PREVIEW: WEEKEND GERMAN ACTION
Steven Cherundolo returns for action as two of the Bundesliga's biggest surprises face off while Michael Bradley and the last-place Foals will try and come up big against Dortmund.
Hannover 96 - SC Freiburg
Hannover captain Steven Cherundolo should return to the starting line-up after suspension when he and DaMarcus Beasley travel with 96 to take on Daniel Williams and Freiburg on Saturday.
Hannover will be looking to keep its run at the top of the standings going after last week's last-minute win against Hamburg. Even with a string of suspensions and injuries, the team from Mirko Slomka is sitting in fourth place in the standings and playing well.
The league has had several surprises this year and 96 has to be one of them. This was a team that was fighting for first-league survival up until the last game of the season last year.
Freiburg has to be considered a surprise as well. Head coach Robin Dutt has proven that he and his team won't back down from anyone and even took league-leaders Dortmund down to the wire just a week ago.
Hannover will have to do without defender Karim Haggui and midfielder Sergio Pinto who are both serving suspensions and forward Mohammed Abdellaoue and midfielder Moritz Stoppelkamp will have to pass because of injury. The team is also still without long-time absentees Leon Andreasen and Carlitos.
Freiburg will be without goalkeeper Simon Pouplin, defender Pavel Krmas, midfielder Jonathan Jäger and forward Tommy Bechmann.
Borussia Dortmund - Borussia Mönchengladbach
It will be worst against first on Saturday when Michael Bradley and Borussia Mönchengladbach take on Borussia Dortmund on Saturday.
A tough loss at home last week has led to a tough match away this week. The Foals will be facing a Dortmund team that has only lost once this season – that being the very first game against Leverkusen.
The team from Jürgen Klopp has turned heads because they have been able to turn out wins, week in and week out, and have done so with a squad that is void of any superstars. But two players in particular, Mario Götze and Shinji Kagawa, have gone from no-names to household names in just a few short months.
Gladbach will still be without goalkeeper Logan Bailly, central defenders Dante and Roel Brouwers as well as long-term absentee Tony Jantschke who is recovering from a broken foot. It will be a game-time decision for defender Anderson, who suffered a slight muscle injury during practice midweek.
Dortmund will be without defender Patrick Owomoyela, who just had surgery on his Achilles, as well as midfielders Sebastian Kehl and Florian Kringe.
FC Kaiserslautern - FC Schalke 04
After returning to the line-up in mid-week Champion's League play, American midfielder Jermaine Jones will most likely start when Schalke travels to take on Kaiserslautern on Saturday.
Felix Magath and Schalke 04 were able to secure their place in the next round of the Champion's league with their win against Lyon on Wednesday. After one 4-0 and one 3-0 outing within a week, the team must be brimming with confidence.
Noteworthy in these last two games has been the play of the two forwards – Raul and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar – who have accounted for five of the seven goals.
A win would definitely put Schalke ahead of Kaiserslautern and could potentially put them near the middle of the standings for the first time this season.
Schalke will have to make due without midfielder Christoph Moritz, who earlier this week was ruled out until at least the winter break with a separated shoulder. In addition, the squad won't include Christian Pander, Tim Hoogland, Levan Kenia, Nicolas Plestan and Kyriakos Papadopoulos as they work their way back to health.
Kaiserslautern will be without a quartet of defenders, including Jan Simunek, Florian Dick Rodnei and Thanos Pestos, who is serving a suspension.
Hertha BSC - MSV Duisburg
David Yelldell will be in goal for Duisburg as they travel to take on Hertha BSC in Olympic Stadium on Saturday.
This is what some would call a six-point game. With just three points separating the two teams near the top of the standings, the Zebras could use a win to move back into second place.
Along with great defense and goalkeeping, Duisburg will be looking for the offensive duo of Srdjan Baljak and Stefan Maierhofer to create opportunities - the two already account for 11 of the team's 25 goals.
Hertha will be tough to beat. The team has looked like a contender for promotion since the first game and will be looking to get back into the top spot by the winter break.
The Zebras will be without Ivica Grlic who is sidelined with a back issue.
Hertha BSC will be without goalkeeper Maikel Aerts, defender Andre Mijatovic and midfielder Patrick Ebert – all with knee injuries.
Karlsruher SC - Rot-Weiß Oberhausen
Karlsruhe will have Luis Robles between the sticks when the team hosts Oberhausen on Sunday.
KSC is in danger of falling into the relegation zone with a loss at home this weekend. The team hasn't won since September and is desperately in need of three points.
As has been the case for a good portion of the season, the team will have to patchwork its team together because of the number of injuries and suspensions.
The team is without defender Matthias Langkamp who picked up a red last week, forward Anton Fink who has a groin injury, Marco Engelhardt with rib problems, Serhat Akin from a thigh problem and striker Christian Timm from a knee problem. The team will also be missing long-term absentees Niklas Tarvajärvi and Massimilian Porcello.
Oberhausen will be without defenders Marinko Miletic and Dimitrios Pappas, and midfielders Daniel Gordon and Heinrich Schmidtgal.
Rot-Weiß Erfurt - Rot Weiss Ahlen
Matthew Taylor will be up front for Ahlen as the team hopes to continue its march up the third-league standings when they travel to take on Erfurt.
Ahlen was able to rally last week to overcome a two-goal deficit and the team has looked like a contender over the last month. They are riding a four-game win-streak and have been getting good production out of Taylor.
He now has seven goals to his name in the current season and has scored at least one in the last four outings.
Erfurt is currently just three points ahead of Ahlen in the standings and if Taylor and his teammates are able to go away winners, they will be moving up once again.
Erfurt is without defender Tom Bertram due to suspension, as well as Fikri El Haj Ali, Thomas Ströhl and Dominick Drexler all with knee injuries.
Ahlen will be without David Blacha with a knee injury and Janis Kraus with foot problems.
Eintracht Frankfurt is missing several defensive midfielders which means Ricardo Clark might be in contention for the starting line-up on Saturday when Frankfurt takes on Bayern Munich.
Kenny Cooper is still working his way back to full health and won't be in the 1860 Munich squad that travels to take on Greuther Fürth on Monday.
Amaechi Igwe won't suit up for Ingolstadt when the team hosts Union Berlin on Sunday.
Fabian Hürzeler, who recently chose to play for the United States, will be looking for minutes with Bayern Munich II as they travel to Werder Bremen II on Friday.