DAVID SMITH - Friday, March 16, 2012
Jermaine Jones and Schalke will try to keep their streak alive at last-place Kaiserslautern while Steve Cherundolo and Hannover will look to carry their Europa League momentum into league play.
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim - VfB Stuttgart
Fabian Johnson and Danny Williams should be in Hoffenheim's starting lineup on Friday evening against Stuttgart when the team tries to recover from last weekend's Bavarian blowout.
The Hoffe are still reeling from their 7-1 smashing at the hands of FC Bayern last Saturday, and will be hoping to redeem themselves in front of the home crowd and remove any lingering worries that a late-season tailspin could send them towards relegation.
As things stand, they are seven points clear of the drop zone, but with nine games left, a few poor weeks could very well put the team at risk.
They certainly won't have an easy time against Stuttgart, as the Schwabens have only lost once in their last four tries, although they completely misfired in last Friday's scoreless draw at home against cellar team Kaiserslautern.
For Hoffenheim, the only absence is striker Srdjan Lakic, who is recovering from a knee injury.
Stuttgart are only missing defender Serdar Tasci and midfielder Shinji Okazaki, the former to a hip problem and the latter with a knee injury.
FC Nürnberg - VfL Wolfsburg
Timothy Chandler should be once again manning the right side of Nürnberg's midfield on Saturday as they face tenth-place Wolfsburg.
Even though his squad is still just in the upper half of the standings, Nürnberg head coach Dieter Hecking still see the team needing one more victory before they can consider themselves safe for the season.
He had hoped to ride the team's prior three-game winning streak to that goal last weekend at Mainz, but an overall weak performance saw them fall short by a single goal.
With the team tied with Saturday opponents Wolfsburg and leading Mainz and Hoffenheim by just one point, this game will likely play a key result in determining whether they finish above or below the midway line in the standings.
The only notable absence for Nürnberg is injured bench midfielder Mike Frantz while Wolfsburg are missing suspended midfielder Ashkan Dejagah and the injured Patrick Ochs.
FC Kaiserslautern - FC Schalke 04
Jermaine Jones will hope that his dominant performance in Schalke's Thursday-night Europa League win will carry over into league play as Schalke visit Kaiserslautern.
Andrew Wooten will likely feature on the bench for the hosts, and could be in line for his second-ever Bundesliga appearance.
Schalke rode a hat-trick by star forward Klaas-Jan Huntelaar in their Thursday-night Europa League contest to an aggregate win over Dutch challengers Twente.
This put them through to the competition's final eight teams, but perhaps more importantly, continued the momentum from last weekend's 4-1 win over Hamburg, a wave they hope to ride to an automatic Champions League qualification spot.
While the Dutchman grabbed the headlines with his scoring exploits, Jones also had a solid game on the attack, scoring the goal which proved the decisive aggregate winner, and assisting on Huntelaar's final score.
With third-place 'Gladbach visiting fifth-place Leverkusen, a win against a dismal Kaiserslautern team on Sunday could vault them into third place, and give them a strong leg up in punching an early ticket directly to the group stage of next season's Champions League.
The only absence for Kaiserslautern is forward Dorge Rostand Kouemaha, who is out for the long haul thanks to an Achilles tear.
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.
Hannover 96 - FC Cologne
Steve Cherundolo and Hannover will try to break their three-game winless streak on Sunday when they host a weakened Cologne.
As poor as they have fared as of late in Bundesliga play, Hannover have done well on the European stage, and their 4-0 smashing of Belgians Standard Liege on Thursday night saw them through to the Europa League's quarterfinals by an aggregate 6-2 score.
Having lost to both Bremen and Dortmund and managing only a draw with Augsburg in the week between, Hannover need a win over Cologne to have much if any hope of qualifying once again for European play.
With two of the Billygoats' star players suspended for the game and the team again in the midst of internal turmoil, Sunday's matchup could be at an opportune time for Cherundolo and his teammates to get the job done.
Hannover will be forced to make do without injured striker Mame Biram Diouf, who is forced to sit with a knee injury.
Cologne starters Mato Jajalo and Lukas Podolski will both miss the trip after the pair each picked up red cards in the team's last game.
FC Ingolstadt 04 - SC Paderborn 07
Matt Taylor will likely maintain his place in Paderborn's starting lineup in place of injured starter Nick Proschwitz on Saturday for their trip to Ingolstadt.
Paderborn have defied all expectations and are still in the fight for an unlikely promotion spot. Even with last weekend's scoreless draw, they are still just one point out of the third-place playoff, and even more remarkably just three points off the top of the 2. Bundesliga.
They could very well be tested in Ingolstadt, against a team which has remarkably not lost since mid-December, although six of their last eight have only been draws.
Ingolstadt are without long-term injury absences Fabian Gerber, Malte Metzelder and Moritz Hartmann.
In addition to Proschwitz, Paderborn are without defender Sören Gonther as he recovers from ACL surgery.
SV Darmstadt 98 - FC Heidenheim
Preston Zimmerman will likely be in Darmstadt's starting lineup on Saturday when they host fourth-place promotion hunting Heidenheim.
Darmstadt wasted an early gifted lead in their midweek bad-weather-makeup game at Regensburg, eventually falling to the 3. Liga's third-place team by a 2-1 score.
With their gap above the top relegation spot narrowed to just five points they will need to be careful, however will undoubtedly have a tough go against Heidenheim, who are consistently stayed near the top of the division throughout the entire season.
They were beaten by last-place Bremen II in their midweek game, and facing a second road trip in four days, could be weary by the time they kick off in Darmstadt.
Darmstadt are missing the suspended midfield duo of Danny Latza and Matthias Heckenberger along with injured defender Julian Ratei and midfielder Burak Bilgin.
Heidenheim are without the injured striker trio of Nico Frommer, Adam Jabiri, and Andreas Spann as well as midfielder Schitenhelm.
Terrence Boyd is not expected to be in uniform for Borussia Dortmund's first team on Saturday when the league leaders host Werder Bremen.
David Yelldell will not be included in the lineup on Saturday afternoon for Bayer Leverkusen's home game against third-place Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Alfredo Morales will be on the bench for Hertha on Saturday for their home game against on-fire FC Bayern.
Bobby Wood won't be in uniform for 1860 Munich on Saturday when they host 2. Bundesliga leaders SpVgg Greuther Fürth.
Luis Robles has lost his place on Karlsruher's bench, and will likely be a spectator on Sunday when Hansa Rostock comes for a visit.
Amaechi Igwe will hope to see playing time from the bench during Babelsberg's home game against Carl Zeiss Jena.