PREVIEW: WEEKEND GERMAN ACTION
Edson Buddle will try and get a scoring streak going for his new club Ingolstadt while Steve Cherundolo and Hannover will look to get back on track against Leverkusen.
Bayer Leverkusen - Hannover 96
Steve Cherundolo and Hannover 96 will face a hard test on Friday when the team travels to take on Leverkusen.
It's officially the battle for second place in the standings and the gap between second and fifth placed has closed considerably.
Wins by Bayern and Mainz this weekend could potentially put 96 out of the top three, but the group from Hannover is not going to panic. Head coach Mirko Slomka will most likely stay with his go-to line-up and stick with the game plan – counterattacking soccer.
DaMarcus Beasley looks to be ready to return to the bench after a slight muscle strain kept him out of action the last few weeks. The American midfielder still hasn't broken into the first 11, but if an offensive spark is needed, he might be the first to be inserted into the line-up.
Leverkusen will be boosted by the return of Michael Ballack – potentially in the starting line-up for the first time in 2011. It will be interesting to see if there is any hostility towards Sergio Pinto – the player who put him out of action earlier this season with a mistimed tackle.
Leverkusen will be without midfielders Tranquilo Barnetta and Lars Bender, both with knee injuries. Forward Patrick Helmes hasn't been included in the squad as head coach Jupp Heynckes seems to think he has been concentrating too much on being traded, and not enough about playing.
Slomka is still without season-long absences Leon Andreasen and Carlitos who are still working their way back to fitness and forward Jan Schlaudraff who has a muscle tear in his abdomen.
Rot-Weiss Oberhausen - FC Ingolstadt 04
Edson Buddle and FC Ingolstadt will try and build on their result from last weekend when they travel to Oberhausen on Friday.
Buddle pretty much picked up where his MLS season ended and put away a nice shot following a corner kick last weekend against fellow American David Yelldell. It could have been two if he had connected better with a ball earlier in the game.
He was the most dangerous player from Ingolstadt and it will be interesting to see how another week of training and getting acquainted with the team affect his game.
This could be a season-defining game against fellow cellar-dwellers Oberhausen. A win would put Ingolstadt within striking distance of a non-relegation spot.
Amaechi Igwe is still out for Ingolstadt, but otherwise, head coach Benno Möhlmann should have a full squad to choose from. Freddy Adu is still waiting on confirmation from the club. According to reports in the media, the deal hinges on the flexibility of Adu's club Benfica.
Oberhausen is without defender Fabian Hergesell, who has suffered a concussion, midfielders Daniel Gordon and Heinrich Schmidtgal, who are both recovering from injuries and forward Mike Terranova who is serving a suspension.
1860 Munich - MSV Duisburg
David Yelldell and MSV Duisburg will be playing on the road this Saturday when the team travels to take on 1860.
1860 youngster Bobby Wood is likely to be included on the team's bench for the second week in a row and will hope to make his first-team debut.
A midweek German Cup win will have given Duisburg the confidence to climb back into contention for a promotion spot. The team is currently five points behind league-leaders Hertha BSC and they need to win to keep up.
1860 has been sidetracked by financial duties this season and have had trouble staying focused. With that in mind, the club is still in the top half of the standings and a small win-streak might put them in contention at the top.
Duisburg will only be without Srdjan Baljak and Munich is just missing Daniel Halfar.
Karlsruher SC - Energie Cottbus
Luis Robles will be in goal for KSC when the team hosts Cottbus on Sunday.
The two teams are on opposite sides of the standings, with Karlsruhe sitting in 16th place. But the real story of adversity will be the amount of injuries that KSC has to deal with leading up to Sunday's game.
The strangest of these might be midfielder Marco Engelhardt, who was diagnosed with Tuberculosis earlier this week. The team is also without midfielders Gaetan Krebs, Michael Mutzel and Godfried Aduobe, as well as defenders Christian Demirtas and Kiliann Witschi, and forward Macauley Chrisantus.
New addition Delron Buckley has looked sharp in his first couple of games and he will have to provide the spark for KSC.
Cottbus will just be without Marco Kurth, who is serving a suspension.
Rot Weiss Ahlen - SpVgg Unterhaching
Matt Taylor and Ahlen host Unterhaching on Friday in 3. Liga action.
Ahlen has managed to make it to the middle of the standings in the third league and a lot of their success is due to Taylor. The American forward is the team's leading scorer with nine goals from 13 games and has quickly become the main force up front.
Unterhaching is just a point ahead of Ahlen in the standings. The winner of this game will be in tenth place.
Ahlen will be without midfielders Björn Kluft, Janis Kraus and Rouven Meschede while Unterhaching is missing midfielders Daniel Minorelli and Sebastian Mitterhuber.
Borussia Mönchengladbach's trip to Eintracht Frankfurt will see a total of zero Americans participating, as Michael Bradley has been left at home by the Foals in anticipation of his impending transfer and Frankfurt midfielder Ricardo Clark is expected to be out for the next four weeks with a broken cheekbone.
Timothy Chandler has been making a name for himself in Nürnberg and just might be in the starting line-up when the team hosts Hamburg on Saturday.
Daniel Williams is still out with a knee injury and won't be in the Freiburg squad that travels to take on Stuttgart on Sunday.
Alfredo Morales will hope to be a part of Hertha BSC's squad when the team travels to Bielefeld on Sunday.
Fabian Hürzeler will have to wait another week as Bayern Munich II's game against Kickers Offenbach has been canceled.