PREVIEW: WEEKEND GERMAN ACTION
As the European, promotion and relegation races heat up, Jermaine Jones returns to Schalke's lineup and Fabian Johnson hopes to help Hoffenheim claw out of the relegation zone.
Hannover 96 - Bayern Munich
Steve Cherundolo and Hannover hope to keep their European dreams alive on Saturday against the Bundesliga champion, Bayern Munich.
Over its past six league matches, Hannover has dropped 13 out of a possible 18 points, and last week's loss to Freiburg means the team to catch for Hannover will be Eintracht Frankfurt in sixth place. Luckily for the Reds, Frankfurt holds only a four-point advantage in the race for the final Europa League spot.
Meanwhile, Bayern has little to play for in the Bundesliga, already claiming the Bundesliga title two weeks prior. That hasn't stopped the Bavarians from destroying almost every team on the schedule, with its only loss in the past 10 matches across all competitions came at the hands of Arsenal in the Champion League on March 13.
Mario Eggimann and Szabolcs Huszti will miss the match for Hannover, as the two have not fully recovered from an ankle injury and a thigh injury, respectively. Bayern will be without toni Kroos with an abductor muscle injury and Mario Mandzukic because of a foot contusion.
Bayer Leverkusen - TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
Fabian Johnson and Hoffenheim look to stretch out its good run of results against Leverkusen on Saturday.
Since Markus Gisdol took over as coach of Hoffenheim on April 2, the team has picked up four crucial points in the relegation battle. The team sits three points behind Augsburg, though, after dropping two points when allowing a late goal to Wolfsburg last week.
Getting all three points won't be a cinch against Leverkusen. The team wants third place in order to automatically qualify for the Champions League for next season, and with a four-point cushion over Schalke with five matches remaining, every point is critical.
Hoffenheim will be without goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes with a broken hand, center back David Abraham with a torn muscle in the abductor region, American midfielder Daniel Williams with a capsule injury in his ankle, Tobias Weis with a torn stomach muscle and Eren Derdiyok with a groin injury. Ömer Toprak must serve a one-match suspension and is unavailable for Leverkusen.
Eintracht Frankfurt - FC Schalke 04
Jermaine Jones is set to return to Schalke's lineup for the first time in over a month when the Royal Blues travel to Frankfurt on Saturday.
Jones suffered from a gash in his left ankle while on international duty with the United States in a match against Costa Rica. His return for Schalke comes at a valuable time, as the Royal Blues hold the final Champions League position with just a one-point lead over Freiburg.
Frankfurt also has ambitions of possibly qualifying for the Champion League next season, sitting just four points back of Schalke in fourth. The Eagles need to put an end to a downward spiral in the Rückrunde, as the team has won one of its last nine matches.
Schalke will not have Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar as they recover from a knee injury and Jefferson Farfan with muscular problems. Frankfurt will be without Kevin Trapp with a broken hand, Sebastian Jung because of yellow card accumulation and Alexander Meier with an ankle injury.
1. FC Nuremberg - SpVgg Greuther Fürth
Tim Chandler and Nuremberg square off with rival Greuther Fürth in the Franken Derby on Sunday.
The two clubs renewed the old rivalry for the first time in the Bundesliga this year, but based on Fürth's record, this will be the last time in this division for at least one-year-and-a-half. Because they are in last place, the Cloverleaves will probably experiment in this match.
Nuremberg, meanwhile, still have hopes for Europe. Der Club is four points behind Frankfurt thanks to a good string of results in the second half of the season, marred by a 4-0 loss to Bayern Munich last weekend.
Javier Pinola and Timo Gebhart are unavailable for Nuremberg because of yellow card accumulation and a groin injury.
Hertha Berlin - SV Sandhausen
It's an All-American dual-national clash when Alfredo Morales, John Anthony Brooks and Hertha Berlin host Andrew Wooten and Sandhausen on Sunday.
This match holds significant importance for the Berliners for they could clinch automatic promotion back into Germany's top tier with four matches to spare. The team is riding a five-match unbeaten streak into this weekend's match.
Sandhausen is in serious need of three points, with the team slipping farther into the relegation zone. Sandhausen is now five points behind Dresden in the relegation playoff position, and things aren't looking well, having lost three in a five-match winless streak.
Hertha will be without Peter Niemeyer due to the effects of a concussion and Peter Pkarik because of a torn thigh muscle. Goalkeeper Daniel Ischdonat with an ankle injury, Frank Löning with a knee injury and Nico Klotz and Alexander Riemann with muscle injuries are unavailable for Sandhausen.
VfB Stuttgart II - Wacker Burghausen
Jerome Kiesewetter will hope to make his second consecutive start when Stuttgart II hosts Burghausen on Saturday in 3.Liga action.
Kiesewetter, like Wooten at Sandhausen, has made the switch to right outside midfielder in order to get playing time, although Kiesewetter waited until last week's match to make the switch and earn a start.
Because both teams are firmly cemented in the middle of the 3.Liga standings, neither team has much to play for going into the match. With five matches left and a 10- and nine-point cushion over the relegation zone, it's all about finishing the season on a strong note.
Stuttgart II will be without Michael Vitzthum, Manuel Janzer and Christoph Hemlein because of yellow card accumulation. Burghausen will be without Marco Holz because of a red card suspension, Youssef Mokhtari because of appendix surgery and Ahmet Kulabas with a groin injury.
Preußen Münster - Karlsruhe SC
Matt Taylor and Münster host Karlsruhe on Saturday in a top three matchup that could shoot Münster into an automatic promotion spot.
Münster is riding a seven-match unbeaten streak into the weekend, including two wins in the past week over Stuttgart II and Kickers Offenbach that has seen the Eagles take and cement a hold on third place and the promotion playoff position in the 3.Liga. With a win over Karlsruhe on Saturday, the Eagles have an opportunity to put pressure on Bielefeld and Karlsruhe for automatic promotion.
Getting points against Karlsruhe will be no easy task. Karlsruhe has won five of its last six matches and in order to take the top spot in the standings.
Kevin Schöneberg will be unavailable for Münster due to a shinbone injury, while Karlsruhe will without Steffan Haas and Koen van der Biezen because of back problems and yellow card accumulation.
SV Darmstadt 98 - 1. FC Saarbrücken
Preston Zimmerman and Darmstadt are in need of three points when they host Saarbrücken on Saturday.
Losing to Dortmund II last weekend and with the teams in the relegation fight having made up matches, Darmstadt finds itself in the relegation zone once more. The Lilies need a win to keep pressure on Dortmund II and Babelsberg, which both have at least one match in hand on Darmstadt.
Saarbrücken, meanwhile, can cruise to the finish line. The away team is entrenched in the middle of the 3.Liga standings and has little reason to be concerned by the teams 10 points behind it.
Neither team is reporting any significant injuries at this time.
Michael Parkhurst will miss another match for Augsburg this weekend because of a muscle injury.
Joe Gyau will hope to make St. Pauli's lineup against Bochum on Friday.
Bobby Wood should be a bench option for 1860 Munich when the Lions host FSV Frankfurt on Saturday.
Royal-Dominique Fennell will miss yet another for the Stuttgarter Kickers this weekend as he continues to struggle with a groin injury.