PREVIEW: WEEKEND GERMAN ACTION
Tim Chandler and Nürnberg's rise in the Bundesliga standings faces a test in Wolfsburg, while Steve Cherundolo might return to match action this weekend.
FC Schalke 04 - TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
Daniel Williams should start, while Fabian Johnson is questionable for relegation-threatened Hoffenheim in a crucial matchup against Schalke on Saturday.
Following flu symptoms that kept out of the international duty, Williams should hold onto one of the defensive midfielder positions, as he seems to have reclaimed the starting job in recent weeks.
Johnson, meanwhile, is still hampered by a hip injury he suffered in practice that has kept him out of action since March 3.
With Hoffenheim down four points to Augsburg in the relegation playoff position, three points are critical but will be difficult to get against Schalke. Although the Royal Blues lost to Nürnberg right before the international break, the team looks as though it's gotten over the slump that dropped it out of European contention.
Johnson is joined on Hoffenheim's injury list by Sejad Salihovic, who's suffering from back problems, and Sebastian Rudy, who is still recovering from an ankle injury.
For Schalke, American midfielder Jermaine Jones is out with an ankle injury that occurred during the U.S. 1-0 win over Costa Rica last Friday.
Key players join Jones on the injury list, including Lars Unnerstall and Kyriakos Papadopoulos because of knee surgeries, Ibrahim Afellay because of a thigh injury and Klaas Jan Huntelaar because of a knee injury.
FC Augsburg - Hannover 96
Steve Cherundolo might make his return to match action for Hannover on Saturday against Augsburg.
Michael Parkhurst will likely make Augsburg's bench for the match.
Cherundolo has missed the past three months with knee problems that started during Hannover's match against Dortmund in the DFB Pokal on December 19. Following arthroscopic knee surgery on February 6, the American right back has needed a long road to recover.
If Hannover wants to earn another season in a European tournament, Cherundolo's return is much needed. The Reds sit four points back of Mainz in the final Europa League spot and have allowed the third-most goals in the Bundesliga this season.
Augsburg, meanwhile, needs the points as it attempt to stave off relegation for a second consecutive season. The Fuggerstädter hold a four-point cushion in the relegation playoff position and are only five points behind Düsseldorf for complete safety.
Hannover has a laundry list of injuries going into the weekend. The list includes Mario Eggimann with an broken ankle, Sergio da Silva Pinto with a red card suspension, Szabolcs Huszti because of surgery on this thigh, Lars Stindl because of a syndesmosis tear and Mame Diouf because of yellow card accumulation.
Augsburg will be without Tobias Werner because of yellow card accumulation.
VfL Wolfsburg - 1. FC Nürnberg
Tim Chandler and Nürnberg look to continue their rise up the Bundesliga at Wolfsburg on Sunday.
Nürnberg hovered just above the relegation zone for much of the Hinrunde, but Der Club has come flying out of the winter break, losing just one in its last nine league matches.
This run catapulted Nürnberg from 15th to 11th place, and the team is now just four points out of a European spot.
Wolfsburg seemed to be in as much trouble as Nürnberg was a few weeks ago, but after recording four points in the last two matches before the international break, the Wovles now enjoy a seven-point cushion and have two teams in between them and Augsburg.
Nürnberg will be without Timo Gebhart with a groin injury and Muhammed Ildiz with muscular problems, while Ivan Perisic is out for Wolfsburg with a left knee injury.
Hertha Berlin - VfL Bochum
John Anthony Brooks, Alfredo Morales and Hertha Berlin continue their journey for promotion against Bochum on Saturday.
After missing Hertha's last match with the flu, Brooks should start at center back once again for Berlin, while Morales should be a bench option for Berlin coach Jos Luhukay.
The Old Lady has spent the last three seasons yo-yoing back and forth between the Bundesliga and the 2.Bundesliga, and it seems that the team will once again grace the German top division with its presence following the end of this season.
Berlin has a 12-point advantage over Kaiserslautern in the promotion playoff position, and the magic number for the team is now 10 points in the last seven matches to ensure direct promotion.
Bochum, meanwhile, is hanging precariously above the relegation zone, only two points above Dresden in the relegation playoff spot. The team's four-match winless streak has contributed to Bochum's predicament.
Lukas Sinkiewicz is out for Bochum with knee problems, while Hertha Berlin is not reporting any injuries.
SV Sandhausen - 1. FC Kaiserslautern
Andrew Wooten and Sandhausen take on one of the 2.Bundesliga's best away teams in Kaiserslautern on Sunday.
Wooten and Co. are in serious need of points to avoid direct relegation. Sandhausen sits two points behind Dresden in the relegation playoff spot.
Getting out of the direct relegation zone this week will be difficult for Sandhausen. Kaiserslautern owns the league's third-best away record, picking up more wins on the road (five) than Sandhausen has at home (four).
Sandhausen will be without Fabio Morena with an abductor injury, Kristjan Glibo with a thigh injury, Nico Klotz with a torn gluteal muscle and Simon Tüting because of arm and groin surgeries.
Steven Zellner will miss the match for Kaiserslautern because of a syndesmosis injury.
Arminia Bielefeld - SV Darmstadt 98
Having played at least two matches more than their closest competitors for safety, Preston Zimmerman and Darmstadt hope to pull off another upset against Bielefeld on Saturday.
The Lilies managed to pull themselves out of the relegation zone by recording seven points in their last three matches. The only problem comes from the fact that the team above them in the standings, Rot-Weiß Erfurt, has played three less matches and the team below in the relegation zone, Babelsberg, has played two less matches at this point in the season.
Bielefeld is a tough task for the Lilies, as the team is currently riding a 10-match unbeaten streak into the weekend. Bielefeld now controls its own destiny in the 3.Liga's promotion race, sitting in second place and the last direct promotion position.
Bielefeld will be without Dennis Riemer because of a cruciate ligament tear, while Darmstadt is not reporting any injuries.
Borussia Dortmund II - Preußen Münster
In the midst of a promotion race, Matt Taylor and Münster travel to Dortmund on Saturday.
The Eagles currently hold third place and the promotion playoff spot on goal differential, although they have a match in hand. Münster has recorded 10 out of a possible 12 points in its last four matches, including four points against promotion rivals Bielefeld and Osnabrück.
The Eagles should have little trouble earning three points against Dortmund II. Sitting at the bottom of the 3.Liga standings, the Schwarzgelben's second team also owns the league's worst goal differential (-19).
Dortmund II will be without Koray Günter with a torn thigh muscle, Florian Hübner with a foot injury, Konstantin Fring with an inflamed pubic bone and Tim Treude with a red card suspension.
Münster is not reporting any significant injuries.
Winger Joe Gyau should make St. Pauli's bench in the team's home match against Paderborn on Monday.
Defender Royal-Dominique Fennell will miss yet another match for the Stuttgarter Kickers this Saturday because of a groin injury.
Forward Jerome Kiesewetter might make Stuttgart II's bench on Sunday against Wehen Wiesbaden.