The pursuit of Bundesliga leader Bayern Munich steps up this weekend with Schalke able to move to a point behind the Bavarian side, whose eight-game winning start to the season was ended in a 2-1 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen last weekend.
That result turned a monologue for the Bundesliga title into at least a two-horse race with Schalke closing in fast, but it also gave sides like Borussia Dortmund reason for optimism.
A year ago, Dortmund found itself in a similar situation with the same nine-point deficit on Bayern, yet it still went on to win the league comfortably.
A grey November cost Bayern dearly and a repeat of that collapse would throw the league wide open, although Schalke is doing enough by itself to ensure Bayern is well aware of its challenge.
Schalke has won six games in a row in all competitions, most notably beating Dortmund in the Bundesliga and winning at Arsenal in the UEFA Champions League.
It also successfully masterminded a tricky DFB Pokal clash with SV Sandhausen in midweek and heads into its fixture with Hoffenheim in confident mood, but coach Huub Stevens has warned against complacency.
"It is going to be a very tough away game," he said. "They have a lot of quality in their attack and every single one of us will have our work cut out to disrupt them."
A win for Schalke would put the pressure on Bayern, which travels to
Eintracht Frankfurt could move to within two points of Bayern when it hosts Greuther Furth at the Waldstadion with Dortmund hosting Stuttgart in the repeat fixture of arguably the most dramatic Bundesliga game last season.
The two sides battled out a 4-4 draw at the Westfalenstadion in March, a result which jeopardised Dortmund's title push and helped Stuttgart on its way into the UEFA Europa League.
This time, in-form Stuttgart needs the points to continue its climb up the table while Dortmund could close to within six points of Bayern with all three points.
Elsewhere, Wolfsburg will look to continue its revival under
Augsburg can also move out of the bottom two with a win at Hannover while Borussia Monchengladbach hosts Freiburg.
Bayer Leverkusen meets Fortuna Dusseldorf in a Westphalian derby with Mainz's trip to Werder Bremen the final game of this, the 10th round of matches in the Bundesliga.
Hoffenheim claimed a vital 3-1 win against second-tier Kaiserslautern in the first leg of the Bundesliga play-off.