PREVIEW: WEEKEND GERMAN ACTION
Hoffenheim's pair of Americans will try to guide the team out of their five-game slide in Nürnberg while Steve Cherundolo and Hannover will try to turn their streak around against Leverkusen.
Hertha Berlin - FC Schalke 04
Jermaine Jones will patrol the central midfield for Schalke on Friday evening when they head to Germany's capital to take on Hertha.
Berlin midfielder Alfredo Morales will likely continue his run of games with the second team in Regionalliga action, who will play the following day.
After an up-and-down begin to the season several months ago, Schalke have come to life as of late, surging through all competitions in style.
They have climbed to fourth in the Bundesliga standings - only three points off the lead - and are already assured of winning their Europa League group, while somewhere finding time to book their place in the final 16 of the German Cup.
The lone letdown in recent memory was a 2-0 loss to Dortmund two weeks ago, however their more recent three-goal output against a rather helpless Augsburg team showed that the defeat had no lasting effects.
Hertha are on a bit of a downturn as of late, although even with a four-game winless run they are in the upper half of the standings and five points clear of the drop.
A victory in the Olympic Stadium on Friday will give the team much-needed momentum as the winter break fast approaches, in hopes that they are able to prevent eventually being drawn into a long and painful battle against a quick return to the 2. Bundesliga.
Hertha's only absence is defender Maik Franz, who will be out for awhile with a torn ACL.
For Schalke, Keeper Ralf Fährmann remains sidelined as he recovers from a torn ACL, midfielder Peer Kluge is working his way back from surgery on his meniscus, and Jefferson Farfan is out with a MCL injury.
FC Nürnberg - TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
A trio of Americans will likely take the field in Nürnberg on Saturday afternoon, when Timothy Chandler and "Der Club" host Daniel Williams, Fabian Johnson and the rest of the Hoffenheim crew.
Both teams enter the game on crisis alert, although the immediate threat is more serious for Nürnberg.
The hosts have only won four times throughout the entire season, and are hovering just a single point above Kaiserslautern in the relegation playoff spot.
Their lone bright spot was two weeks ago when they picked up the three points against 'Lautern, however last weekend's 2-0 loss at Hamburg threw them back in the thick of the mess.
The Hoffe had a much stronger start to the season, so their current five-game winless run has only succeeded in putting them barely in the bottom half of the standings.
However they are themselves just four points free from danger, putting the onus equally on both teams to earn a result in Nürnberg's Frankenstadion.
Hoffenheim are missing one of their most important attacking pieces, as Chinedu Obasi has an ankle injury. Additionally, Austrian defender Andreas Ibertsberger will miss the game with back pains.
For Nürnberg, defender Javier Pinola is out with a leg injury and midfielder Mike Frantz will miss the game with an ankle problem.
Hannover 96 - Bayer Leverkusen
A four-game winless run in league play has Steve Cherundolo and Hannover slowly dropping through the standings, and a win against sixth-place Leverkusen is a must if they want to stop the downturn before the fast-approaching winter break.
While it might be unfair to say the wheels have fallen off the Hannover train, they are undoubtedly coming quickly unscrewed. They have done little of note in Bundesliga play since their win over Bayern close to two months ago, most recently failing to beat a poor Freiburg team in the teams' 1-1 draw last weekend.
The task won't get any easier against a Leverkusen team that has gone six straight in the Bundesliga and Champions League, most recently drawing even with Belgians Genk in their final group game on Tuesday.
This midweek trip abroad could give Hannover a slight edge in terms of rest, but they will still be in for a rough ride should they allow their visitors too much freedom to roam the field and plant their authority on the game.
Bayer Leverkusen are without injured keeper Rene Adler, although youngster Bernd Leno has done a fine job filling in for the German national teamer and will likely be their number-one keeper going forward.
In addition, they are without defender Ömer Toprak, midfielder Renato Augusto, and forward Tranquillo Barnetta as all work their way back to full fitness after missing time due to injury.
Hannover continue to be without long-term injury concerns Leon Andreasen and Carlitos, along with midfielder Henning Hauger.
MSV Duisburg - Karlsruher SC
Luis Robles will likely continue his run in the Karlsruhe goal on Friday afternoon when they visit 13th-place MSV Duisburg.
Karlsruhe have been completely powerless to break free of their long slump, and are looking headed for another struggle to avoid a drop down to the 3. Liga.
Currently, they occupy the 2. Bundesliga's relegation playoff spot, and have won just three of their first 17 games of the season.
For Karlsruhe, starting keeper Dirk Orlishausen is almost back from his shoulder injury, while the striking trio of Andrei Cristea, Moses Lamidi and Louis Clement Ngwat-Mahop are all injured.
Duisburg are lacking only long-time injured striker Srdjan Baljak, as the striker recovers from an ACL injury.
FC Ingolstadt 04 - FC St. Pauli
Edson Buddle and Ingolstadt will need to be at the top of their game on Sunday if they hope to break free of their long winless run as promotion-hunting St. Pauli pay a visit to the Audi-Sportpark.
Ingolstaddt have done well under their new coach Tomas Oral to shore up their previously horrendous defense, and have only allowed two goals in the three games since his arrival.
Unfortunately, this appears to have come at the cost of their attacking ability, since a trio of shut-outs in that same period of time has sent them deeper into the drop zone.
Their defensive fortitude will be put to the test against Hamburg-based team St. Pauli, the third-best scoring team in the division, and likely challengers for promotion back to the top flight.
Ingolstadt will be hurt most by the absence of usual starting midfielder Moise Bambara and striker Moritz Hartmann, the former due to yellow card accumulation and the latter with a knee problem. Regular bench player Fabian Gerber will also be out of uniform thanks to a back issue.
St. Pauli are most critically without defender Lasse Sobiech, who is out with an ankle injury. Additionally, defender Carlos Zambrano is still regaining his fitness after missing the entire season so far with a hip injury suffered while on international duty during the summer.
Terrence Boyd will likely not be included on the Dortmund bench on Sunday when they host FC Kaiserslautern.
Bobby Wood is recovering from knee surgery and will not be in uniform on Friday when 1860 Munich host Eintracht Braunschweig.
Matt Taylor will hope to see substitute minutes for Paderborn on Friday afternoon when they host Hansa Rostock.
Ricardo Clark has not sniffed the bench for Frankfurt in several months, and will not be included on Monday evening when the team hosts Greuther Fürth in a clash between promotion hopefuls.
Amaechi Igwe could receive time as a substitute on Saturday afternoon when SV Babelsberg 03 pay a visit to Rot-Weiß Erfurt.
Preston Zimmerman is suffering from a reported stomach virus and will not take part on Sunday when Darmstadt host VfR Aalen.