PREVIEW: WEEKEND GERMAN ACTION
Four Americans will see their final tune-up before heading stateside for international duty, as Hannover look to recover against Hoffenheim and Nürnberg try to continue their dream run against Werder Bremen.
Hannover 96 - 1899 Hoffenheim
After last week's drubbing at the hands of Cologne, Steve Cherundolo and Hannover need a win against visiting Hoffenheim on Saturday to maintain their grip on third place in the Bundesliga.
DaMarcus Beasley has become a forgotten man in head coach Mirko Slomka's squad and is unlikely to be included on the bench for the game.
The glow of Hannover's win over Bayern wore off quickly thanks to their four-goal loss at Cologne last Friday, however they nevertheless still remain in third place in the league, with a precarious two-point lead over their Bavarian rivals in the race for the final Champions League spot.
They are facing a Hoffenheim team that is currently on a high after they broke their four-game winless streak in the best fashion possible with a win over league leaders Dortmund, and will need to be careful to avoid another slip-up which could have the drop in the standings.
While star striker Didier Ya Konan should return to the starting lineup after a brief interlude thanks to a minor injury, the Reds will be without keeper Ron-Robert Zieler, who injured his shoulder in last weekend's loss.
This should be of minor concern to the team, however, as Florian Fromlowitz, starter through the first half of the season, will be more than ready to step right in to anchor the defense.
The Hoffe are hassled with several injuries to key players. Nigerian striker Chinedu Obasi is still not ready to return after missing the last four months with a leg problem, while starting defender Andreas Ibertsberger is absent through a shoulder injury and midfielder Tobias Weiß with a foot problem.
FC Nürnberg - Werder Bremen
Having just received his first US Men's National Team callup, Timothy Chandler will be back in Nürnberg's defense on Saturday when they host Werder Bremen.
Chandler's emergence in Nürnberg's starting lineup coinciding with their miraculous run in league play since the winter has earned him a place on Bob Bradley's squad for the games against Argentina and Paraguay, however he has one last job to do before joining his new teammates on the other side of the Atlantic.
Their opponents Bremen come to town with the sting of their last outing still fresh on their minds, blowing a 1-0 lead in the final seconds against Borussia Mönchengladbach in a game which they had clearly dominated for most of the 90 minutes.
On paper this game as all the makings of a high-scoring win for the Franconians, as Bremen have leaked the most goals of any team in the Bundesliga since the winter break, allowing an embarrassing 17 scores over nine games.
In this same time period, Nürnberg have conceded just five times, and are easily the league's best team, looking to extend a seven-game unbeaten run that has brought them to within one point of a place in the Europa League.
In addition to the injury to usual right back Juri Judt,, Nürnberg are also hit with the long-term knee injury to Julian Schieber, and the tendon injury to midfielder Mike Frantz.
Bremen seem to have more players in the training room than on the field this season, with a lengthy injury list that could give an entire staff of doctors an early retirement in the Caribbean. The most notable are long-term absentees Naldo and Sebastian Boenisch, both of whom are out as they recover from knee injuries, and suspended defensive midfielder Philipp Bargfrede.
MSV Duisburg - Fortuna Düsseldorf
David Yelldell will be manning the nets for Duisburg on Friday as they look to turn their season around when Fortuna Düsseldorf come to town.
Duisburg have been one of the biggest disappointments in the 2. Bundesliga over the last two months, winning just two times since the return from the winter break and falling from promotion contention to their current seventh-place position.
Two silver linings which have come out of this tough period have been their advancement to the German Cup final in May to face Schalke, and the surprise call-up for their starting keeper Yelldell to the US National Team.
The team will hope to send him off with a win in his pocket when they host ninth-place Düsseldorf in a game which could be one of their last chances to get back in the promotion hunt with the last two months of the season underway.
Düsseldorf have only one absence for the game, as midfielder and team captain Andreas Lambertz is out for awhile with ligament damage to his knee.
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.
FC Ingolstadt 04 - Hertha Berlin
Edson Buddle will look for minutes off the bench on Friday evening when Ingolstadt host league leaders Hertha Berlin.
A third win on the bounce last weekend at FSV Frankfurt finally pulled Ingolstadt fully clear of the bottom three, however they will have a tough time to keep their run going when an equally-hot Hertha team comes to town.
The Schanzer have won their last three by a combined 8-3 score, but are facing a team which has lost only one time since the winter break, and is the highest scoring team in the division, averaging more than two goals per game.
Buddle has split time between bench and starting duty over the team's last few games, and is likely to begin the game on the sidelines as the frontline duo of Stefan Leitl and Moritz Hartmann continue to produce standout performances.
Ingolstadt are nearly at full strength, with midfielder Andreas Buchner the only absence due to an ankle injury.
Hertha will be hampered by a trio of absences, as defender Levan Kobiashivili is out with angina while midfielder Peter Niemeyer and defender Christian Lell are both on yellow card suspension.
Dynamo Dresden - Rot Weiss Ahlen
Matt Taylor and Ahlen hope to keep their recent momentum going on Saturday afternoon when they head east to visit Dynamo Dresden.
Ahlen surged to a 3-1 win over Heidenheim in their last outing with Taylor netting his 13th goal of the season, and are currently riding a three-game unbeaten run which has pulled them a full six points clear of the 3. Liga's bottom three.
They will be tested on their trip to Dresden against a team riding a four-game winning streak and making a push for the division's promotion playoff spot, but will look to avenge their 1-0 loss in Ahlen from the first time these teams met back in September.
Dresden will have several key players watching from the stands, as 13-goal man Alexander Esswein is suspended, midfielder Gerrit Müller is rehabbing after a foot operation, and defenders Tim Kister and Dennis Bührer are both out with muscle pulls.
Ahlen have only one absence, with spot starter Björn Kluft forced to sit after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season in last weekend's win.
Ricardo Clark will hope to take the field on Saturday against St. Pauli when Frankfurt try to break their long slump that has put them on the edge of the relegation zone.
Daniel Williams is still recovering from a knee problem and will not suit up for Freiburg on Saturday when Bayern come to town.
Luis Robles will be on the bench for Karlsruhe for their trip to the Allianz Arena on Friday while Bobby Wood has been left out of 1860's roster as a precautionary measure prior to his departure for U20 duty after picking up a minor ankle injury in training.