DAVID SMITH - Friday, December 11, 2009
Michael Bradley and Stever Cherundolo square off in a mid-standings battle while David Yelldell and Koblenz will have their hands full with league leaders Kaiserslautern.
Borussia Mönchengladbach - Hannover 96
Michael Bradley and the Foals will try to get back to their winning ways on Saturday when they host Steve Cherundolo and Hannover, who are coming off their toughest run of the season.
While the Foals wound up losers in Bayern's Allianz Arena last weekend, they have looked impressive over the last month, having gone undefeated in their previous five games, in the process knocking off contenders Hamburg and Schalke.
After looking like they were set for another relegation battle after a slow start, the recent rally under coach Michael Frontzeck has taken them steadily up the standings to a comfortable 11th place, with the team harboring slim hopes of pushing into the upper half before the winter break.
The opposite can be said for Andreas Bergmann's Hannover team, who have seen their previous month mired by tragedy and a four-game winless run that has them currently in 12th place.
While the team has only scraped a mere two points from their last four outings, they can take solace in knowing that they came in the midst of a horrendous scheduling run against four of the league's top five teams.
Last weekend's gritty scoreless draw against free-scoring league leaders Leverkusen should give them confidence of holding the less daunting Foals, but they will still need to be on their best behavior as their hosts have not conceded a league goal in Borussia park in over two months.
Bergmann is missing defender Leon Balogun with a broken hand, while striker Mikael Forssell will also sit out as he recovers from a foot operation, and American Sal Zizzo joins him in recovery from knee injury.
Frontzeck has the advantage of a nearly full-strength Foals squad, with the only significant absence defender Filip Daems, who is continuing to recover from a foot injury.
FC Kaiserslautern - TuS Koblenz
David Yelldell and Koblenz will face their toughest test of the season on Friday evening when they try to hold off Kaiserslautern, who have bounded into the league lead in recent weeks.
With last weekend's 5-1 collapse at home to St. Pauli being the most recent setback, Koblenz have found themselves slowly descending further into a hole as the midseason break approaches.
After 15 games played, they have only mustered a trio of wins and 12 points, leaving them already six points adrift of safety and looking, at best, resigned to fighting to hold on to the 16th-place relegation playoff spot.
With their entire offensive firepower consisting of the brothers Kuqi, the onus has, similarly to last season, again fallen upon Yelldell to often keep the team in games with his superb play in goal.
The relatively minimal support from his back line has increasingly left him out to dry, however, as evidenced by last week's five-goal embarrassment against Pauli.
Winners of their last five straight, Kaiserslautern will offer no reprieve to Yelldell and company, as they have allowed a total of one goal in the last 450-plus minutes of league play and will be eager to wrap up the distinction of "herbstmeister" with a win Friday in the Fritz Walter Stadium.
Koblenz is still without defender Martin Hudec who is recovering from a broken ankle, defender Benjamin Lense with a hernia, and the midfield duo of Lars Bender and Christian Müller, who are sidelined with respective thigh and knee problems.
Kaiserslautern coach Marco Kurz will be without midfielder Bastian Schulz who is out with a torn ACL and starting forward Sidney Sam, who left last week's win over Rostock early with a pulled muscle.
Despite picking up a slight adductor injury in training, Kaiserslautern backup keeper Luis Robles is expected to suit up for the Red Devils.
Bryan Arguez will not take part when last-place Hertha will try to avoid embarrassment against league leaders Bayer Leverkusen in Berlin's Olympic Stadium on Friday.
Jermaine Jones is still recovering from his broken leg and will not suit up for third-place Schalke as they visit second-place Werder on Saturday.
Kenny Cooper will watch from the stands on Saturday afternoon while he recovers from his knee injury as 1860 host Augsburg.
Matt Taylor will hope to see substitute minutes for FSV Frankfurt on Saturday when they host last-place Rot Weiss Ahlen.
Ian Joy's return from injury will have to wait one more week, as Ingolstadt's game on Friday against Bayern II has been postponed due to unplayable conditions at Munich's Grünwalder Stadion.