Champions Borussia Dortmund suffered a setback as they resume their chase of Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich after the winter break when midfielder Mario Gotze was all but ruled out of Sunday's game at Hamburg SV.
Second-place Dortmund could also be without keeper Roman Weidenfeller and defender Lukasz Piszczek for the match, which they could start six points behind Bayern, who take on fourth-placed Borussia Moenchengladbach on Friday evening.
"Mario's chances of playing are about four percent," Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp told reporters on Thursday.
"It does not make sense for him to play after the preparation he has had. There are enough fit players left and we do not need to push it."
The 19-year-old Germany international has been a driving force in Dortmund's recovery after a bad start to the season but has yet to fully overcome an abductor muscle problem as the campaign resumes after the annual four-week winter break.
Weidenfeller is nursing a back injury while Piszczek is still troubled by a thigh injury.
"Roman broke off training [on Wednesday]. He wants to take part but he cannot force anything. We will have to see who will play," Klopp added.
The Dortmund coach will be hoping in-form Gladbach, fresh from their best first half of the season in 35 years, will repeat their season-opening surprise win over Bayern (1-0).
"We need to go in and stay on edge for 90 minutes if we are to leave the pitch as winners," said leading Gladbach forward Marco Reus, who has already agreed to join Dortmund at the end of the season.
With Franck Ribery suspended for the game, Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes, himself brimming with confidence after his team's winter training camp in Qatar, is expected to utilise Toni Kroos on the left wing.
Fellow midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger will also make a comeback after being out for more than two months following shoulder surgery.
"I'm ready and raring to go," Schweinsteiger said on Wednesday. "We want to shoot out of the blocks against Gladbach. We don't want a draw, we want a victory to start another winning streak."
Third-placed Schalke 04, level with Dortmund on 34 points, host VfB Stuttgart on Saturday while Champions League competitors Bayer Leverkusen, sixth on 29 points, entertain Mainz 05 on Sunday.comments