DAVID SMITH - Friday, March 2, 2012
Jermaine Jones is could return from his lengthy suspension to help Schalke on their trip to Freiburg while Steve Cherundolo and Hannover will be looking to take all three points against Augsburg.
SC Freiburg - FC Schalke 04
After missing out on midweek national team duty to complete his recovery from a calf injury, Jermaine Jones is set for a return to Bundesliga action when Schalke visit last-place Freiburg.
A pulled calf kept the American out of his final two chances to warm up before returning from his eight-week suspension, as he was forced to the sidelines for Schalke's second-leg victory in the Europa League last week and had to watch from afar as the USA defeated Italy during the midweek.
The defensive midfielder has, however returned to practice in recent days, and could very well feature in head coach Huub Stevens' starting lineup on Saturday.
Nothing short of a win against the Bundesliga's last-place team will suffice, with last weekend's loss to Bayern leaving the Königsblauen now eight points off the lead, although with a relatively safe grip on the league's fourth and final Champions League spot.
The international break was not kind to Schalke, as star attacker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is unlikely to feature after suffering a suspected concussion during Holland's midweek victory over England.
In addition to the flying Dutchman, the team will be missing defender Christoph Metzelder to a pulled muscle and usual starting keeper Lars Unnerstall to a shoulder injury.
For Freiburg, defenders Oliver Barth, Beg Ferati, Pavel Krmas and Mensur Mujdza are all out injured along with midfielder Julian Schuster.
Hannover 96 - FC Augsburg
Steve Cherundolo should be in Hannover's starting lineup on Saturday afternoon when Hannover tries to take all three points against a resurgent FC Augsburg.
Cherundolo played the full 90 minutes on Wednesday in the defense as the US earned their first-ever win against Italy, and will be looking to help Hannover recover from last weekend's loss in Dortmund and fight their way back into contention for European qualification.
The Reds were perhaps better than the 3-1 scoreline would have suggested, and did a fine job to keep the pressure on the defending Bundesliga champions until a last-minute goal sealed the loss.
Despite Augsburg's win last weekend over a Hertha team in an unstoppable downfall, the Bavarians are still expected to make the drop back to the 2. Bundesliga after the season is through, and Hannover will be more than happy to help their descent.
A big win could very well push them back up into sixth place should Bremen or Leverkusen slip, although their upcoming two-legged rematch with Belgian team Standard Liege in the Europa League round of 16 could serve as a possible distraction.
The only absences of note for Hannover are defender Christian Pander and midfielder Manuel Schmiedebach, the former with an infection and the latter due to a hip injury.
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim - FC Cologne
After helping the USA to a huge win over Italy on Wednesday, Fabian Johnson will likely be in Hoffenheim's starting lineup on Sunday when the team hosts FC Cologne.
Daniel Williams will miss the game on suspension after picking up his fifth yellow card in the team's last outing.
Joseph Claude Gyau has made several appearances on Hoffenheim's bench in recent weeks, however after traveling overseas and back to play 78 minutes for the US U23 team in their 2-0 win over Mexico, he will likely be rested for the game.
The Hoffe finally earned their first win of 2012 last weekend at Wolfsburg, and will be looking to take advantage of a poor Cologne team in an effort to make a push for European qualification.
As things currently stand, the team is in ninth place and seven points out of the final Europa League spot, although a pair of wins could very well put them squarely into contention as the season nears its final stretch.
With Cologne coming into the game with six losses and single win since mid-December, anything less than the full three points would be unacceptable to the home fans, who have not had the opportunity to taste victory in the Rhein-Neckar-Arena since more than two months ago.
In addition to Williams, the only major absence for Hoffenheim is midfielder Sejad Salihovic, who is still suspended from play for disciplinary reasons.
Cologne will be missing two key pieces from their starting lineup, with midfielder Sascha Riether suspended and Milivoje Novakovic out with a hip injury.
Additionally, defensive regulars Ammar Jemal and Henrique Sereno are out with respective thigh and adductor problems.
Alfredo Morales will hope to earn minutes off the bench for Hertha on Saturday when they welcome wounded beast Werder Bremen to the Olympiastadion on Saturday.
Timothy Chandler could make an early return from injury and feature in Nürnberg's midfield on Sunday when they host third-place Borussia Mönchengladbach.
David Yelldell will likely be on Leverkusen's bench on Saturday when they host second-place title chasers FC Bayern.
A spate of injuries to Kaiserslautern's ineffective forward corps could earn Andrew Wooten a place on the first-team bench for their home game against VfL Wolfsburg on Saturday.
After making his national team debut as a late substitute in the USA's historic 1-0 win in Italy on Wednesday, Terrence Boyd will likely return to Borussia Dortmund's second team, and will not participate in the senior squad's home game against FSV Mainz on Saturday.
Karlsruher SC backup keeper Luis Robles will not likely take part on Saturday when the team hosts Fortuna Düsseldorf
Matt Taylor will hope for minutes off the bench on Saturday when SC Paderborn visit Alemannia Aachen.
Bobby Wood is still recovering from knee surgery and will not be in uniform on Monday evening when 1860 Munich hosts St. Pauli.
Amaechi Igwe will likely watch Babelsberg's home game against Chemnitzer FC from the bench on Saturday afternoon.
Preston Zimmerman could be in line for second-half substitute action on Sunday when Darmstadt hosts FC Saarbrücken.