PREVIEW: WEEKEND GERMAN ACTION
Steve Cherundolo and Hannover will hope to hold their momentum and push towards second place in Cologne while Edson Buddle and Ingolstadt will look to make it two in a row on their visit to FSV Frankfurt.
FC Cologne - Hannover 96
Having finally convinced most of the few remaining doubters with their huge win over Bayern last weekend, Steve Cherundolo and Hannover will have one eye on Bundesliga's second place on Friday evening when they pay a visit to Cologne.
Hannover midfielder DaMarcus Beasley has not featured for the team in quite some time, and will in all likelihood not suit up for the encounter.
The Reds put a wholly unexpected five-point distance between themselves and fourth-place FC Bayern thanks to last weekend's huge victory, and they stand points to potentially jump even higher in the standings should they manage a win against lower-half team Cologne when they take to the field on Friday under the floodlights.
Cologne have been a much-improved team since the winter break in winning four of eight with only two losses, however could still fall victim to a rampaging Hannover squad which has consistently surpassed all expectations throughout the season.
With second-place Leverkusen only two points ahead of head coach Mirko Slomka's squad and having a tough visit to fourth-place Mainz, a win could very well see them in second after all the dust of the weekend has settled.
Cologne have a number of absences due to injury and suspension. Midfielder Martin Lanig will watch from the stands after picking up his tenth yellow card last weekend, while defender Geromel and midfielders Adam Matuschyk and Taner Yalcin are also out as they return to full strength from injuries.
Hannover are relatively injury-free aside from one major loss; leading scorer Didier Ya Konan is expected to miss his third straight game with a knee problem, putting the onus to find the net on frontmen Jan Schlaudraff and Mohammed Abdellaoue.
VfL Wolfsburg - FC Nurnberg
Timothy Chandler will be in Nurnberg's back four from the get-go on Saturday afternoon when they pay a visit to downtrodden Wolfsburg.
Apart from the successes of Hannover, Nurnberg are the surprise package of the Bundesliga since the winter break, with a seven-game unbeaten run in league play having lifted them to the edge of Europa League qualification.
Since his promotion from their second team over the winter break, Chandler has been an integral part of their hot streak, first as coach Dieter Hecking's first option off the bench, and lately as a regular starter in defense and the midfield.
The injury to Juri Judt two weeks before at Schalke has seen Chandler take over the starting right back role for "Der Club", and he once again proved his worth by putting in a top-notch Bundesliga team-of-the-week performance in last weekend's 5-0 blowout win over St. Pauli.
They will be favorites to extend their streak against a disappointing Wolfsburg team which has also been one of the major surprises of the league this term, albeit for entirely other reasons.
Their repeated poor performances already cost the job of perpetually-disgraced English manager Steve McClaren, and a run of five losses in their last six games has them just one point out of the relegation zone.
A spate of injuries and suspensions will not help their cause, with defender Arne Friedrich out due to yellow card accumulation, and both midfielder Josue and striker Patrick Helmes with with thigh injuries. Additionally, defender Alexander Madlung and midfielder Thomas Kahlenberg are also unavailable for the encounter.
In addition to Judt's absence, Nurnberg are also hit with the long-term knee injury to Julian Schieber, and the tendon injury to midfielder Mike Frantz.
Karlsruher SC - MSV Duisburg
David Yelldell should return to Duisburg's nets on Friday evening when they try to stop their freefall from the top on their visit to Karlsruhe.
Luis Robles was relegated to Karlsruhe's bench by incoming coach Rainer Scharinger, and is unlikely to take part in the proceedings this week either.
While Duisburg has earned one of the biggest honors in club history by successfully navigating their way to the DFB Cup final in May, that is the lone bright spot over the last two months as their league season has increasingly fallen apart.
The latest blow came in the form of a humiliating last-minute 2-1 loss at home to an otherwise pitiful Bielefeld team that was already certain for relegation halfway through the season.
The loss dropped them further in the standings to seventh with a daunting six-point gap to the promotion playoff, making a win against struggling Karlsruhe a must.
Karlsruhe managed to draw their first match under interim coach Rainer Scharinger, and will need to gain some momentum down the home stretch to work their way out of the bottom three and a potential drop to the 3. Liga.
They must, however, contend with several omissions from their squad. Defender Matthias Langkamp will watch from the stands as he sits out the game with too many yellow cards, while Martin Hudec and Sebastian Langkamp are out with muscle pulls. Marco Engelhardt and Gaetan Krebs will also be missing from the midfield, the former with a lung infection and the latter due to fatigue.
Duisburg have likely seen the last of Julian Koch, as the on-loan Borussia Dortmund defender is gone for the rest of the season with a torn knee ligament. Midfielder Ivica Grlic will also miss the game as he continues to recover from a knee injury suffered in February.
FSV Frankfurt - FC Ingolstadt 04
Edson Buddle will hope to retain his starting role on Friday evening as Ingolstadt try to scrape out of the relegation zone on their trip to FSV Frankfurt.
The Schanzer got a much needed win last weekend against visiting Aachen, which pulled them to within a single point of safety. As of now, they are one-point behind both Karlsruhe and Oberhausen with a better goal differential than both, meaning even a draw could lift them out of of the bottom three all together.
Frankfurt have become the sitting ducks of the 2. Bundesliga in recent weeks, losing six of their last seven, with a draw more than one month ago against Fürth standing their only points gained.
To their benefit they have a relatively free injury table, with Swedish defender Andreas Dahlen the only missing player thanks to a torn ligament in his ankle suffered in January.
Ingolstadt are also nearly at full strength, with midfielder Andreas Buchner the only absence due to an ankle injury.
Rot Weiss Ahlen - FC Heidenheim
Matt Taylor and Rot Weiss Ahlen will look to build on their important midweek win when they host eighth-place Heidenheim on Saturday.
The 2-0 victory over Stuttgart II on Tuesday lifted them five points clear of the drop zone with 11 games left to play, and a repeat performance against a team which has lost its last three will further improve their position with the home stretch approaching.
They will be aided with the benefit of a fully healthy squad, giving head coach Arie van Lent his full arsenal to choose from.
Heidenhim will be doing their best to end the troubling streak of futility, but must do so without defender Sandro Sirigu as he sits out with too many yellow cards, as well as fellow backline mate Florian Krebs who is out with a joint problem.
Having returned from his broken cheekbone, Ricardo Clark is likely to begin Eintracht Frankfurt's game at Schalke on Saturday afternoon on the bench.
Daniel Williams is still out as he recovers from a meniscus injury and will not participate on Saturday when Freiburg visit Kaiserslautern.
Bobby Wood will be included on 1860's bench for their visit to last-place Bielefeld, and will hope to see more than his usual late-game moments of playing time on Sunday afternoon.
Alfredo Morales will likely not be included in Hertha's squad for their Monday evening visit to Greuther Fürth, as he has been spending his time playing with the reserves.