PREVIEW: WEEKEND GERMAN ACTION
In the last weekend before the winter break, Daniel Williams, Fabian Johnson and Hoffenheim look to have some cheer for Christmas, while Bobby Wood and 1860 Munich will try to get an elusive win.
Fortuna Düsseldorf - Hannover 96
Steve Cherundolo will captain Hannover, as the team looks to end the first half of the season on a high note with a win against Düsseldorf on Saturday.
After a fast start to the season, Hannover has dropped off the top of the standings and even the Europa League spots, with the Reds falling to 10th place.
Still, Hannover won last weekend against Leverkusen, and another win before the break will do wonders for the morale of the team.
Düsseldorf has spent most of the first half of the season at the bottom of the standings, but with the three teams below it in the standings at least six points behind the team, Düsseldorf will look to keep that cushion.
Hannover will be without midfielder Lars Stindl following ankle surgery. Düsseldorf will be without Jens Langeneke and Robbie Kruse because of knee problems and yellow card accumulation, respectively.
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim - Borussia Dortmund
Daniel Williams, Fabian Johnson and Hoffenheim can't wait for the winter break to begin, but before they can relax, they host defending back-to-back champion Dortmund on Sunday.
The first half of the season hasn't been kind to Hoffenheim. The team had European aspirations, but instead of looking to make that push with some roster moves in January, Hoffenheim finds itself mired in the relegation battle, sitting in 16th place and the promotion playoff spot.
Hoffenheim fired its manager Markus Babbel two weeks ago, and interim manager Frank Kramer has made a few changes to the formation. He's decided on a 4-3-3 formation, with three defensive midfielders manning the center of the park, and Williams should make another start in this experimental midfield.
Dortmund is where it should be in the standings, currently in third place, but the Borussians are 14 points behind leader Bayern in the title race.
Hoffenheim will be without Tim Wiese due to a shoulder injury, while Dortmund will be without Sven Bender and Sebastian Kehl due to a groin injury and knee injury, respectively.
Werder Bremen - FC Nürnberg
Tim Chandler will look to replicate his performance from last weekend against Werder Bremen on Sunday.
Chandler struggled to start the season, but his play has improved dramatically in recent weeks. Against Düsseldorf, he stopped many of his opponent's attack along the wing while initiating many of Der Club's attacks from his right back position. Nuremberg has recorded three shutouts in the team's last four matches, thanks in large part to Chandler's improving play.
Bremen, meanwhile, will look to put a 4-1 shellacking at the hands of Frankfurt behind it at home. They will also hope to close the gap between it and European contention, with the team only four points out of the European slots.
Midfielder Philipp Bargfrede is out for Bremen with an Achilles tendon injury, while Nürnberg isn't reporting any significant injuries at this time.
TSV 1860 Munich - Dynamo Dresden
Struggling to find wins in the first half of the season, Bobby Wood and 1860 Munich will hope to start a new trend against Dresden.
Since the firing of Reiner Maurer, the Lions have gone four matches unbeaten, but Munich tied three of those four matches.
Overall, the Lions are tied for the most ties in the league with Kaiserslautern, and despite that, the team is only six points out of the promotion playoff spot.
Dresden, meanwhile, hasn't found a rhythm much this season at all, riding a four-match winless streak into the match. The team sits in 16th place, or the promotional playoff spot, but only has a one-point cushion over Sandhausen in 17th place.
The Lions will be without Maximilian Nicu, Moritz Volz and Benjamin Lauth due to muscular problems, yellow card accumulation and a four-match ban from the DFB.
Dresden will be without Roman Bregerie, Sebastian Schuppan, Anothony Losilla due to red card suspension and Robert Koch and Lynel Kitambala due to a syndesmoses tear and a knee injury.
Preußen Münster - SV Darmstadt 98
Preston Zimmerman and Darmstadt will try to climb out of last place in the 3.Liga against a Matt Taylor-less Münster on Saturday.
The Lilies find themselves in the midst of a relegation battle for the second year in a row, and the team has had little to cheer about recently. Darmstadt rides a four-match winless streak into the match, while having won one in its last 10 matches.
Münster is coming into this match without its best player. Taylor is serving out the last match of his three-match suspension for slapping another player in the back of the head, and the team has one win and one tie in the first matches of his suspension.
Along with Taylor, Amaury Bischoff will miss for the Eagles because of yellow card accumulation, while Darmstadt is not reporting any injuries at this time.
Jermaine Jones starts his four-match suspension on Saturday, when Schalke takes on Freiburg on Saturday.
David Yelldell will hope to make Leverkusen's bench against Hamburg on Saturday.
Andrew Wooten should be an option off the bench for coach Hans-Jürgen Boysen on Friday, as Sandhausen hosts Cologne.
Defender Alfredo Morales will hope to make the bench for Hertha Berlin against Frankfurt on Saturday.
Joe Gyau should start on the bench in St. Pauli's match against Ingolstadt on Saturday.
Royal-Dominique Fennell will continue to be out for the Stuttgarter Kickers until after the winter break because of a groin injury.
Jerome Kiesewetter will hope to make Stuttgart II's lineup against Karlsruhe on Saturday.