DAVID SMITH - Friday, January 27, 2012
Steve Cherundolo and Hannover will try to trip up Nürnberg for their first league win since October while the trio of Americans at Hoffenheim will try to trip up Dortmund's title ambitions.
Hannover 96 - FC Nürnberg
After going more than three months without a Bundesliga victory, Hannover captain Steve Cherundolo will attempt to guide his team to three points at home over visiting Nürnberg.
Timothy Chandler has finished serving his two-game red card suspension, however a pulled muscle during training will keep him out of the team's lineup for at least one more game.
The three months since Hannover's win over Bundesliga powerhouse FC Bayern have not been kind to the team. A league record of six draws and two losses over the subsequent eight games has pulled them from dreams of Champions League qualification to a five-point deficit behind the final Europa League place.
Their inability to score has been the team's Achilles heel, with their last multi-goal performance coming in early-November in a 2-2 draw against Schalke.
They began 2012 with a rather stale scoreless draw at Hoffenheim, and will need to fight their way onto the scoreboard on Friday at the AWD-Arena to make amends with the home crowd for their flaccid play as of late.
Conversely, Nürnberg are finally showing some signs of life following an awful run that had them sitting in the relegation zone. Last weekend's win over Hertha was their second straight in league play, and put them four points clear of the drop zone.
They were beaten on their home turf in the first encounter with Hannover back in August, and will be looking to exact some revenge to continue their rise from the cellar.
In addition to Chandler, Nürnberg are missing defender Timm Klose and newcomer Hanno Balitsch to pulled muscles along with left back Javier Pinola who is still two weeks away from returning after a leg injury.
In addition to the continued long-term absences of midfielders Leon Andreasen, Carlitos and Henning Hauger, Hannover must contend with two key plaers missing due to the African Cup, namely starting defender Karim Haggui and forward Didier Ya Konan.
Furthermore, defender Christian Schulz is set to miss the game with a calf pull.
Borussia Dortmund - TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
Daniel Williams and Fabian Johnson could both be in Hoffenheim's starting lineup whiel Joseph-Claude Gyau is hoping for his first team debut when they visit a sold-out Westfalenstadion to take on second-place Dortmund.
Hoffenheim are looking for their first win of 2012 after last weekend's sleeper against Hannover, however taking anything back home from Dortmund will be a tall order.
With league leaders Bayern faltering at 'Glabach, last season's reigning champions Dortmund made the most of the opportunity and moved into a three-way tie for the league lead with a win in Hamburg. With both of the other two joint leaders playing potentially trick away matches, they will have their sights set on sole possession of first place.
The hosts have a nearly healthy squad, however the lone absence is the most critical. 19 year-old phenom Mario Götze is still out with a pelvic injury suffered late last year, and is still several weeks away from returning.
Hoffenheim are still without defender Isaac Vorsah due to red card suspension, along with fellow defender Marvin Compper, who is finished with his own suspension but is recovering from a knee injury.
David Yelldell will watch from Leverkusen's bench as backup keeper on Saturday afternoon as the Werkself pay a visit to the Weserstadion to take on the mighty Werder Bremen.
Alfredo Morales will hope to take the field on Saturday when Hertha host Hamburger SV.
Jermaine Jones is still in the midst of his eight-week suspension, and will not take part when Schalke pay a visit to local rivals FC Cologne on Saturday.
Amaechi Igwe hope for substitute action on Saturday when Babelsberg head west to visit FC Saarbrücken.
Preston Zimmerman will be a bench option for Darmstadt on Saturday in their trip to Arminia Bielefeld.