Hanover host Bayern, Dortmund play Cologne

Struggling Hanover 96 have the chance to take advantage of jaded Bayern Munich on Saturday and secure their first win over the German league leaders for four years.

Bayern's coach Pep Guardiola will announce his plans for the future this Sunday with another three-time champions league winner Carlo Ancelotti being lined up as potential replacement.   -  AFP

Struggling Hanover 96 have the chance to take advantage of jaded Bayern Munich on Saturday and secure their first win over the German league leaders for four years.

Bayern head to Hanover for their final game of 2015 with a five-point lead in the table, but with Pep Guardiola's Bavarian giants admitting fatigue is a factor.

“We'll pick ourselves up once again and give it our all to take the three points from Hanover, even if we haven't got many players left,” admitted Germany forward Thomas Mueller.

Bayern are missing injured stars Franck Ribery, Mario Goetze, Juan Bernat and David Alaba for their final match before the month-long winter break starts on Sunday.

Regardless of the result in Hanover, Bayern will be top of the table at Christmas for the fifth year in succession with goalkeeper Manuel Neuer set to make his 300th Bundesliga appearance.

Having struggled to a 2-0 league win over Ingolstadt last Saturday, Bayern laboured to a 1-0 German Cup win over Darmstadt on Tuesday to book their quarter-final place.

It kept alive their dreams of winning the treble of Champions League, Bundesliga and cup titles this season. Mueller admitted the Darmstadt win “was not a Gala performance” while captain Philipp Lahm says the Bayern squad has been running low on energy for weeks.

“The players' condition isn't so great, because we've played a lot of games and have had few opportunities for turnover in recent weeks,” said Lahm. “Of course, we're looking forward to the winter break and we're finding it a bit hard at the moment.”

Despite tired limbs, Bayern should beat Hanover, who are third from bottom, having suffered ten defeats this season. Coach Michael Frontzeck is under pressure to improve the results and the team will be without Japanese midfielder Hiroshi Kiyotake, who has a foot injury.

Uncertain future

Bayern are also bracing themselves to learn about Guardiola's future plans with an announcement expected on Sunday.

With his current contract to end in June, the Bavarian giants hope their coach will sign an extension, but reports from Spain claim Guardiola has already told the club he will leave in May.

Second-placed Borussia Dortmund, the league's top scorers with 46 goals compared to Bayern's 45, play Cologne away on Saturday with the hosts winless in their last five home games.

Gabon international Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored 18 goals in 16 league games so far this season having scored 29 Bundesliga goals in the 2015 calendar year.

Two of the German league's surprise packages go head-to-head in the capital when third-placed Hertha Berlin seek their third straight win on Sunday.

With nine wins, Hertha already have as many victories this season under coach Pal Dardai as they did in the entire 2014/15 campaign. Mainz, seventh in the league, are unbeaten in their last six consecutive league games (three wins, three draws) and have also not tasted defeat in their last four away fixtures.

Mainz conceded 19 goals in their first 11 Bundesliga outings this season, but have let in just two in the five games since. Midfielder Yunus Mali and Japan striker Yoshinori Muto have scored 15 goals between them.

Other matches: Schalke 04 v Hoffenheim; Eintracht v Werder Bremen; Hamburger SV v FC Augsburg; Ingolstadt v Leverkusen; VfB Stuttgart v Wolfsburg

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