DAVID SMITH - Friday, March 9, 2012
Matt Taylor will look to build on last week's two-goal performance, while Fabian Johnson will try to knock down Bayern in his homecoming to Munich.
FC Bayern - TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
Fabian Johnson will likely be in Hoffenheim's starting lineup on Saturday when he returns to Munich for the first time since his days with 1860, and will hope to add to the woes of childhood enemies FC Bayern.
Daniel Williams will also likely feature for the Hoffe while Joseph-Claude Gyau could be an option off the bench for head coach Markus Babbel.
Since leaving Munich's less notorious team, TSG 1860 Munich, in 2009, Johnson has yet to play a competitive game in the city where he had spent his childhood and entire youth career.
His return to the Allianz Arena after more than three years will pit the current USA starting left back against the greatest rivals of his earlier team, the much-maligned Reds of FC Bayern.
Even though 18 points and eight places in the standings currently separate the two teams, there is perhaps no better time for the Hoffe to be facing the 22-times German champions.
A poor 2-0 loss last weekend to Bayer Leverkusen essentially knocked Bayern out of the 2011-12 Bundesliga title race, and with the team needing to overturn a 1-0 deficit to FC Basel in next week's Champions League second-leg game, the team's mind will almost certainly be elsewhere than on the immediate task at hand.
The first meeting of these two teams earlier in the season was coincidentally Williams' first-ever start in the Hoffenheim uniform, a game which saw the team hold Bayern to a surprising scoreless draw.
For Hoffenheim, defender Andreas Beck is out on yellow card suspension, while midfielder Sejad Salihovic will also miss the trip as he is serving the second of a two-game suspension imposed by the club.
Additionally, striker Srdjan Lakic is recovering from a knee injury, and fellow forward Sven Schipplock is out with torn ankle ligaments.
The Bavarians are only without defender Daniel van Buyten, who is recovering from a broken foot.
FSV Mainz 05 - FC Nürnberg
Timothy Chandler will likely continue his run in Nürnberg's midfield when they attempt to stretch their current winning streak to four games at Mainz.
Nürnberg's recent upturn has brought them from looking towards a frustrating battle against relegation to having thoughts of European qualification on the tips of their tongues.
Last weekend's 1-0 win over third-place Gladbach was perhaps the most impressive of their recent performances, and allowed them to peek their heads into the upper half of the standings for the first time since late-September.
They are now within two wins of reaching the spots destined for European qualification, and will hopeful of stealing a positive result against a mediocre 12th-place Mainz team which has only been able to beat the bottom-feeders of the league since the turn of the new year.
Mainz continue to miss long-term injuries Zdenk Pospech, Bo Svensson, Marcel Risse, and Mario Gavranovic.
The only major absence for Nürnberg is starting forward Tomas Pekhart, who is forced to sit on yellow card accumulation.
Werder Bremen - Hannover 96
Steve Cherundolo and Hannover will be looking to end their three-game winless streak when they visit the enigmatic Werder Bremen.
Hannover's Thursday-evening visit to Standard Liege will likely be a confidence-booster for the team despite their lack of victory. Having come from behind to draw 2-2 on the road, they put themselves in prime position to reach the competition's quarterfinals should they manage to avoid blowing the return leg in one week.
With Sunday opponents Bremen currently facing major struggles in league play - most recently having earned the dishonor of breaking Hertha's seven-game losing streak - they will be targeting a win that would bring them back into the Europa League qualification spots.
For Werder, attacking players Aaron Hunt and Marko Arnautovic are out, the former with a groin pull, the latter with a knee problem. Otherwise, they are mostly free of injury problems, aside from long-term absences Naldo and Tim Borowski.
Hannover will be forced to make do without suspended defender Christian Schulz, along with injured duo Manuel Schmiedebach and Mame Biram Diouf.
FC Schalke 04 - Hamburger SV
Jermaine Jones should be Schalke's starting defensive midfielder on Sunday when they host poor Hamburger SV, needing to end their run of poor results.
Schalke's title aspirations have already fallen into the gutter thanks to a series of underwhelming league performances, and after Thursday's 1-0 first-leg loss to FC Twente in the Europa League round of 16, they find themselves in the midst of a three-game losing streak.
Even though they still hold onto Germany's fourth Champions League spot, Leverkusen are lurking a mere four points behind, and anything short of a win against Hamburg would see their hopes of joining Europe's elite next season in danger.
Hamburg have hardly fared better recently in league competition, and last weekend's 4-0 shellacking at the hands of Stuttgart could have the team still feeling shellshocked.
Schalke's injured keeping duo of Ralf Fährmann and Lars Unnerstall will once again force Timo Hildebrand to start between the sticks. Additionally, defender Benedikt Höwedes is out with a pulled muscle and Kyriakos Papadopoulosis is suspended after picking up a pair of yellows last weekend.
Hamburg will be hurting most from the seven-game suspension of Jose Paolo Guerrero for his brutal assault on Stuttgart keeper Sven Ulreich last weekend.
They will also be without defender Dennis Aogo and the midfield duo of David Jarolim and Zyi-Gin Lam, all due to various injuries.
SC Paderborn 07 - VfL Bochum
An injury to usual starter Nick Proschwitz recovering from a broken cheekbone, Matt Taylor will look to add his goalscoring prowess to the Paderborn front line as they host VfL Bochum on Friday.
Taylor was an emergency early substitute for Proschwitz last weekend, and responded heroically in netting two of his team's three goals in their win over Aachen.
With an unthinkable total of 49 points after just 24 games, the hardly-known team has put themselves in the race for entrance into the top flight, as they currently occupy the division's third-place promotion playoff spot.
With ten games left to go, they can further solidify their position with a victory over Bochum, who have struggled lately with three losses in their last four games, including a 6-2 humiliation at the hands of current leaders Fürth two weeks ago.
In addition to Proschwitz, Paderborn are without defender Sören Gontheras he recovers from ACL surgery.
Bochum are missing midfielder Michael Delura to a knee problem and forward Mirkan Aydin to a broken leg.
After making his Bundesliga debut last weekend, Andrew Wooten will hope to see more time for Kaiserslautern on Friday evening when they pay a visit to VfB Stuttgart.
Leverkusen backup keeper David Yelldell will not be in the team's starting lineup on Saturday when they visit VfL Wolfsburg.
Alfredo Morales will hope to see substitute minutes for Hertha on Saturday when they hit the road to take on FC Cologne.
Terrence Boyd is not expected to make Borussia Dortmund's bench on Saturday in their visit to FC Augsburg.
Bobby Wood has recovered from his knee injury, however will likely continue his rehabbing stint with 1860's second team, and will not be in uniform with the top squad when they head east for a visit to FSV Frankfurt.
Luis Robles likely won't be in uniform on Monday when Karlsruhe visits FC St. Pauli.
Amaechi Igwe will hope to take the field as a substitute for Babelsberg on Saturday during their trip to Rot-Weiß Oberhausen.
Preston Zimmerman will be an option off the bench for Darmstadt on Saturday when they visit Preußen Münster.