The Bundesliga resumes Friday after its six-week winter break but not before winter weather finally hit Germany. Snow and ice struck this week after unseasonably warm weather over the holiday season.
Defending champion Bayern Munich opens the weekend slate Friday at Borussia Dortmund (TV: GolTV, live, 2:30 pm ET). Bayern finished the fall campaign in third place, three points behind leader Werder Bremen and second-place Schalke 04, and the big concern remains its midfield.
Playmaker Sebastian Deisler retired during the break, ending at the age of 27 a once-promising career marred by injuries and personal personal problems. On a positive note, Bayern hopes to soon get back Englishman Owen Hargreaves, who's been out with a broken leg for four months and has been linked in a move to Manchester United.
"Something has to happen in midfield," Bayern president Franz Beckenbauersaid. "It would be good if we could find a playmaker."
First-place Werder faces Hannover at home on Sunday (TV: GolTV, delay, 9:30 pm ET), while second-place Schalke travels to Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday (TV: GolTV, live, 9:30 am ET) with concerns about the status of captain Marcelo Bordon (leg muscle injury).
Leader Bremen has been toasted across Europe for the quality of its attacking game. Brazilian playmaker Diego was voted the Bundesliga's best player for the first half of the 2006-07 season in a poll of fellow ahead of his Bremen teammates Miroslav Klose and Torsten Frings. With Klose hobbled and fellow striker Ivan Klasnic out for two months after needing a kidney transplant, Bremen was reportedly on the verge of adding Ajax's Swedish forward Markus Rosenberg.
There have been few major mid-season transfers in Germany. Wolfsburg signed Brazilian playmaker Marcelinho, the former Hertha Berlin star, from Turkey's Trapzonspor. Struggling Hamburg signed veteran goalkeeper Frank Rostfrom Schalke, where he was the backup.
ENGLAND.The FA Cup moves into the fourth round, where EPL leader Manchester United faces Portsmouth Saturday at Old Trafford (TV: Setanta-PPV, live, noon ET). Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp has helped former clubs Bournemouth (1984) and West Ham (2001) to major FA Cup upsets against United. Second-place Chelsea is at home Sunday for its fourth-round match against third-level Nottingham Forest (TV: Fox Soccer Channel, live, 9 am ET). The best matchup of the weekend could take place Sunday at the Emirates Stadium, where Arsenal hosts Bolton Wanderers (TV: Setanta-PPV, live, 11 am ET). The Gunners, who are in fourth place five points ahead of Bolton, face the Trotters for the third season in a row in the FA Cup.
SPAIN. Despite winning only two of its last seven league games, Barcelona is in first place in La Liga with a game in hand and a chance for an easy victory against struggling Celta at home on Sunday (TV: GolTV, live, 1 pm ET). Sevilla and Real, which are tied for second place, are both on the road. Sevilla, which lost the lead after losing two games of its last three games and tying the third, visits lowly Levante on Sunday (TV: GolTV, live, 11 am ET). During another difficult campaign for Real Madrid, one positive has been its play away from home. The Merengues will look to pick up their eighth win in 11 away games when they play at Villarreal on Saturday (TV: GolTV, live, 4 pm ET).