Bayern Munich will welcome back Franck Ribery when they host rock-bottom Karlsruhe tomorrow, eager to close the four-point gap on Bundesliga leaders Hertha Berlin. Lucien Favre's team are at Stuttgart, but the defending champions are under pressure to pick up three points at the Allianz Arena and stop their Berlin rivals running away with the title.
Second-placed Bayern have injury worries with both first-choice forwards - Luca Toni, suffering from an achilles tendon injury, and Miroslav Klose, out with an ankle injury - sidelined. In their absence, Ribery will lead their attack, having shaken off the shin injury which has plagued him for the last three weeks.
"There is a buzz around the place with Franck back," said Bayern coach Jurgen Klinsmann. "He's completely fit again and desperate to play." But Toni is still not ready and Klinsmann does not want to risk him, with Bayern set to play their UEFA Champions League quarter-final next month.
"We have to be patient for a little while longer," said Klinsmann after Toni withdrew from the Italy squad for next week's 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ quailifier against Montenegro. "The injury is a lot better, but it's still not 100 per cent gone."
Karlsruhe have won just two of their last ten games, and are currently three points behind their nearest rivals at the foot of the table.
Hertha travel to Stuttgart without midfielder Patrick Ebert, who has been dropped to the reserves having been questioned by police in the early hours of Wednesday morning following an incident in which three cars were damaged. However, with eight goals in his last six league games, striker Andrei Voronin will be looking to test former Germany goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, who conceeded four goals last weekend against Werder Bremen.
"We were missing almost everything needed to win a game against Bremen," said Stuttgart coach Markus Babbel, whose side are sixth. "We never got into the game and failed to perform as we had done in previous games. It gave us plenty to work ahead of Berlin."
Fourth-placed Hamburg are in Gelsenkirchen on Sunday to take on Schalke, who announced ex-Germany captain and goalkeeper Oliver Khan is expected to be their new sporting director.
Third-placed Wolfsburg are at strugglers Arminia Bielefeld with strikers Grafite, on 17 goals, and Edin Dzeko, on 13. Impresively, the pair have scored 20 goals between them in their last seven games.
With coach Jurgen Klopp having signed a contract extension which keeps him at Dortmund until 2012, his side host Werder Bremen.
Former pacesetters Hoffenheim are at home to mid-table Hanover, and are looking to pick up their first win in seven Bundesliga outings to get back into the title race and lift themselves up from fifth.
Seventh-placed Bayer Leverkusen are home to Eintracht Frankfurt, while Energie Cottbus need points from their game against Cologne to try and break out of the bottom three.
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