PREVIEW: WEEKEND GERMAN ACTION
Steve Cherundolo and DaMarcus Beasley of Hannover play host to Stuttgart while Michael Bradley and 'Gladbach travel to SC Freiburg in weekend Bundesliga action.
Hannover 96 - VfB Stuttgart
Hannover 96 with its American duo of Steven Cherundolo and DaMarcus Beasley will try and continue their climb to the top when the club hosts Stuttgart on Friday.
Head coach Mirko Slomka has been treated like a miracle worker after leading his Hannover squad to third place in the standings. With comparatively little means, the team has been able to hold its own against the Bundesliga's best.
Now, with just two points separating 96 from second-place Mainz, it's quite possible that the team could move up and even head into the winter break behind league-leaders Dortmund.
And this development hasn't gone unnoticed. Reports in the German media have stated that Slomka is close to an extension that would keep him in Hannover after his contract runs out this summer.
Hannover is without backup keeper Markus Miller due to a knee injury, as well as forward Mohammed Abdellaoue and midfielder Moritz Stoppelkamp. The team is also still without long-time absentees Leon Andreasen and Carlitos as well as Karim Haggui who is serving a suspension.
Stuttagart will be without a trio of injured defenders, including Khalid Boulahrouz, Stefan Celozzi and Serdar Tasci, as well as midfielder Daniel Didavi who is recovering from a muscle tear and forward Ciprian Marica who is serving a suspension.
SC Freiburg - Borussia Mönchengladbach
Michael Bradley will once again be at the center of the Gladbach midfield when the team travels to take on Freiburg and Daniel Williams on Sunday.
When the schedule for the Bundesliga season came out this summer, one wouldn't have thought that Gladbach would have a tough draw right before the winter break.
But here you have it: Losses to Mainz, Dortmund and Hannover have paved the way for this week's game against Freiburg – none of which are the classic heavy-hitters in the Bundesliga, but all of which are in the top five this season.
The Foals will close out the month with a home game against Hamburg. What does all this mean? That the last-place team in the Bundesliga is really going to struggle to get any more points in 2010.
A lot of Freiburg's success this year can be attributed to one player: Papiss Demba Cissé. The forward from Senegal has already scored 11 times and will be looking to add more against the league's worst defense.
Gladbach will still be without goalkeeper Logan Bailly, central defender Dante and long-term absentee Tony Jantschke who is recovering from a broken foot. In addition, midfielder Marco Reus and forward Raul Bobadilla are both serving suspensions and won't be in the squad.
Freiburg is still without starting keeper Simon Pouplin as well as defenders Pavel Krmas and Ömer Toprak, and forward Tommy Bechmann.
Karlsruher SC - Arminia Bielefeld
Luis Robles will be between the sticks for KSC when they host Arminia Bielefeld on Friday.
New head coach Uwe Rapolder hasn't been able to completely turn things around for Karlsruhe yet. But he is determined to change that. After last week's loss to Düssledorf, Rapolder said that the team just needs to play a little quicker.
KSC will have their chance against Bielefeld. The team is stranded in last place with just seven points and has only managed to score 11 goals. It's hard to imagine that this is the team that was playing in the first league just two seasons ago.
KSC is still missing goalkeeper Kristian Nicht and forward Christian Timm.
Bielefeld will be without Oliver Neuville, who retired earlier this week. The team will also be without defenders Nils Fischer, Marcel Appiah and Benjamin Lense, as well as midfielders Alon Abeski, Manuel Böltstler and Rüdiger Kauf.
SC Paderborn 07 - MSV Duisburg
David Yelldell and MSV Duisburg will try and get things back on track when the team travels to take on Paderborn on Saturday.
After unfortunately dropping points at home last weekend against Frankfurt, Duisburg will be looking to get back into pole position with a win this week against an inconsistent Paderborn team.
Duisburg is in a four-way tie for second place and a win might just give them some added breathing room at the top of the tables.
Duisburg head coach Milan Sasic should have a full squad to choose from and Paderborn will only be without midfielder Markus Krösche.
Werder Bremen II - Rot Weiss Ahlen
Matt Taylor and Ahlen will be looking to steal three points on the road when the team travels to take on Bremen II on Saturday.
Ahlen hasn't played a game since its four-game win streak came to a grinding halt against Erfurt two weeks ago. Within the last week, a game against Rostock was cancelled and a make-up game against Stuttgart II was re-cancelled – both due to weather conditions.
This week, the team travels north to face last-place Werder Bremen II. Hypothetically speaking, if Ahlen were to win all three of the outstanding games, they could move up to sixth or seventh place in the standings.
Rot Weiss will be without defenders Christian Alder and Cedric Mimbala as well as midfielders Janis Kraus and David Blacha – all due to injury.
Bremen is missing defender Felix Schiller and midfielder Kevin Artmann.
Ricardo Clark will be looking for some minutes off the bench when Eintracht Frankfurt travels to take on FC Cologne on Saturday.
Midfielder Jermaine Jones won't be in the Schalke squad that travels to take on Mainz 05 on Sunday as he has been banned from the first team by head coach Felix Magath.
Kenny Cooper might be in the 1860 Munich squad for the first time this season when the team travels to take on Ingolstadt on Sunday. Amaechi Igwe is still recovering from injury and won't be available for Ingolstadt.
After his first start of the season, Alfredo Morales will be looking for more first-team minutes when Hertha BSC host Erzgebirge Aue on Sunday.
Fabian Hürzeler will be looking for some minutes off the bench when Bayern Munich II travel to Burghausen on Saturday.