Rivals out to attack absent Bayerns lead
With runaway leaders Bayern Munich involved in Saturday's Club World Cup final, their Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen will be aiming to trim the Bavarians' lead.
Munich hold a seven-point lead at the top of the table and are threatening to again run off with the title, unless their rivals can steal a march with Bayern in Morocco.
Second-placed Bayer Leverkusen face Werder Bremen away on Saturday with the hosts winless in their last five games.
"It won't be easy for us but we want to make a good impression in our last match before the winter break and take all three points," said Bayer coach Sami Hyypia.
Leverkusen can set a new club record of 40 points for the first half of the season with a win at Bremen on what will be the final Bundesliga weekend of 2013.
But Bayer slumped to a shock defeat at the hands of strugglers Eintracht Frankfurt last weekend and Bremen plan to follow suit.
"Bayer 04 have been in the leading pack for years but we've got a chance in front of our own fans," said Bremen midfielder Clemens Fritz.
"Frankfurt showed the way. Football is always capable of springing a surprise."
Werder coach Robin Dutt was so furious after his side's 3-2 defeat at Hertha Berlin last weekend that he sent the squad for a 4am gym session on their return to Bremen.
Dutt is waiting on the fitness of captain Aaron Hunt as the veteran midfielder struggles with a calf injury.
"There is a big question mark against him, he would be a big loss," said Dutt.
Third-placed Borussia Dortmund, who are 12 points behind Bayern and five adrift of Leverkusen, host Hertha Berlin looking for only their second league win in five games.
Four points from those five matches has been a poor return and coach Jurgen Klopp is hoping to get some of his stars off the injured list to try to turn things around.
Germany left-back Marcel Schmelzer could feature after a calf tear but it is still too early for defensive midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, who has at least trained with the squad this week.
The 23-year-old has not played since injuring his back in Germany's friendly draw against Paraguay in August.
And Klopp is also without both centre-backs Neven Subotic and Mats Hummels.
Yet rather than looking forward to seeing the back of 2013, he remains eager to get their title challenge back on track.
"I'm not ready yet for Christmas," he said. "We have had a great week of training and we could get down to some good work. The team are up for it."
Nuremberg host Schalke 04 on Saturday evening still looking for their first win of the season -- the only team in Europe's major leagues without a victory so far.
Should Dortmund falter against Berlin, fourth-placed Borussia Moenchengladbach can usurp them from third when they host VfL Wolfsburg on Sunday.
Gladbach are unbeaten in their last seven games and enjoyed a six-match winning streak before being held to a goalless draw at Mainz last Saturday.
Eintracht Frankfurt v Augsburg
Borussia Dortmund v Hertha Berlin, Werder Bremen v Bayer Leverkusen, Freiburg v Hanover 96, Hamburg v Mainz 05, Eintracht Braunschweig v Hoffenheim, Nuremberg v Schalke 04
Borussia Moenchengladbach v VfL Wolfsburg
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