DAVID SMITH - Friday, February 17, 2012
Steve Cherundolo and Hannover will try to keep their midweek Europa League momentum going against visiting Stuttgart while Alfredo Morales and Hertha look to bounce back after last weekend's blow-out.
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim - FSV Mainz 05
Daniel Williams and Fabian Johnson could both be in the starting lineup while Joseph-Claude Gyau will hope for his league debut with Hoffenheim when the team hosts FSV Mainz on Friday evening.
Hoffenheim looked to be headed to their first league win since early-December when they entered the 90th minute of Saturday's game at Werder Bremen with a 1-0 lead, however were forced to watch in dismay as a late goal by Marko Arnautovic turned three points into one.
This will have done little to instill confidence that new head coach Markus Babbel could turn around the increasingly lagging team and push them back into the race for European qualification.
They will need to be careful of avoiding another slip-up against a frustrated Mainz team that has also suffered a pair of second-half letdowns in their last two games.
Similarly to Hoffenheim, they gave up a last-gasp winner to Hannover last weekend, and also squandered a halftime lead to Schalke one week before, leaving them just five points clear of the drop zone.
Hoffenheim have a full squad available aside from defender Isaac Vorsah who is being given the weekend to rest after turning from the African Cup.
Most critically, Mainz are missing suspended defender Niko Bungert and fellow backline mate Zdenk Pospech who is out with an ankle problem. Additionally, long-term injury absentees Bo Svensson Marcel Risse and Mario Gavranovic are also still unable to participate.
Hertha Berlin - Borussia Dortmund
Alfredo Morales will hope a poor performance in last weekend's huge loss will not cost him his place in Hertha's starting eleven when they host league leaders Borussia Dortmund on Saturday.
Saturday's game could spell disaster for the embattled Berliners who have not been able to must even so much as a draw since two months ago.
They were humiliated by Stuttgart in a five-goal demolition last weekend, and will be under even more pressure as the current German leaders - winners of their last five - come to the Olympiastadion.
The game will be a trial by fire for interim head coach René Tretschok who took over for Michael Skibbe during the week, although few would reasonably expect even so much as a draw against the defending Bundesliga champions at this point.
Morales was included in the list of players called into the upcoming US U23 camp in Frisco, Texas which will commence on Monday, which also likely signals his participation in the Olympic qualifying tournament in March.
With the club seeming to have no problem to allow him to miss several games at such a critical period, this likely indicates that the upper brass do not see him as being much of a contributing factor to their lineup for the rest of the season.
For Hertha, defender Maik Franz is out for the long-haul with a torn ACL, right back Christian Lell is still hampered by a thigh injury, and the midfield duo of Fabian Lustenberger and Andreas Ottl are out due to a respective foot injury and red card suspension.
Dortmund are still without star midfielder Mario Götze due to a leg problem, however Japanese international Shinji Kagawa has now been added to the list after picking up a knee and ankle injury in training on Wednesday.
FC Nürnberg - FC Cologne
Timothy Chandler and Nürnberg will look to pick up a win on Saturday when they host ailing FC Cologne.
After last weekend's utter bore of a game in Augsburg, Nürnberg will hope to bounce back at home in decidedly better weather on Saturday against Cologne, and will be eager to put further distance between themselves and the relegation places.
Even though the vast majority of last weekend's game in Augsburg saw the attack simply failing to click, Chandler showed several promising, if not highlight, moments in the final 20 minutes while playing in a right midfield role, and will like see a repeat of the tactical assignment on Saturday.
Cologne have been mostly poor since the turn of the new year, only taking points off of relegation threatened Kaiserslautern, and will critically be missing their most dangerous - and controversial - weapon in Lukas Podolski.
Nürnberg will be without starting defender Jaiver Pinola as he works his way back to fitness, and will also be missing defensive midfielder Almog Cohen after he picked up a fifth yellow card last weekend.
In addition to the injured Podolski, Cologne continue to be without defender Ammar Jemal after the Tunisian midfielder pulled a muscle on his brief return to the field last weekend, and striker Adil Chihi who is recovering from a torn ACL.
Hannover 96 - VfB Stuttgart
Steve Cherundolo and Hannover can take one step closer to a return to European competition on Sunday when they host ninth-place VfB Stuttgart.
Hannover took a step towards the final 16 of the Europa League on Thursday with a come-from-behind win at home over Brugge, and will hope to continue the momentum against Stuttgart.
They have quietly been one of the more impressive teams in Germany over the last two months, going nine straight across all competitions without a loss and slowly climbing back into the race for European qualification.
Whether they will continue this run will depend on which Stuttgart team shows up to the AWD-Arena on Sunday. The Reds looked like world-beaters in their 5-0 beat-down of Hertha last weekend, but have otherwise looked poor in their previous four winless games.
Hannover continue to be missing long-term injured players Carlitos, Henning Hauger and Leon Andreasen, and will be without Emanuel Pogatetz for one final week as he completes his three-game league suspension.
Stuttgart are only missing suspended defender Cristian Molinaro.
David Yelldell could feature on Leverkusen's bench as backup keeper on Saturday when they host relegation-bound FC Augsburg.
After playing the full 90 minutes in Schalke's Thursday-night Europa Leauge game, Jermaine Jones will return to his role as a spectator due to his lengthy suspension, and will watch from the stands when they host VfL Wolfsburg on Sunday.
Luis Robles will likely not be in uniform on Friday afternoon when Karlsruher SC hosts Energie Cottbus, and may soon depart the team after confirming he is in talks with MLS team Red Bull New York.
Matt Taylor will hope for substitute minutes on Friday when Paderborn hosts Dynamo Dresden.
Ricardo Clark will likely be watching from the stands on Saturday afternoon when Eintracht Frankfurt try to take one step closer to promotion with a home derby against local rivals FSV Frankfurt.
Bobby Wood is recovering from knee surgery and will not be in uniform on Sunday when 1860 Munich host promotion favorites Fortuna Düsseldorf.
Preston Zimmerman and Darmstadt will not be in action as originally scheduled on Sunday as their home game against Rot-Weiß Erfurt was called off by the DFB thanks to an unplayable field.
Amaechi Igwe's will have the weekend off after Babelsberg's Sunday-afternoon home game against Kickers Offenbach was postponed due to ongoing inclement weather.