Bundesliga - Cologne's Podolski out to beat Bayern
Cologne's Lukas Podolski could put a damper on Bayern Munich's Christmas celebrations if he is in his usual form when the two sides meet in the Bundesliga on Friday.
"Prince Poldi", as the Germany winger is known in his hometown, has been in dazzling form with 14 league goals in 16 games, a personal record.
League leaders Bayern must keep Podolksi in check if they want to go into the winter break with their three-point advantage and better goal difference over champions Borussia Dortmund, who are in second place on 31.
"I know from the national team training how it works with his left foot," said Bayern and Germany keeper Manuel Neuer.
"If he gets the ball on to his left foot then he is likely to score. It is important that we shut him out. With or without a ball he is an extremely quick player."
Podolski, who returned to his home club in 2009 after an unsuccessful three-year stint at Bayern, has scored more than half of Cologne's 26 goals this season and set up another five to lift his team to 10th place in the league.
His most recent goal, a superb, 22-metre, left-footed missile that salvaged a 1-1 draw against Mainz 05 five minutes from time on Tuesday, was a timely reminder for Bayern that the year could still end on a sour note.
Podolski has not lost in Munich while playing for Cologne, having drawn four times.
"As in the past few years we will try to frustrate Bayern a bit but we are aware they are the best team in the league," said the 26-year-old, who failed to hold down a starting spot in Munich and never really connected with the fans.
"I always try to have fun playing my game and then the performance fits," Podolski, who has become a transfer target for many top European clubs as he has yet to negotiate a contract extension to his deal that runs out in 2013, said this week.
Bayern have their own offensive weapon in Bundesliga top scorer Mario Gomez, who has notched up 15 league goals.
Since the start of 2011, Gomez has struck 49 times for club and country, including twice in last week's 2-1 win at Stuttgart.
"If I don't score for two weeks then I am in a crisis; if I score than everyone talks about me breaking Gerd Mueller's Bundesliga goal record. I am not interested in this talk," Gomez said.
"At the moment it is going very well and I play up front for a very good team. At the end of the day it is my job to score goals."
Dortmund will look to return to their winning ways at bottom-placed Freiburg on Saturday (1430) after two consecutive draws, while third-placed Schalke 04, also on 31, host improving Werder Bremen.