DAVID SMITH - Friday, April 27, 2012
Steve Cherundolo and Hannover face off against Leverkusen in an effort to keep ahold of their Europa League spot while Matt Taylor and Paderborn will make a desperate last effort towards promotion.
FC Kaiserslautern - Borussia Dortmund
Andrew Wooten will look to build on his first-ever Bundesliga start and goal from last weekend on Saturday when relegated Kaiserslautern host already-crowned Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund.
The Red Devils finally earned their first win in many months last weekend on their visit to Berlin's Olympic Stadium, with hitting the eventual winning goal late in the first half.
The American should keep his spot in the team's starting lineup, but will have a difficult time to put on a repeat performance against a defense that has only allowed a paltry total of 23 goals over the season on the way to their second straight Bundesliga title.
If there is one factor working in 'Lautern's favor, it could be Dortmund's likely shift in focus to their upcoming date with Bayern in the DFB Pokal final in two weeks, as they attempt to win their first-ever domestic double.
Otherwise, both teams have little more than pride to play for, which could lead to a fairly relaxed attitude on both sides of the ball.
Kaiserslautern are missing long-term injury concern Jan Simunek from the defense, and will also be without forward Dorge Rostand Kouemaha who is out for the season with an Achilles injury.
Dortmund have a mostly healthy squad, with only midfielders Sven Bender and Jakub Blaszczykowski out injured.
Bayer Leverkusen - Hannover 96
Steve Cherundolo and Hannover can possibly sew up a return to the European stage on Saturday when they host sixth-place Bayer Leverkusen.
Leverkusen backup keeper David Yelldell has fallen down the charts with the return of Rene Adler to full health, and is not expected to be in uniform for the game.
Hannover currently hold a narrow three-point edge on Bremen in the fight for Germany's last Europa League spot, and a win at Leverkusen could very well seal the deal for their return to the competition after this season's quarterfinal run.
They will need to fix an anemic attack that has contributed no goals over their last 193 minutes of play, most recently struggling to a scoreless draw against Freiburg.
Leverkusen come into the game with momentum squarely on their side, having beaten Hoffenheim last weekend to run their unbeaten streak to four games.
A draw will be enough to mathematically assure their qualification for Europe, and while both teams will be looking to improve on the 0-0 result in their first meeting this season, Leverkusen have won their last four at home over the Reds.
Leverkusen have a number of players out. Defender Daniel Schwaab is out with a broken leg, forward Simon Rolfes has a knee injury, and both Renato Augusto and Sidney Sam are also both injured and will be missing from the midfield.
Hannover are missing midfielder Konstantin Rausch to yellow card accumulation and striker Mame Biram Diouf to an ankle problem.
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim - FC Nürnberg
Fabian Johnson and Timothy Chandler will likely square off on Saturday when Hoffenheim make a last push for an unlikely European berth against visiting Nürnberg.
Danny Williams is set to miss the rest of the season with a torn muscle in his shoulder.
Nürnberg are in the midst of a four-game unbeaten run that has taken them from the brink of relegation danger to threatening to push into the upper half of the standings.
With a winless record over their five league games against Hoffenheim, they will be hoping to finally get over the hump and score a win that will not only likely push them into the top ten, but also put an end to the Hoffe's this hopes at international play.
For Hoffenheim to qualify for Europe, they will need a number of results to go in their favor, and anything short of a win on Saturday will all but eliminate them from contention.
They were clear victors in their first match against Nürnberg, in a testy game which saw two straight red cards - one for Chandler - and a pair of assists for Johnson.
In addition to Williams, Hoffenheim are without midfielder roberto Firmino, who is likely out the rest of the season with a foot injury, and defender Isaac Vorsah to an adductor problem.
[Nürnberg is without midfielder Adam Hlousek who is out for the season with an ACL tear, midfielder Mike Frantz with ankle problem, and forward Alexander Eisswein who is not yet back to full fitness.
FC Schalke 04 - Hertha Berlin
Jermaine Jones should be in Schalke's starting lineup on Saturday when the Königsblauen attempt to notch a home win over Hertha Berlin in their efforts to hang onto third place.
Schalke have done everything possible to lose their third-place spot and automatic qualification to the Champions League group stage, however they have been lucky that fourth-place 'Gladbach has failed to fully capitalize on the opportunity.
While they have more than double the points of their Saturday opponents Hertha, they can expect a difficult game as the Berlin team will be desperate to escape the automatic relegation spots.
Hertha are two points below the surface, although with Cologne also faltering, a road win in the Veltins Arena could push them into the playoff spot.
Schalke are missing backup keepers Ralf Fährmann and Timo Hildebrand, along with injured defenders Christoph Metzelder and Kyriakos Papadopoulos.
For Hertha, American defender Alfredo Morales is still out of the roster due to a calf problem, Levan Kobiashvili and Andre Mijatovic are both missing from the defense, the former on a red card suspension and the latter and Achilles injury. Additionally, midfielder Peter Niemeyer will miss the trip after picking up a pair of yellows in last week's loss.
SC Paderborn 07 - FSV Frankfurt
With a two-point gap now separating them from the 2. Bundesliga's promotion playoff spot, Matt Taylor and Paderborn will be pushing for the win on Sunday when FSV Frankfurt pay a visit.
Paderborn's unexpected loss to Karlsruhe last weekend coupled with victories for both St. Pauli and Düsseldorf dropped them out of the promotion playoff spot, and left them likely needing two victories in their final two games in order to jump back into third.
A win over FSV Frankfurt certainly won't come easy. While their visitors have little left to play for, they looked impressive lately, drawing with promoted Fürth last weekend, and destroying Rostock by a five-goal margin one week prior.
The teams played to a 2-2 draw in Frankfurt the first time around, although the all-time record does favor the visitors, with Paderborn having lost twice and drawn three times in the previous five meetings.
Paderborn have no new injuries or suspensions, however defenders Sören Gonther and Markus Palionis are both absent with long-term injuries.
Frankfurt have no critical injuries and no players suspended.
Werder Bremen II - SV Darmstadt 98
Now safe from any threat of relegation, Preston Zimmerman and should have no problems to notch another win on Saturday on their trip to relegated last-place team Werder Bremen II.
Zimmerman is ending his first-ever 3. Liga season on a strong note, scoring two goals in the team's last outing, a 3-1 win over Babelsberg.
They are officially safe for another campaign in the division, and should be heavy favorites to once again taste victory over a Bremen II team that had their relegation confirmed several weeks ago, and has lost seven straight.
Bremen are only without forward Onur Ayik, who is out with a knee injury, while Darmstradt have a full squad.
Villyan Bijev could be a bench option for Fortuna Düsseldorf on Sunday when they try to hold onto the third-place promotion playoff spot on their trip to promoted Greuther Fürth.
Bobby Wood is recovering from knee surgery, and will not make the trip with 1860 Munich on Sunday for their game against promoted team Eintracht Frankfurt.
Luis Robles is not expected to suit up on Sunday when Karlsruher SC try to climb out of the relegation playoff spot on their trip west to last-place Aachen.
Amaechi Igwe has not suited up for Babelsberg in awhile, and will likely not be in uniform on Saturday for their crucial home game against Arminia Bielefeld.