PREVIEW: WEEKEND GERMAN ACTION
Germany's top two leagues spring into action this weekend, as Jermaine Jones and Schalke's new Galactico Raul take on Hamburg while Michael Bradley and the Foals host Nürnberg.
Hamburger SV - FC Schalke 04
Schalke defensive midfielder Jermaine Jones will take the field for his first league action in 15 months as the team begins their quest for the Bundesliga title in Hamburg on Saturday.
While Jones' return to regular competitive action is certainly a highlight for most American fans, perhaps the biggest story of Saturday's game is the meeting of former Real Madrid frontmen Raul and Ruud van Nistelrooy.
Teammates for several years at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, the strike duo will be on opposing sides of the ball for the first time since the legendary 2003 Champions League quarterfinal meeting between Manchester United and Real Madrid, in which the pair combined for four goals over two legs in the 6-5 aggregate win by the Spanish team.
Even though each has an more than seven years of wear and tear on their legs as they head into Saturday's match, they still constitute two of the marquee names in the Bundesliga, with Hamburg's flying Dutchman van Nistelrooy providing the perfect opportunity for Jones to show he still has the bulldog nature that made him one of Germany's most feared midfielders two seasons ago.
Schalke looked solid if unspectacular in their 2-1 DFB Cup win over 3. Liga team VfR Aalen on Monday, and will need to kick into high gear should they hope to start their hunt for the Bundesliga title off with a what would be an important road win.
Head coach Felix Magath will be without a pair of defensive options, as Tim Hoogland and Christian Pander will miss the game with respective knee and muscular problems. Additionally, central defender Christoph Metzelder, another new addition from Madrid, is a question mark as he is fighting a hip injury.
Hamburg will be without starting defender Dennis Aogo as he recovers from a pinched nerve as well as highly-touted newcomer Dennis Diekmeier who is recovering from a torn ankle ligament suffered in U-21 international play.
Additionally two bench options are also unavailable for the game; midfielder Romeo Castelen is out with a knee problem while striker Tunay Torun is recovering from a torn ACL.
Borussia Mönchengladbach - FC Nürnberg
Michael Bradley and the Foals look to start the new season off with a win as the Foals host Nürnberg on Saturday afternoon.
Under the guidance of Michael Frontzeck, Gladach showed noticeable improvement last season, and will hope to continue their development and push into the top half of the standings in 2010-11.
They began the new term with a strong 3-1 DFB Cup win over Aue, with Bradley finding the net, and should feel confident of snagging a result at home against one of the league's weakest teams from last year.
Nürnberg needed a relegation playoff win over 2. Bundesliga team Augsburg to maintain their top-flight status and look likely to have another tough season with few notable reinforcements added over the summer.
Both teams are relatively healthy to start the new season, with the Foals lacking bench defender Christian Dorda to a patella injury and new striker Igor de Carmargo as he gains match fitness, and their visitors missing veteran forward Isaac Boakye and new addition Rubin Okotie.
Hannover 96 - Eintracht Frankfurt
Hannover captain Steve Cherundolo will look to guide his team past their recent DFB Cup embarrassment as Eintracht Frankfurt come to visit, while Ricardo Clark will hope to see substitute minutes for the visitors on Saturday.
Hannover were humiliated in the first round of the DFB Cup for the second straight year, this time losing out on penalties to fourth-tier SV Elversberg following a scoreless 120 minutes.
While this time it did not lead to the rushed pre-season firing of their head coach, the pressure will certainly be on frontman Miro Slomka to guide the team to a better season than the previous, where they looked certain to drop to the 2. Bundesliga for much of the season and barely survived thanks to a strong finish.
Frankfurt midfielder Clark enters the season with high hopes of making the impression that he barely had the chance to push for last season. While injuries throughout most of the spring limited him to only three league appearances, he impressed coaches enough to warrant a long-term contract, and will look to reward their faith by nailing down a starting position.
Hannover will be without defender Mario Eggiman who is working his way back from hip injury, as well as midfielders Leon Andreasen and Altin Lala with respective groin and hip injuries.
Frankfurt coach Michael Skibbe will be missing his captain Chris as the Brazilian defender still not fit yet after a groin operation, and new addition Habib Bellaid will also be out due to an adductor problem.
Additionally, midfielder Sebastian Rode is sidelined with a knee injury and striker Martin Fenin with a back problem.
VfL Osnabrück - MSV Duisburg
New Duisburg keeper David Yelldell will look to begin his stay with the club with a win as they begin yet another shot at promotion with a trip to VfL Osnabrück on Sunday.
After his previous team Koblenz dropped to the third tier as Yelldell watched injured from the sidelines, the German-American keeper signed with Duisburg, giving the 28 year-old a legitimate shot at playing in Germany's top level for the first time in his career.
Following their relegation from the Bundesliga in 2008, Duisburg has spent the following two seasons consistently challenging for one of the division's top two spots, however in both seasons has eventually fallen off as the spring wore on to eventually finis sixth.
Yelldell's addition should be a huge boost to the team as the keeper had proven to be one of the few steady pieces of a shaky Koblenz team in the last two seasons.
He already showed his quality in manning the nets for Duisburg's 2-0 Cup win over VfB Lübeck, and will look for a repeat performance from the 3. Liga champions.
Their visitors Osnabrück find themselves back in the 2. Bunsdesliga after winning the 3. Liga last season, however are expected to be candidates for relegation as they have never been able to show consistency in the division during their few isolated appearances over the last 20 years.
Osnabrück head into the game missing defender Konstantin Engel and Kristoffer Andersen both to muscle problems.
Duisburg will be without defender Kevin Grund as he recovers from long-term injury, and injured midfielders Adam Bodzek and Mihai Tararche.
Daniel Williams will likely be a bench option for Freiburg as they open their Bundesliga season at home against newly-promoted FC St. Pauli on Saturday.
Defender Amaechi Igwe is recovering from a knee injury and will miss several weeks for Ingolstadt, beginning with their all-Bavarian clash against promotion-hopefuls Augsburg on Saturday.
New Karlsruhe keeper Luis Robles will likely watch from the bench as the team heads east to do battle with SpVgg Greuther Fürth on Sunday.
Kenny Cooper is recovering from a broken ankle and will not participate as 1860 Munich visits VfL Bochum on Monday evening.