PREVIEW: WEEKEND GERMAN ACTION
Americans Steve Cherundolo and Tim Chandler hope to keep their Europa League chances alive this weekend, while John Anthony Brooks and Hertha Berlin edge closer to direct promotion.
SC Freiburg - Hannover 96
With both teams in the running for a Europa League spot, Steve Cherundolo and Hannover face a potential six-point swing match at Freiburg on Friday.
Cherundolo played in a match for the first time since before the Christmas break last week in a 0-0 tie with Stuttgart. It proved to be a big one for Hannover, as it was the third shutout by the Reds in its past four matches.
Freiburg comes into the match riding high, having won its past two matches against teams also vying for Europe next season. The Breisgau Brazilians are in the driver's seat for the Europa League, sitting in fifth place.
Hannover will be without Mario Eggimann with an ankle injury and Szabolcs Huszti with a thigh injury, while Freiburg will be without Marco Terrazzino because of an injury to his patella tendon and Johannes Flum because of an undisclosed muscle injury.
Bayern Munich - 1. FC Nuremberg
With Munich's mission in the Bundesliga over and Nuremberg looking toward Europe, Tim Chandler and Nuremberg will hope to steal points in Munich on Saturday.
Der Club has rocketed themselves up the Bundesliga standings in the Rückrunde, now only four points behind Frankfurt and Freiburg in fifth and sixth place. Der Club managed one point against the Bavarians on November 17, giving Chandler and Co. some confidence going into this weekend.
Nuremberg's chance this weekend could depend on what mood Bayern is in this weekend. The Bavarians clinched the Bundesliga title last weekend, the fastest in the history of the German top division, and also beat Juventus in the Champions League. Bayern might be emotionally drained coming into the match.
Timo Gebhart is out for Nuremberg with a groin injury. Bayern will be without Toni Kroos with an abductor muscle injury and Luiz Gustavo because of yellow card accumulation.
VfL Wolfsburg - TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
Fabian Johnson, Danny Williams and Hoffenheim need another three points against Wolfsburg on Saturday if they want to pull off a miracle escape from relegation.
Johnson should get the start at left back for Hoffenheim, while Williams will hope to make Hoffenheim's bench.
Following the dismissal of the Marco Kurz and the appointment of the team's fourth coach this season, Hoffenheim took care of business in Markus Gisdol's first match in charge, beating Düsseldorf, 3-0. The win pulled the team to one point back of Augsburg for the relegation playoff position and a chance at survival.
Wolfsburg almost looked like it might join Augsburg and Hoffenheim in the relegation battle, but by picking up points in four straight matches, the team now sits a comfortable nine points above the relegation zone.
Hoffenheim will without on-loan goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes because of a broken hand, as well as David Abraham with an abductor injury and Eren Derdiyok with groin problems. Wolfsburg will be without Ivan Perisic with a knee injury and Fagner because of yellow card accumulation.
FC Ingolstadt 04 - Hertha Berlin
Alfredo Morales might join fellow German-American John Anthony Brooks in the starting lineup, as Berlin continues their march to Germany's top tier against Ingolstadt on Friday.
Captain Peter Niemeyer left Monday's match in the 12th minute with a severe concussion, and with him more than likely out, it leaves an opening in Hertha's starting lineup. Morales will likely fill that void, as he took over for Niemeyer on Monday.
For Hertha, this match should take the Berliners closer to clinching automatic promotion into the Bundesliga. The Old Lady needs just five points in the last six matches to ensure promotion.
With a nine-point cushion over the relegation zone, Ingolstadt has little to play for going forward, and it has shown. The team has lost its last three matches to put its goal differential in the negatives.
Along with Niemeyer, Peter Pekarik will miss the match for Hertha with a torn thigh muscle, while Ingolstadt will be without Roger because of a red card suspension.
SV Sandhausen - Eintracht Braunschweig
With the team's window for survival shrinking, Andrew Wooten and Sandhausen need three points against Braunschweig on Friday in 2.Bundesliga action.
Sandhausen has gone on a four-match winless streak in the past month, and because of this, Wooten and Co. has seen Dynamo Dresden pull away in the standings. Now, Sandhausen is chasing Duisburg, which is three points ahead, for the relegation playoff spot.
Points against Braunschweig will be difficult despite Braunschweig's position in the standings. The Lions are 10 points ahead of Kaiserslautern for the last automatic promotion spot following a 3-0 loss to Hertha on Monday.
Sandhausen will be without goalkeeper Daniel Ischdonat with an ankle injury and top goal-scorer Frank Löning with a knee injury, while David Ulm and Seyi Olajengbesi are questionable because of throat inflammation. Braunschweig will be without Ken Reichel and Dennis Kruppke with knee injuries and Deniz Dogan because of yellow card accumulation.
FC St. Pauli - TSV 1860 Munich
Two young Americans might square off when Joe Gyau and St. Pauli host Bobby Wood and 1860 Munich on Saturday.
Gyau will likely get the start for St. Pauli, and Wood will be a bench option for 1860 Munich coach Alexander Schmidt.
St. Pauli currently owns the series between these two teams when the two teams face off in Hamburg. In the last five home meetings in 2.Bundesliga action for St. Pauli, the Buccaneers of the league are unbeaten against the Lions, winning four and tying the other.
Munich will need to buck this trend if it wants to keep its outside shot of getting into the promotion playoff spot alive. The Lions are six points behind current holder Kaiserslautern with six matches to go.
St. Pauli will be without Christopher Buchtmann who's recovering from foot surgery and Marius Ebbers with a torn thigh muscle. Maximilian Nicu is out for 1860 Munich with a knee injury.
Kickers Offenbach - Preußen Münster
With a match in hand, Matt Taylor and Münster are hoping to keep a chance for a third-place finish and a chance at promotion into the 2.Bundesliga with a win at Offenbach on Saturday.
Münster has hovered around the promotion places throughout the entire season, and the Eagles have kept themselves close by going on a six-match unbeaten streak. Still, they are one point back from Osnabrück heading into the weekend.
Offenbach also comes into the match on a hot streak. The Kickers are riding a four-match unbeaten run into the weekend, which has seen them rise into 13th place in the 3.Liga.
Offenbach will be without Sead Mehic with a knee injury and Markus Husterer with a meniscus injury in his right knee, while Münster is not reporting any injuries.
Borussia Dortmund II - SV Darmstadt 98
Preston Zimmerman and Darmstadt have the opportunity to put some distance between themselves and a potential survival rival at Dortmund on Saturday.
The Lilies managed a miracle survival last season in the 3.Liga, and as things stand, they might do it yet again. Darmstadt sits in 16th place in the standings, two points ahead of the Stuttgarter Kickers and having a game in hand.
Although Dortmund II is two points back of the Lilies heading into Saturday's matchup, the Black-Yellows' second team has two matches in hand in relation to Darmstadt, making this match mean so much more for Darmstadt.
Dortmund II will be without Koray Günter with a torn thigh muscle, Kerem Demirbay with a broken metatarsal bone and Konstantin Fring with a shin injury. Darmstadt is not reporting any injuries at this time.
Jermaine Jones will miss Schalke's clash with Leverkusen on Saturday as he continues to recover from the foot gash he suffered while on international duty.
Michael Parkhurst will hope to make Augsburg's bench against Frankfurt on Sunday.
Jerome Kiesewetter might be an option for Stuttgart II against Halle on Saturday.
Royal-Dominique Fennell will miss another match for the Stuttgarter Kickers as he continues to struggle with a groin injury.