Cologne - With four games to go until the winter break, stockpiling the points ahead of a five-week period of hibernation is the aim for the Bundesliga clubs now that December has arrived.
Hannover 96 - VfL Wolfsburg
bundesliga.com looks at three intriguing encounters in store this Saturday (kick-off 15:30 CET/14:30 GMT), which includes a local derby, fourth-placed Augsburg's trip to Cologne and two sides looking to bounce back from heavy defeats.
has given VfL Wolfsburg a boost on the eve of their Lower Saxony derby at Hannover 96 by pledging his future to the club. De Bruyne has been in scintillating form so far this season, scoring one and delivering a league-leading nine assists for the high-flying Wolves, whose fans can look forward to taking even more pleasure from the Belgian's talent in years to come.
"If everything goes well, then I'll be with Wolfsburg until 2019," [until the end of his contract] he told Kicker magazine. "If I get to play out the remainder of my career in the Bundesliga, then that's good for me." It would most certainly be good for the Bundesliga and Wolfsburg too, given the form De Bruyne is in.
Hannover's happy guests
Hannover were in good form themselves for most of November, up until their last two games against Bayer 04 Leverkusen and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. "The games we've got between now and the winter break are going to tell us where our journey is heading," says goalkeeper , set to make a record 122nd consecutive league appearance for the club this weekend. "Ideally, we'll get two or three more wins."
The Reds can take heart from having beaten their local rivals five times in a row, so there could probably be no more welcome a guest to the HDI-Arena than Wolfsburg this Saturday.
1. FC Köln - FC Augsburg
Augsburg can strengthen their grip on a place inside the top four of the Bundesliga this weekend when they head to 1. FC Köln looking to give the Billy Goats the same treatment as they meted out to SC Paderborn, VfB Stuttgart and Hamburger SV over the past three weeks. This three wins have thrust the Bavarians into their highest ever position since gaining promotion to the Bundesliga three and a half years ago, and they have no intention of relinquishing it.
"We're going to Cologne to win," said vice-captain . His coach Markus Weinzierl, who is without Tim Matavz, Dominik Reinhardt or Shawn Parker, says that a draw would do, although naturally he would take all three points. "We're on a bit of a run," he said. "So let's try to extend that."
Köln's 'enormous allure'
The Bavarians excellent form has naturally not escaped the attention of Köln coach Peter Stöger, unexpected though it may be. "I think the whole of the Bundesliga are a bit surprised that they're fourth, but it just goes to show how well they're working in Augsburg," he said. "Everything's going for them at the moment."
Köln's can vouch for how hard the Bavarians work, having played for the club between 2012 and 2014. "Augsburg are a great club and I had a fantastic time there," he said. "But I chose Köln in the summer because they are an even bigger brand with enormous allure. If we can work as well as Augsburg have in recent years, then we've got even more potential."
SC Paderborn - SC Freiburg
Paderborn and Freiburg have points to prove when they meet at the Benteler-Arena this Saturday. Both will be eager to put heavy defeats last weekend behind them - Paderborn went down 4-0 in Bremen while Freiburg suffered a chastening 4-1 defeat at home to VfB Stuttgart in the Baden-Württemberg derby.
"That hit us hard because we'd been heading in the right direction," said Freiburg coach Christian Streich. "It really knocked the stuffing out of us." The defeat also cost Streich Stefan Mitrovic for two games due to suspension.
Similarly Paderborn have a job to restore team confidence after the drubbing they received in Bremen, but coach Andre Breitenreiter has reminded his players that their organisation has to improve after arguably their worst performance of the season so far. "If we don't stick 100 per cent to the plan, then we've got no chance."
That plan involves following Freiburg's blueprint. "This club could be a role model for us," he added. "They are still a few steps ahead of us, though. We don't have to win, but above all we mustn't lose," he said.