DAVID SMITH - Friday, March 23, 2012
Steve Cherundolo and Hannover will hope to avoid being run over by the Bayern freight train while Timothy Chandler and Nürnberg need a good game in Stuttgart to break their current losing streak.
FC Bayern - Hannover 96
Steve Cherundolo and Hannover will hope that huge wins in their last two games will be a good sign as they face a potentially painful trip to Bayern's Allianz Arena on Saturday.
After suffering a slight downturn which had taken them out of the league's top six, Hannover's most recent two games has given them some reason for hope.
A combined 8-1 scoreline over Europa League opponents Standard Liege and Bundesliga rivals Cologne have the team headed back in the right direction, however it may be of little help as Bayern have been steamrolling all in their path.
The Bavarians did need penalties to finally overcome Borussia Mönchengladbach in their midweek German Cup semifinal, however an unbelievable combined 20-1 scoreline in their previous three outings could spell trouble for Hannover.
Hannover did score a rather shocking 2-1 win when the teams first met in October, in a wild game which saw both teams reduced to ten men - Cherundolo being the Hannover player shown red - by the final whistle.
With Bayern finally putting all the pieces together in anticipation of a hopeful run to May's Champions League final in their own home stadium, Hannover captain Cherundolo and his squad will likely need to put on a near-perfect performance if they hope to take any positive result on Saturday.
The participation of Bayern superstar midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger is considered highly unlikely, as he is being brought back slowly from an ankle injury. Additionally, they will be without injured defenders Breno and Daniel van Buyten.
Hannover have no notable injuries or suspensions.
Borussia Mönchengladbach - TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
Danny Williams and Fabian Johnson will likely both be in Hoffenheim's starting lineup on Saturday as the team heads to Borussia Mönchengladbach for potentially crucial showdown.
Joseph-Claude Gyau is currently with the USA Under-23 team in the Olympic qualification tournament, and will likely not have any participation with the first team for their next few games.
The Hoffe have shown little sign of breaking free from a disastrous downturn which has taken them from pushing for a Europa League spot to worrying about a potential relegation fight.
A single win since the turn of the year combined with a series of unnecessary losses has dropped them to just five above the bottom three spots in the league, and with several of the teams below them showing the occasional ability to turn on the jets, failure to break free of their awful run could have them stuck in the relegation playoff spot in a matter of weeks.
'Gladbach will offer little respite, having taken Bayern to the limit in a penalty-shootout loss in the DFB Cup during the week, and will looking to add an easy three points to further secure their third-place standing an automatic qualification to the Champions League group stage.
The Foals are missing defender Martin Stranzl to a hip injury and midfielder Havard Nordtviet to yellow card suspension.
Hoffenheim have a full squad available.
FC Schalke 04 - Bayer Leverkusen
Jermaine Jones and Schalke will look to continue their winning run on Saturday when they face off against area rivals Bayer Leverkusen.
Leverkusen backup keeper David Yelldell could be on the bench for the team, but barring disaster won't take the field.
Apart from second-place Bayern, Schalke have been the hottest team in Germany in recent weeks, running off three straight heavy wins by a combined 11-3 scoreline.
During this run, Jones has been one of the team's better players, performing his standard destroyer role in defensive midfield while working his way more often into the team's attack.
Leverkusen are still showing signs of shellshock from their recent 7-1 humiliation at the hands of Leo Messi and Barcelona, losing their subsequent two league games and putting their ability to even qualify for the Europa League next season in doubt.
Schalke's injured keeping duo of Ralf Fährmann and Lars Unnerstall will once again force Timo Hildebrand to start between the sticks. Additionally, defenders Benedikt Höwedes and Christoph Metzelder are both out with pulled muscles.
Leverkusen are without long-term injured players Rene Adler and Vedran Corluka along with midfielders Lars Bender and Sidney Sam, who are both still not ready to return to the field. In addition, whining dinosaur Michael Ballack will not be in uniform to allow the former German captain to avoid yet another injury ahead of a rumored move to some unlucky MLS team.
SC Freiburg - FC Kaiserslautern
Andrew Wooten could be in for a first-ever Bundesliga start on Saturday when injury-plagued Kaiserslautern visit Freiburg in a major relegation six-pointer.
Wooten has been a regular contributor off the bench in recent weeks for Kaiserslautern, however with regular Sandro Wager now injured, might have his big chance in the starting eleven.
Even with Freiburg occupying one of the league's three relegation spots, Kaiserlsautern's recent play likely means they will need a miracle to earn the win.
Their last league victory was in late-October, and with last weekend's 4-1 beat-down at the hands of Schalke still surely stinging, chances are good that their current five-point gap to safety will stretch out by the end of the weekend.
Freiburg have a number of players out injured, including recent starters Immanuel Höhn, Johannes Flum and Anton Putsila, along with long-term injury Oliver Barth.
Kaiserslautern are missing injured forwards Wagner, Dorge Rostand Kouemaha and Nicolai Jörgensen along with midfielder Jan Simunek.
VfB Stuttgart - FC Nürnberg
Timothy Chandler will be in Nurnberg's midfield on Sunday when the team heads southwest to visit VfB Stuttgart.
Two weeks ago Nürnberg head coach Dieter Hecking made the perhaps ill-advised statement that one more win would be enough for the team to consider themselves safe from relegation.
His words must have rung with the team, as they went on to lose both of their next two games, assuring that the pharmaceutical companies will still see healthy profits in blood pressure medications in the Frankonian region for at least a few more weeks.
With Stuttgart on a roll over the last month, Chandler and his teammates could be in for another tough afternoon, and might consider themselves successful if they can repeat their 2-2 draw in the first late-October meeting back in Nürnberg.
Stuttgart are missing midfielder Shinji Okazaki to a knee injury, defender Kahlid Boulahrouz to a broken toe and striker Vedad Ibisevic to suspension.
The only notable absence for Nürnberg is bench striker Christian Eigler, who is recovering from surgery.
Kickers Offenbach - SV Darmstadt 98
Darmstadt will likely have red-hot Preston Zimmerman in their starting lineup on Saturday when the team faces Kickers Offenbach.
Zimmerman has been Darmstadt's best attacking player in recent weeks, racking up a pair of goals over the three games - two of them wins - since he rejoined the team's starting lineup.
A win over promotion-hunting Heidenheim was a huge result for the team, putting them seven points clear of the drop zone and on the edge of the upper half of the standings with nine games left to play.
Conversely, ninth-place Offenbach could only manage a draw at 19th-place Jena last weekend, and have won only once in their last five outings.
Darmstadt are missing defender Julian Ratei and midfielder Burak Bilgin.
Offenbach are without starting defensive duo Stefan Kleineheismann and Christopher Lamprecht, along with midfielder Daniel Henrich.
After causing a pair of penalties in last weekend's shellacking by Bayern, Hertha defender Alfredo Morales will likely be stuck on the bench on Saturday when the team continues their march towards relegation at Mainz.
Terrence Boyd will is not expected to be in uniform for Dortmund's trip to FC Cologne on Sunday.
Bobby Wood will be a bench option for 1860 on Friday afternoon on their trip to Dynamo Dresden.
Luis Robles is not expected to play any part on Friday afternoon when Karlsruhe visit 2. Bundesliga leaders Fürth.
Following the return of Paderborn striker Nick Proschwitz from injury, Matt Taylor is expected to start the team's home game on Sunday against MSV Duisburg on the bench.
Amaechi Igwe could be a bench option for Babelsberg on Saturday on their trip to SV Sandhausen.