PREVIEW: WEEKEND GERMAN ACTION
Fabian Johnson could return to Hoffenheim's squad in time for their trip to Stuttgart while Edson Buddle will try to keep his scoring touch for Ingolstadt on their visit to struggling Duisburg.
VfB Stuttgart - TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
Fabian Johnson and Daniel Williams could both be included in the action on Saturday afternoon when Hoffenheim head southwest to Stuttgart in a battle of teams looking to push into the European spots.
Johnson looks set to return to the roster after recovering from a back injury suffered in September, while Williams returns to Germany after picking up his first two international caps with the US National Team under Jürgen Klinsmann.
With each holding identical records and only the narrowest advantage in goal differential giving Stuttgart the edge over the Hoffe, both teams will be fighting to break free of the pack of four teams on the edge of the European qualification spots all on 13 points.
Even though Stuttgart are coming off of a victory over a poor Kaiserslautern team prior to the break, Hoffenheim's last outing was far more impressive, as they put a stop to the charging FC Bayern freight train with a hard-fought scoreless draw.
Stuttgart will be without defenders Matthieu Delpierre and Georg Niedermeier along with forward Julian Schieber, all whom have yet to play a game this season due to long-term injuries. Additionally, Serbian international midfielder Zdravko Kuzmanovic is missing his second straight game with a calf injury.
Hoffenheim have fewer injury problems, most notably the continued of Sejad Salihovic who was injured in September while on international duty with Bosnia. In addition, defender Matthias Jaissle is out for several months after undergoing surgery on his Achilles tendon.
VfL Wolfsburg - FC Nürnberg
Timothy Chandler will return to his familiar right back role for Nürnberg on Saturday when they try to take three points on the road against an inconsistent Wolfsburg squad.
Chandler spent the international break further honing his skills on the left side of the defense with his American teammates, and with an injury to Nürnberg's regular left back Javier Pinola forcing the highly untested 19 year-old Marvin Plattenhardt into action, head coach Dieter Hecking is likely wishing he could clone the US international to patrol both wings.
Even with just one Chandler at his disposal, Hecking will be confident that the team can still fight for a result in Wolfsburg against a team which is once again proving to lack any degree of consistency in their week-to-week performances.
They have won their last two at home against Schalke and Kaiserslautern, but otherwise have displayed a porous defense, leaking three or more goals in half of their eight Bundesliga contests this season.
For Wolfsburg, keeper Marwin Hitz along with defenders Sotirios Kyrgiakos and Marco Russ are all suspended, and Danish midfielder Thomas Kahlenberg is still working his way back to fitness.
Nürnberg are still forced to depend on the hands of third-string keeper Alexander Stephan as Raphael Schäfer and Patrick Rakovsky are still sidelined with injuries.
Additionally, midfielder Per Nilsson is still working to gain match fitness after a summer injury, and left back Javier Pinola is set to miss the game with a muscle strain in his hip.
FC Cologne - Hannover 96
Hannover 96 captain Steve Cherundolo should be on the field from the get-go on Sunday afternoon when fifth-place Hannover try to move back into the Bundesliga elite on their trip to Cologne.
Hannover are slowly proving that last season's success was no fluke, and are having yet another strong campaign on both the domestic and international front.
Including their success in Europa League play, where they are currently tied for the lead in Group B, they are sitting in fifth place in the Bundesliga standings, out of the final Champions League spot only by goal differential.
With a tight race in the upper half of the standings where second through ninth place is separated by just three points, a win in Cologne is a near must or they will likely lose significant ground on the pack of teams surrounding them.
Cologne have been a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde so far this season, mixing a handful of inspired attacking performances against the likes of Hoffenheim, Leverkusen and Hamburg with embarrassingly dismal losses to Schalke, Wolfsburg and most recently Hertha.
The Billygoats are missing defender Geromel and midfielder Adam Matuschyk to injury, the former due to meniscus surgery and the latter to a dental operation. In addition, Portuguese midfielder Petit is still out for several months to recover from ACL surgery.
Hannover's primary squad is nearly injury free, with long-term absences Leon Andreasen and Carlitos still missing. In addition, Polish striker Artur Sobiech will not be in the roster as he is still suspended for a red card in his debut appearance for the team several weeks before.
MSV Duisburg - FC Ingolstadt 04
Edson Buddle will likely be limited to second-half substitute minutes on Saturday afternoon when Ingolstadt visit Duisburg, in a game which will leave one of the two teams in the 2. Bundesliga relegation zone.
Ingolstadt are coming off of one of their biggest collapses under the reign of coach Benno Möhlmann, giving up a two goal lead which they held at the hour mark over Bochum to eventually come out 5-3 losers.
The loss pushed them back to the edge of the drop zone, however they can find solace that they are visiting a Duisburg team who have been surprisingly one of the league's worst this season.
With just one win to their name through ten games, the once-proud Zebras have continually had their stripes beaten off of them, and are in the shocking position of looking ahead to a season-long struggle against the drop down to the 3. Liga.
Most notably for Duisburg, midfielder Goran Sukalo is suspended due to yellow card accumulation, and veteran forward Srdjan Baljak is still recovering from an ACL injury.
The only absence for Ingolstadt is Leonhard Haas, who is working his way back to fitness after an injury early in the season.
SpVgg Unterhaching - SV Darmstadt 98
Preston Zimmerman will likely continue his run in the Darmstadt starting lineup on Friday evening when they head to Munich to visit SpVgg Unterhaching.
After a respectable start to the season which had them sitting in the middle of the 3. Liga standings, the wheels have begun to come off for Darmstadt as they have slowly slipped down towards the bottom three of the league.
They have won just once in their last seven games - with that lone victory coming in part due to Zimmerman's first goal for the team - and last weekend's loss at third-place Heidenheim left them hovering a mere three points above the surface.
Making matters worse, the team was hit with a €5500 fine by the German FA during the week for continued problems created by the more troublesome elements of their fanbase, prompting club vice-president Rüdiger Fritsch to call upon the problem-makers to pony up the cash to pay for their actions.
Fortunately for the team, their Bavarian opponents have also come back to earth after a hot start, taking just one point from their last four games to slowly fall to the middle of the league standings.
Unterhaching must make do without defender Jonas Hummels, who has been absent since July with an ACL injury, and midfielder Stephan Thee who is also recovering from knee surgery.
Darmstadt are a hobbled bunch coming into the game, with defender Christian Beisel due to miss with a knee problem, and forwards Oliver Heil and Rudolph Hübner with respective elbow and nose fractures. In addition, both midfielder Benjamin Baier and forward Marcus Steegmann are suspended for the game.
Alfredo Morales could be included on the Hertha bench, but is unlikely to receive any playing time on Saturday when they visit league leaders FC Bayern.
Jermaine Jones will hope that his recent resurgence with Schalke continues on Saturday when they host FC Kaiserslautern.
Ricardo Clark seems a forgotten man in Frankfurt and will almost certainly not be included in their squad on Friday for Eintracht's visit to VfL Bochum.
Matt Taylor will watch from the bench and hope for late substitute minutes on Friday afternoon when Paderborn host Eintracht Braunschweig.
Bobby Wood has been a regular starter as of late with 1860 Munich's second team team. Should this trend continue, he will not make the trip with the team on Friday to Rostock, and rather travel one day later to Waldhof Mannheim in Regionalliga action.
Karlsruhe backup keeper Luis Robles will likely watch the league's second-worst defense continue to struggle on Saturday when they head north to visit FC Union Berlin.
After being left as an unused substitute in their midweek win over Jena, Amaechi Igwe will hope to see return to action for Babelsberg on Saturday in their visit to second-bottom team Werder Bremen II.