to your television screens, football fans.

On Saturday (May 16), Bundesliga — Germany’s top division in football — will become the first major European league to resume the 2019-’20 season that was brought to a halt by the coronavirus pandemic.

It might not be football as we knew it before. It might not be even close to what German football means to most of us: packed stadiums, rousing atmosphere even when watching on television and what not. This is the first step the sporting world is taking into the unknown that is the post-Covid-19 world. Not just for the players and staff in Germany, but for millions of fans around the world.

Teams have undergone testing and been forced into quarantine training camps because of the virus, and all matches will be played behind closed doors in the league, which boasts of the highest per-match attendance in world football.

While this will not be the Bundesliga as we know it, some things remain the same: Bayern Munich, the country’s most successful club, are on track to win another title, which would be their eighth in a row. But the top five is actually very tight in the league and there is a promising title race on the cards.

Here’s how the table looks like ahead of the restart:

Bundesliga table ahead of May 16 restart

Played Points W D L Goals GD
1 FC Bayern München 25 55 17 4 4 73:26 +47
2 Borussia Dortmund 25 51 15 6 4 68:33 +35
3 RB Leipzig 25 50 14 8 3 62:26 +36
4 Borussia Mönchengladbach 25 49 15 4 6 49:30 +19
5 Bayer 04 Leverkusen 25 47 14 5 6 45:30 +15
6 FC Schalke 04 25 37 9 10 6 33:36 -3
7 VfL Wolfsburg 25 36 9 9 7 34:30 +4
8 Sport-Club Freiburg 25 36 10 6 9 34:35 -1
9 TSG 1899 Hoffenheim 25 35 10 5 10 35:43 -8
10 1. FC Köln 25 32 10 2 13 39:45 -6
11 1. FC Union Berlin 25 30 9 3 13 32:41 -9
12 Eintracht Frankfurt 24 28 8 4 12 38:41 -3
13 Hertha Berlin 25 28 7 7 11 32:48 -16
14 FC Augsburg 25 27 7 6 12 36:52 -16
15 1. FSV Mainz 05 25 26 8 2 15 34:53 -19
16 Fortuna Düsseldorf 25 22 5 7 13 27:50 -23
17 SV Werder Bremen 24 18 4 6 14 27:55 -28
18 SC Paderborn 07 25 16 4 4 17 30:54 -24
Scroll sideways to see the entire table.

Here is all that you need to watch out for (as well as a ready reckoner to get up to speed if you are not familiar with the league) as live sport returns:

Bayern Munich - still the team to beat?

A slow start to the season by current leaders and traditional powerhouse Bayern Munich saw them in an unfamiliar 4th position before Hans-Dieter Flick was handed over the reins of the team. With a fresh dose of energy and a new approach, Bayern Munich turned things around quickly registering no losses in their last 10 games which saw them move to the top of the table.

With just nine games to go, Bayern Munich are just four points ahead of second-placed Borrusia Dortmund. RB Leipzig the surprise package are just a point behind in third place with Borussia Monchengladbach a further point and a place adrift.

Thanks to Bayern’s dominance, it’s not every year that you see a title race that’s so close. Thanks to the lockdown each team will start at zero in terms of form and playing time, the team that hits the ground running could bag the Bundesliga. Even though Bayern Munich are favourites, this is not over yet.

A fierce derby to start off

The Bundesliga will return with the Rivierderby, one of the biggest games in German football. Borussia Dortmund welcome arch-rivals Schalke at the Signal Iduna Park on Saturday to kick off the weekend. While the sheen will be taken off the big derby due to the absence of the two sets of vociferous fans in the stadium, the game is perfect to get started after a fairly depressing break.

For Dortmund, a win over Schalke could prove to be just the stimulus they need in the title race, while the same can be said of Schalke’s pursuit of Champions League football. For those who have missed football and the passion that comes with it, there’ll be plenty on show in Dortmund on Saturday.

Goals, goals and more goals

For neutrals or even non-footballing fans who are desperate for some sporting action, the Bundesliga won’t disappoint. Why? Because it’s simple. You’ll see goals, goals, and more goals.

The German top flight has the highest goal per game ratio of all of Europe’s top leagues with the league average just over three goals per game. More goals don’t always ensure entertainment but it does hint at highly attacking gameplay.

For first-timers, the end-to-end stuff and the intensity of Bundesliga are certain to keep you glued.

Stars to watch out for

Bundesliga has been one of the biggest breeding ground for the best talents in world football. This season has been no different. With the transfer window on the horizon, all eyes will be on the Bundesliga stars that are likely to make a big-money switch in the summer. Will the break affect their momentum? Or will the rest further spur them on? The Bundesliga finale will have the answers. Here are the top three hottest properties in the German league to keep an eye on.

1. Jadon Sancho - The Englishman playing for Dortmund is certainly the biggest one to watch out for. A host of big clubs like Manchester United and Chelsea are queuing up for his signature and he is likely to be the biggest transfer of the upcoming window. With 29 goal contributions already this season, he is likely to be a key figure for Dortmund’s title hopes.

2. Timo Werner - The star forward for RB Leipzig has been on fire this season scoring 21 goals in 25 matches. He’s just four goals behind Robert Lewandowski in the golden boot race. A summer target for European champions Liverpool, Werner will be pivotal for Leipzig’s title push. A lot of top clubs will be keeping a close eye on him and we suggest you do too.

3. Alphonso Davies - Left-backs don’t always get the recognition they deserve unless they are Roberto Carlos or Marcelo. Add another name to the list - Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies. Lightning quick and possessing a bag of tricks, Davies is a massive threat down Bayern’s left flank. He has emerged as one of the best players in Europe this season and will play a big part in ensuring Bayern retain their title. He may not be on the move but could amaze you with his exploits on Bayern’s wings.

4. Erling Haaland - Haaland moved to Dortmund from Salzburg in January and scored a hat-trick on his debut. He already has nine goals having played just a little over 500 minutes this season. Considered to be one of the best young strikers in the world, the Norwegian may use the remaining nine games as an audition for another massive this summer. His size, 6’4”, means you’ll not fail to notice him, but even if you don’t, his goals will surely catch your eye.

Five substitutions

For the first time in competitive football, coaches will be allowed five substitutions as a precautionary measure for players’ health after the Covid-19 pandemic. Players who are returning after a break may suffer injuries due to lack of proper training and game time and the substitutions will allow managers to make changes in case of such events. It will also help them manage the workload of their players better.

The exciting aspect of the five substitutions though is the flexibility it could afford coaches, although substitutions can be made only in three breaks in the game including half-time, and not more than two substitutes could be used at a time. It will be interesting to see what strategy coaches adopt to get their five substitutions in the most effective manner.

Sport in post-Covid-19 world

Why do you need the Bundesliga? Well because live sport is back. Most of the sports fans around the world have struggled to entertain themselves during the lockdown and there’s no better way to get rid of the boredom than to watch live sport.

Bundesliga could also offer other football leagues and sports cues on how to resume their competitions and lead the way for sport out of the pandemic.

Star Sports India will telecast matches of the Bundesliga live, on Star Sports Select 1/HD and Star Sports Select 2/HD starting 16 May, 2020.

Bundesliga timings

Time (IST) Match Where to watch
16th May, Saturday
7:00 PM  Dortmund vs FC Schalke SS Select 2 SD/HD
7:00 PM  Leipzig vs Freiburg SS Select 1 SD/HD
10:00 PM Eintracht vs M’Gladbach SS Select 2 SD/HD
17th May, Sunday
7:00 PM Koln vs Mainz SS Select 2 SD/HD
9:30 PM  Berlin vs Bayern Munich  SS Select 2 SD/HD
19th May, Tuesday
12:00 AM  Werder Bremen vs Leverkusen 
SS Select 2 SD/HD
(Matches will also be streamed live on Disney+Hotstar)

With AFP inputs