Cologne winger Lukas Podolski will be the biggest threat to champions Borussia Dortmund's three-match winning streak when the two sides meet on Saturday.
Germany international Podolski has shot out of the blocks this season, scoring six times in nine league games and setting up another three goals for his best ever start to lift usual relegation candidates Cologne into mid-table.
His performances have also helped him withstand a fierce assault on his Germany spot by Bayer Leverkusen's Andre Schuerrle.
"He is just incredible. We just need to keep a clean sheet at the back and we know he is going to take care of things up front," team mate Miso Brecko said.
The 26-year-old Podolski, however, was not a happy man at the start of the season.
He faced another agonising campaign to stay up and was seeing his Germany starting spot slowly drift towards Schuerrle, who scored five goals in his 10 internationals as a Podolski substitute.
To make matters worse new Cologne coach Stale Solbakken stripped him of his captaincy, akin to an act of treason in a city that adores Podolski.
The winger, who opted to return to the club in 2009 after a hapless three-year spell at Bayern Munich, grudgingly accepted the decision, which turned out to be liberating.
His two left-footed goals against Hanover 96 last week that lifted Cologne to 10th spot won praise including from Solbakken.
"Maybe (Barcelona's Lionel) Messi has more finesse in his left foot but Podolski's power is unique in the world," the Norwegian said.
With Dortmund keen to rebound from their 3-1 Champions League defeat to Olympiakos, Podolski is hoping to find space down the left wing as his opponents push forward.
Striker Milivoje Novakovic is expected to join him up front after missing the match against Hanover with an injury.
Dortmund are third on 16 points, six behind leaders Bayern Munich.
Bayern travel to Hanover on Sunday, their only league defeat stretching back to the opening game in August. Second-placed Borussia Moenchengladbach take on Hoffenheim.