PREVIEW: WEEKEND GERMAN ACTION
The German 1. Bundesliga returns to action, as Timothy Chandler and Nürnberg look for a win over Hertha and Hannover captain Steve Cherundolo tries to help his team off on the right foot against the Hoffe.
Hannover 96 - TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
Steve Cherundolo has recovered from an injury which kept him out of most of Hannover's pre-season, and should get the start when they open their season against visiting Hoffenheim on Saturday.
Hannover finally ended their two-year jinx of getting knocked out of the German Cup in the first round last weekend after they beat up on minnows Anker Wismar, and will hope to carry the momentum into the new season as they try to match their feat of last year.
A remarkable fourth-place finish left the team and fans with high hopes for 2011-12, putting them in the final play-off round of Europa League qualification and creating expectations of a repeat performance.
Hannover have kept the core of their team together, with no significant contributors leaving during the offseason, and the hope is that the squad of Mirko Slomka can prove that last year's success was not merely a one-time occurrence.
In Hoffeinheim's short three-year history in Germany's top flight, they have had great success against Hannover, winning four of the six meetings. They are now under the guidance of longtime St. Pauli hero Holger Stanislawski whom they hope can finally propel them into contention for a spot in Europe.
Hannover are still missing long-term injured Danish international midfielder Leon Andreasen who is still regaining his fitness, along with attacking midfielder Carlitos and new forward Artur Sobiech, both of whom are out with knee problems.
Hoffenheim already have a minor injury crisis, with a number of players out of action. Defenders Andreas Ibertsberger and Matthias Jaissle are out with knee and Achilles injuries, midfielders Gylfi Thor Sugurdsson and Boris Vukcevic with respective knee and calf problems, and forward Vedad Ibesevic with a pulled muscle.
Hertha Berlin - FC Nürnberg
Timothy Chandler and Nürnberg will try to repeat last season's huge success, beginning with their Saturday afternoon visit to Hertha Berlin.
Hertha defender Alfredo Morales could be included on the team's bench after making a 13-minute appearance in their DFB Cup win last weekend, while defender John Anthony Brooks is sidelined with an Achilles injury.
After last weekend's commanding 5-1 German Cup victory over 3. Liga team Arminia Bielefeld, Nürnberg can have hope that widespread expectations of a tough campaign are premature.
While they did finish sixth in the Bundesliga standings last season, a number of crucial losses including Andreas Wolf, Marek Mintal, İlkay Gündoğan, Julian Schieber and Mehmet Ekici left them looking at a rebuilding season.
They looked up to the task in preseason, most notably defeating Dutch Champions Ajax in an exhibition game, and will do their best to give Hertha a tough return to the top flight.
The Berliners were thoroughly dominant in their lone season down in the 2. Bundesliga, and the hope is that a number of reinforcements could give them a quick return to their former glory, where they earned a place European competition nine out of 11 years prior to their 2010 relegation.
Hertha are without defender Roman Hubnik thanks to a foot injury and midfielder Nico Schulz who is out for the time being with mononucleosis. Additionally, keeper Maikel Aerts is also still recovering from a thigh injury, assuring the start for ex-Bayern keeper Thomas Kraft.
Nürnberg are missing Swedish midfielder Per Nilsson to an Achilles injury and midfielders Mike Frantz and Manuel Zeitz as they recover from pre-season injuries.
FSV Mainz - Bayer Leverkusen
After last weekend's disaster in Dresden, David Yelldell will hope to have kept his starting spot in goal for Bayer Leverkusen as they open their season with a visit to FSV Mainz on Sunday.
Leverkusen already got off on the wrong foot in the worst way possible in their German Cup opening round game, spectacularly blowing a 3-0 lead against Dynamo Dresden to get dumped out by a 4-3 margin in overtime.
While it would be unfair to put much - if any - of the blame on the shoulders of Yelldell, his position as starting keeper in place of the injured Rene Adler has come under scrutiny, with 21 year-old German youth international Fabian Giefer breathing down his neck.
They could catch a break as they open their season against a Mainz team which will be both exhausted and disheartened from their midweek Europa League trip to Romania.
Mainz were forced to play a full 120 minutes and finally lost out in penalties to Europa League debutants Gaz Metan Medias, which could give Leverkusen both a physical and mental edge on their opponents.
Mainz head coach Thomas Tuchel must make do without midfielders Marco Caligiuri and Florian Heller along with forward Adam Szalai, all due to various injuries.
In addition to long-term injury victim Adler, Leverkusen will be without defender Bastian Oczipka who is still recovering from a broken ankle.
Fortuna Düsseldorf - FC Ingolstadt 04
Edson Buddle will hope to earn substitute minutes for Ingolstadt on Friday evening when the team pays a visit to Fortuna Düsseldorf.
Ingolstadt finally got their first win of the new season last weekend with a 4-1 drubbing of FC Oberneuland, however as it was in the first round of the German Cup, it did little to help their league standing.
Through their first two games, the Schanzer have only managed to take one point, putting them in a five-way tie of teams hovering just above the cellar.
While Buddle did receive some good news during the week in earning a call-up to Jürgen Klinsmann's first national team camp, his club situation became a bit more complicated after Ingolstadt gave him more competition in the form of 22 year-old Tunisian striker Ahmed Akaichi - who at €500,000 is the most expensive transfer by the Bavarian club.
In contrast to Ingolstadt's slow opening to the 2. Bundesliga season, Düsseldorf have come out of the gates flying, earning four points through two games, plus notching a 3-0 shut-out win over Hessen Kassel in the Cup.
Düsseldorf have no injuries to report, while the only notable absence for Ingolstadt is new arrival Akaichi, who must wait to make his debut as he recovers from a thigh problem.
FC Union Berlin - SC Paderborn 07
Matt Taylor will do his best to continue his goalscoring run for Paderborn when the team visits winless FC Union Berlin on Friday.
It hasn't taken Taylor long to give the Paderborn upper brass a taste of what they were hoping when they signed the American, first hitting the tying goal in their 1-1 draw with Düsseldorf two weeks ago, then netting a hat-trick of both goals and assists last weekend against his old team Ahlen in cup play.
The team can hope for another good result on Friday when they visit Union, who have yet to win through their first three games this season. They were embarrassingly beaten by lower-league Essen in their first-round game last weekend, which was surprisingly an improvement over their 4-0 dismantling at the hands of Fürth in league action one week before.
Union are without starting keeper Marcel Höttecke with a pulled muscle. Paderborn are missing starting midfielder Florian Mohr as he works his way back from meniscus surgery, while forwards Sören Brandy and Sven Krause are both regaining their fitness from earlier injuries.
SV Sandhausen - SV Darmstadt 98
Preston Zimmerman will hope that his midweek spell as an unused substitute for Darmstadt was a one-time deal, and will be ready to go when the team visits SV Sandhausen on Saturday.
Even with only two games played, Darmstadt are already struggling to survive in the 3. Liga, with only a single point putting them near the foot of the standings.
They did show improvement in holding on for a draw on their midweek visit to VfR Aalen on Tuesday, however that was not a particularly good sign for Zimmerman's playing time as he watched the duration from the bench.
Their Saturday opponents Sandhausen have struggled in the last week, first losing 3-0 in cup play to reigning Bundesliga champs Dortmund, then dropping a 2-0 decision to Offenbach in midweek play.
Darmstadt are only missing striker Oliver Heil, who is out with an injury to his Achilles tendon.
For Sandhausen, defender Kristjan Glibo, midfielders Jan Fießer and Danny Blum along with forward Regis Dorn are all out with injury.
Wacker Burghausen - SV Babelsberg 03
Amaechi Igwe seems to have cemented his place in Babelsberg's starting lineup, and will be looking to help guide them to a second straight win on their visit south to Wacker Burghausen on Saturday.
Babelsberg have done surprisingly well in their initial 3. Liga season, netting four points in their first two games to join the seven-way tie atop the league standings.
Their German Cup loss to Duisburg last weekend was only a minor setback as they bounced back quickly to blow out Essen by a 3-0 margin on Tuesday night.
After missing their opening game with work permit issues, Igwe has established himself as a starter in the team's last two games, going the full 90 against Essen at left back.
Burghausen are still reeling from a late midweek loss to Jena, and will hope to find some of the offensive spark that guided them to a three-goal performance in their season opening win over Oberhausen one week before.
Babelsberg will be without midfielder Christian Groß, who will be out for at least six months with an ACL tear while Burghausen are reporting no absences.
Schalke want-away Jermaine Jones will hope to see substitute minutes on Saturday when the team pays a visit to VfB Stuttgart.
Daniel Williams is mired in a contract dispute with his team SC Freiburg, and will likely not suit up on Saturday when they pay a visit to Bundesliga newcomers FC Augsburg.
Michael Bradley is currently in limbo with his team Borussia Mönchengladbach, and will likely not make the trip with the team to Munich to take on FC Bayern in the Allianz Arena on Sunday.
After being included in the gameday roster for last weekend's cup win, Bobby Wood will hope to again be on the bench for 1860 when they head north to visit Energie Cottbus on Saturday.
Luis Robles will watch from the bench as backup keeper on Sunday when Karlsruhe pay a visit to Erzgebirge Aue.
Ricardo Clark will begin Eintracht Frankfurt's game on Sunday on the bench, but will hope to see substitute minutes in their game at Eintracht Braunschweig.