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Dortmund vs Bremen and Hamburg vs Leverkusen are among the big matches in this week’s action.

Friday (all times local)
20:30 - Hannover - Stuttgart

Saturday
15:30 - Bayern Munich - St Pauli
15:30 - Hamburg - Bayer Leverkusen
15:30 - Hoffenheim - Nuernberg
15:30 - Kaiserslautern - Wolfsburg
15:30 - Koeln - Eintracht Frankfurt

Sunday
15:30 - Borussia Dortmund - Werder Bremen
15:30 - Freiburg - Borussia Moenchengladbach
17:30 - Mainz - Schalke

Hannover - Stuttgart

Heroics from in-form pair Didier Ya Konan and Mike Hanke saw Steve Cherundolo's Hannover earn a comeback win in their most recent clash with Gladbach, a result that saw the die Roten keep pace with Leverkusen and remain in the outstanding standing of fourth place in the Bundesliga. The high-flying Saxons now host Stuttgart as they look to close out the 2010 calendar year in style. Karim Haggui is suspended, and Markus Miller, Mohammed Abdellaoue, Moritz Stoppelkamp, Leon Andreasen, and Carlitos will have to miss out on the match with injuries.

Stuttgart came from behind to earn a draw against Hoffenheim, but were disappointed not to take three points after having a numerical advantage before half-time. The Swabians are now 16th in the Bundesliga standings, and are desperate for points. They head to Hannover without suspended striker Cirprian Marica, as well as injured quartet Serdar Tasci, Daniel Didavi, Khalid Boulahrouz, and Stefano Celozzi.

Bayern Munich - St Pauli

Bayern rounded off an impressive Champions League group campaign with Wednesday’s 3-0 victory over Basel, but the defending Bundesliga champions still have plenty to do if they are to reach their domestic goals. Currently six points behind the top three, the Bavarians are counting on a strong finish to the fall campaign. Louis van Gaal has ruled out Holger Badstuber, Miroslav Klose, Arjen Robben and Ivica Olic, who are injured.

Thanks to a somewhat fortunate own goal, St Pauli were able to squeeze out a 1-0 win against Kaiserslautern in their last match. That victory snapped a woeful losing streak, but the Hamburg-based club remain 14th in the Bundesliga standings, and will have to do better to avoid relegation. Ahead of their showdown with Bayern, Holger Stanislawski has ruled out Markus Thorandt, who is suspended, as well as Davidson Drobo-Ampem and Dennis Daube.

Hamburg - Bayer Leverkusen

Hamburg had 88 minutes to mount a comeback in their most recent match, but failed to do so and slumped to a 1-0 loss to Freiburg. Die Rothosen will hope to rebound in Round 16, but face stiff competition in the form of a hungry Leverkusen side. Hamburg’s injury situation has become significantly less worrisome in recent days, but Armin Veh is still without Mladen Petric , Miroslav Stepanek, Joris Mathijsen, Gojko Kacar, Marcell Jansen, Dennis Diekmeier and Romeo Castelen.

It was a nail-biter, but Leverkusen were able to earn a controversial 3-2 victory over Koeln in their last match. A win on Saturday could see Jupp Heynckes’ side surpass Mainz, and would also leave die Werkself with some hope of winning the Bundesliga title. Heynckes will have to do without long-term casualties Stefan Kiessling and Michael Ballack, but will otherwise have a full squad available.

Hoffenheim - Nuernberg

Last week, Hoffenheim threw away an early lead against Stuttgart, but managed to hold onto their point despite being down to 10 men for 49 minutes. The villagers are currently sixth, but could make significant progress towards a Champions League spot in the last two matches of the fall campaign. Ralf Rangnick has a bit of a selectional conundrum in central defence, with Isaac Vorsah suspended and Josip Simunic injured. Additionally, Tom Starke, Chinedu Obasi, Tobias Weis, Manuel Gulde and Jens Grahl are unfit and will not play.

They put forth a valiant effort, but Nuernberg were unable to take points from Dortmund in last Sunday’s match. The defeat had little effect on the Bavarians’ standing, and Dieter Hecking will be somewhat pleased with his team’s mid-table standing. Relegation is not far away, however, and Nuernberg will have to struggle for survival. Javier Pinola remains suspended, and injured duo Albert Bunjaku and Per Nilsson will have to sit out the next battle.

Kaiserslautern - Wolfsburg

Kaiserslautern were stunned last week as a freak Christian Tiffert own goal was enough to sink the red devils to a demoralizing defeat. The promoted side have shown signs of brilliance on occasion this season, but will have to do much better if they are to avoid relegation. As they take on Wolfsburg, ‘Lautern will be without suspended striker Srdjan Lakic, as well as injured defender Jan Simunek.

Wolfsburg had their chances last week, but failed to put them away and had to settle for a fourth consecutive draw. The big spenders are languishing in the lower half of the table, but wins in their last two matches of the season could leave die Woelfe in reasonable striking distance of a Europa League spot ahead of the spring campaign. Ahead of their trip to Kaiserslautern, coach Steve McClaren has ruled out Grafite, Fabian Johnson and Arne Friedrich, who are all unfit.

Koeln - Eintracht Frankfurt

Koeln were woefully unlucky not to take a point from their recent match with Leverkusen, but die Geissboecke had a legitimate goal called back, and had to settle with defeat. The crisis-ridden club are now 16th in the Bundesliga standings, and desperate for points. To make matters worse, Manasseh Ishiaku, Milivoje Novakovic and Kostas Giannoulis are injured and will have to miss out on Saturday’s match. Adil Chihi remains exiled from the club.

Thanks to a late penalty, Frankfurt earned a deserved victory over Mainz. Die Adler are in eighth place now, but within a point of all but the top four, and would surely advance into the table nosebleeds with a win against Koeln. Michael Skibbe will have to manage without Oka Nikolov, Maik Franz, Chris, Sebastian Rode, Marcel Titsch-Rivero and Zlatan Bajramovic.

Borussia Dortmund - Werder Bremen

Dortmund clinched the title of winter champions with last week’s 2-0 win against Nuernberg, which left the Ruhr side with a Bundesliga record 40 points from 15 matches. After the match, even coach Juergen Klopp conceded that his side might, in fact, be in the title race. Dortmund will hope to extend their phenomenal record against Bremen, but will be without Sebastian Kehl, Patrick Owomoyela, and Florian Kringe.

Not long ago, Thomas Schaaf spoke of taking “baby steps” towards improvement, but on Tuesday, Bremen took a giant leap in a 3-0 Champions League victory over holders Inter. The result was not enough to save Werder’s European campaign, but will provide much needed confidence ahead of Sunday’s clash with the Bundesliga leaders. Schaaf will have to manage without Naldo, Wesley, Sebastian Boenisch, Tim Borowski, Christian Vander (all injured), and Hugo Almeida (suspended).

Freiburg - Borussia Moenchengladbach

Papiss Cisse’s early opener was all Freiburg needed to take three points in last week’s match against Hamburg, a result that saw the Breisgau move into the outstanding position of fifth. As they host Gladbach, Robin Dutt’s squad will be short of full strength; Oemer Toprak, Simon Pouplin, Pavel Krmas and Tommy Bechmann have been ruled out with injuries.

Michael Bradley and Gladbach were stunned last week as they watched yet another early lead turn into a gut-wrenching defeat, this time at the hands of Hannover. Die Fohlen are currently last in the table, and are absolutely desperate for points. Two wins to finish the calendar year would do wonders for the confidence of Michael Frontzeck’s men, among whom Raul Bobadilla, Marco Reus (both suspended), Logan Bailly, Tony Jantschke, Dante, Christian Dorda and Jan-Sebastian Jaures (all injured) will be missing this Sunday.

Mainz - Schalke

In round 15, Mainz came back once from a goal behind, but were eventually handed a 2-1 loss at the hands of Frankfurt. Thomas Tuchel’s record-tying side currently sit second in the table, but have seen a sizable lead diminish to just a point. They now face a much improved Schalke side in a test that sees opposites in both form and record collide. Tuchel will likely rotate his line-up as always, but Radoslav Zabavnik is suspended, and Jan Simak and Bo Svensson are unavailable due to fitness concerns.

Resurgent Schalke followed up their recent Bundesliga victory over Bayern by earning a 2-1 triumph away to Benfica in the Champions League, which saw die Knappen finish atop Group B. Felix Magath’s men are playing with new-found confidence, especially in defense, and will hope to extend their run against dangerous Mainz. The Schalke gaffer tends to shuffle his line-up, but definite absentees include Christoph Moritz, Tim Hoogland, and Levan Kenia, who are injured. Jermaine Jones, Alexander Baumjohann and Hans Sarpei remain stuck in the reserves.

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