PREVIEW: WEEKEND GERMAN ACTION
Tim Chandler and Nuremberg quest for their first win head to Hannover, while Fabian Johnson should return to Hoffenheim's starting lineup.
Hertha Berlin - Werder Bremen
John Anthony Brooks and Hertha Berlin have a chance to put themselves in a European spot with a win over Bremen on Friday.
Hertha sits just two points behind Schalke going into the weekend, and if the team manages to win, the Old Lady will move about the Royal Blues - at least for a night. Brooks figures to play a role for Hertha for the second week in a row following his return for elbow and knee injuries that kept him out of the first team for two months.
Getting a good result against Bremen isn't out of the question for Berlin, considering Bremen's troubles recently. The team is riding a four-match unbeaten streak in which the Werderaner have allowed 17 goals (including seven in last week's shellacking at the hands of Bayern Munich).
Hertha will not have Johannes van den Bergh and Sebastian Langkamp with thigh injuries and Änis Ben-Hatira with an ankle injury.
Hannover 96 - 1. FC Nuremberg
In matchup of American right backs, Tim Chandler and Nuremberg head to Hannover t face Steve Cherundolo and the Reds on Saturday.
In line for another start, Chandler will hope that he and Nuremberg can end a Bundesliga-record, having gone the first 15 matches to the season without a win. Despite this, Der Club sits just two points out of safety, and a couple of wins before the winter break could put some distance from the bottom of the standings.
Unlike Chandler, Cherundolo probably won't start for his team but should be a bench option for coach Mirko Slomka. Still, Cherundolo is looking for the Reds to turn their struggles around, as Hannover has collected just one win in the past 10 matches.
Timo Gebhart will miss the match for Der Club as he continues to recover from groin surgery. Hannover, meanwhile, will be without Christian Schulz and Didier Ya Konan with a lumbar vertebra injury and an ankle injury.
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim - Borussia Dortmund
Fabian Johnson and Hoffenheim host a depleted Borussia Dortmund team in their last home match of 2013.
For perhaps the first time this season, Hoffenheim coach Markus Gisdol will have his team 100-percent healthy. Johnson, whose ankle injury has plagued him the past few weeks, seems to be ready to go and should slot back on the left side of Hoffenheim's lineup.
While Hoffenheim is healthy, the exact opposite is the case for Dortmund, making die Schwarzgelben ripe for the taking. They can't seem to keep anybody healthy, especially in the back line. First-choice defenders Mats Hummels, Marcel Schmelzer and Nevin Subotic are out with a heel injury, a calf injury and torn knee ligaments, respectively. To make matters worse, backup center back, Sokratis Papastathopoulos will be unavailable because of a red card he received during last weekend's 1-0 loss to Leverkusen.
Midfielders Sven Bender and Ilkay Gündogan will also miss the match for Dortmund, as Bender suffered an ankle injury last weekend and Gündogan continues to recover from a back injury.
FC Schalke 04 - SC Freiburg
Following a European midweek, Jermaine Jones and Schalke play at home against Freiburg on Sunday.
Jones and the Royal Blues picked up a big confidence-boosting win over Basel in the Champions League that gave them enough points to advance into the knockout stages of the competition. Jones sat out because of yellow card accumulation, but he should slot right back into the lineup as captain Benedikt Höwedes must sit out with a red card suspension.
Freiburg, meanwhile, didn't far as week in the Europa League as Schalke did in the Champions League. The Breisgau Brazilians crashed out of the competition, but based on their performance in the league, that might not be a bad thing. They currently sit in the relegation playoff spot with just 11 points through 15 matches.
Along with Höwedes, the Royal Blues will be without Dennis Aogo, Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Marco Höger because of knee injuries and Julian Draxler because of a left thigh injury. Freiburg will not have Mensur Mujdza, Francis Coquelin, Jonathan Scmid and Julian Schuster available because of a thigh injury, an ankle injury, a torn cruciate ligament and a foot injury.
Erzgebirge Aue - FC Ingolstadt 04
Alfredo Morales and Ingolstadt look to continue their climb out of and away from the relegation zone when they travel to Aue on Sunday in 2.Bundesliga action.
Ingolstadt has won four of its last six league matches, which has seen the team climb out of the basement of German second division and into 14th place. With three teams tied at 20 points, die Schanzer could move further up with a win.
Aue is one of those teams sitting at 20 points along with Ingolstadt. The team from the Ore Mountains has been tough at home so far this season, as it has collected 15 points at Sparkassen-Erzgebirgsstadion.
Ingolstadt's Andreas Buchner is out following a knee operation, while Aue will be without Kevin Schlitte, Oliver Schröder and Solomon Okoronkwo because of a thigh injury, a knee injury and yellow card accumulation.
Preußen Münster - RasenBallsport Leipzig
Matt Taylor and Münster face a tall task against Leipzig at home on Saturday in 3.Liga action.
Münster seems to have turned the corner on a slow start to the season, unbeaten in its last four matches. This run has allowed the Eagles to climb into 14th place with 23 points halfway through the season.
Leipzig has had no problem breezing through the first half of the schedule, sitting five points above Hansa Rostock in third place and the promotion playoff spot. In the past eight matches, Leipzig has recorded six wins, including the last two.
The Eagles will not have Patrick Kirsch available with calf and thigh problems, while Leipzig will be without Fabio Coltorti, Fabian Franke, Tim Sebastian and Matthias Morys because of a knee injury, a severe face injury, an infection and a calf injury.
Michael Parkhurst probably won't dress for Augsburg when die Fuggerstädter host Braunschweig on Saturday.
Andrew Wooten can hope to dress for Kaiserslautern on Friday against Paderborn.
Bobby Wood should make the 18 for 1860 Munich when die Löwen host St. Pauli on Monday night.
Royal-Dominique Fennell should dress for the Stuttgarter Kickers on Saturday against Wiesbaden.