PREVIEW: WEEKEND GERMAN ACTION
US teammates Timothy Chandler and Jermaine Jones will square off on opposite sides of the ball while Edson Buddle returns to new leadership at Ingolstadt as league play resumes in Germany.
FC Schalke 04 - FC Nürnberg
Days after taking the field together in Slovenia for US coach Jürgen Klinsmann's second win, Timothy Chandler and Jermaine Jones will each be looking to give their respective team a leg up when Schalke host FC Nürnberg in the Veltins Arena.
The notably friendly rivalry between Nürnberg and Schalke will once again resume on Saturday afternoon in Gelsenkirchen, seeing each of the two teams engaged in vastly different struggles.
Schalke have not tasted defeat in more than a month, and as a result have risen to fifth in the Bundesliga standings, just one point off the pace for a coveted Champions League spot.
At the other end of the spectrum lies Nürnberg, who have failed to notch a win in their previous seven league games, and have fallen to within two points of the relegation zone.
The most recent of their defeats was perhaps the most embarrassing, as they blew an early lead at home to then last-place Freiburg, and were resigned to a 2-1 defeat when the final whistle sounded.
A win would likely pull them several places higher in the standings, and relieve substantial pressure from both the team and head coach Dieter Hecking as the final cold-weather games before the long winter break bear down on the team.
Hecking will have a nearly full squad to choose from, with the only regular contributor missing from the lineup being defender Javier Pinola, who is out with a leg injury.
For Schalke, starting keeper Ralf Fährmann is out for the long-haul as he recovers from ACL surgery, midfielder Peer Kluge will not be available after undergoing meniscus surgery, and Jefferson Farfan is sidelined with a knee problem.
Hamburger SV - TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
US international pair Daniel Williams and Fabian Johnson will both likely take the field together once again, albeit in Hoffenheim colors, when the team visits relegation-threatened Hamburger SV on Sunday.
Both Williams and Johnson figured heavily into US coach Jürgen Klinsmann's plans during the week of international play, with Williams starting both games and Johnson getting his first cap as a substitute against France and his first start in the win over Slovenia four days later.
Johnson was particularly impressive, drawing a penalty leading to the ultimate winning goal and generally causing the Slovenians problems from his midfield position.
Hoffe coach Holger Stanislawski will hope that he will carry the momentum straight to Hamburg, as they struggled slightly heading into the break, picking up just one point from their last two games.
They are facing a recovering Hamburg team which was locked to the bottom of the standings for much of the first two months of the season, but has rebounded as of late, picking up eight points over their last four to nearly claw their way out of the bottom three.
Hoffenheim have no key players out for the game, with defender Matthias Jaissle being the only absence as he is recovering from surgery on his Achilles tendon.
Hamburg have a fleet of injured players unavailable, most notably suspended Serbian defender Slobodan Rajković along with midfielder Romeo Castelen and forward Mladen Petric, both of whom are out with muscle strains.
SC Paderborn 08 - Karlsruher SC
Matt Taylor and Luis Robles could find themselves in direct opposition on Friday afternoon when Paderborn host Karlsruher SC in early 2. Bundesliga action.
Despite a summer overhaul, Karlsruhe are showing many of the frailties which plagued them in their close call with the drop last season, sporting the second-worst defense in the division as they hover barely above the bottom three.
Their win over Ingolstadt prior to the international window did give some signs of hope that they can at least outscore inferior opponents, but that formula will almost certainly mean disaster as the long season wears on.
Normally playing second fiddle to starting keeper Dirk Orlishausen, Robles has been thrust into the limelight due to a shoulder injury suffered by his teammate.
On the other side of the ball, Taylor has been primarily used as an attacking substitute by surprising Paderborn, but has nevertheless done his part to help the team climb to their current fifth-place position with nearly half of the season finished.
Aside from Orlishausen, Karlsruhe have no pressing injury concerns, with Cameroonian forward Louis Clement Ngwat-Mahop the only absence of note as he recovers from a broken ankle.
Paderborn are also relatively healthy, missing only defender Jens Wissing, also to an ankle problem.
FC Ingolstadt 04 - TSV 1860 Munich
After putting in an impressive performance for the US in their midweek game against Slovenia, Edson Buddle will likely be in Ingolstadt's starting lineup on Friday when they host area rivals 1860 Munich.
1860 midfielder Bobby Wood sustained a muscular injury during his time with the US U23 team during the break and will not be in uniform for the visitors.
Buddle's success for club and country this season has perhaps been overshadowed by Ingolstadt's increasingly dire situation. With by far the worst defense in the the 2. Bundesliga. the Schanzer are at the bottom of the standings, and well beyond the point of crisis.
Their situation ultimately led to the dismissal of previously-popular coach Benno Möhlmann, who was replaced during the international break by former FSV Frankfurt and RB Leipzig coach Tomas Oral.
Oral's first task will be to try to take a win against the closest thing Ingolstadt has to a local rival, when southern neighbors 1860 Munich visit on Friday afternoon.
The Lions have blown hot and cold all season long, with the latter being the name of the game in recent weeks, during which they have won just once in six league contests.
Ingolstadt's beleaguered back line will be further hampered with the absence of central defender Marino Biliskov to an ankle injury, who will also be joined by usual starting forward Moritz Hartmann, who is out for the time being with a knee injury.
Additionally, the team is still without long-term absentees Kristoffer Andersen and Leonhard Haas.
In addition to Wood's injury, 1860 are without defender Benjamin Schwarz and midfielder Daniel Halfar, both with leg problems.
Alfredo Morales could be on the bench for Hertha on Saturday when they head to the southeast corner of Germany to take on struggling SC Freiburg on Saturday.
After playing in a pair of international games with the US, Steve Cherundolo could be rested by Hannover coach Mirko Slomka on Saturday in their derby matchup against local antagonists VfL Wolfsburg.
Terrence Boyd will likely not be included on Dortmund's bench on Saturday for their crucial clash against Bundesliga leaders FC Bayern in Munich's Allianz Arena.
Ricardo Clark will likely watch from the stands on Sunday afternoon when second-place Eintracht Frankfurt host Alemannia Aachen.
Having both been relegated to the substitutes bench, Amaechi Igwe and Preston Zimmerman will hope to take the field for their respective teams on Saturday when Darmstadt pay a visit to Babelsberg.