PREVIEW: WEEKEND GERMAN ACTION
With the winter break ending for the Bundesliga and 3.Liga, Tim Chandler and Fabian Johnson square off in a matchup of German-American fullbacks
1. FC Nuremberg - TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
Two German-Americans - Tim Chandler and Fabian Johnson - will go at each other when Nuremberg hosts Hoffenheim on Saturday.
Nuremberg still hasn't recorded a single win this season across all competitions, but Der Club did manage to tie 11 matches, keeping the Francoians out of last place in the Bundesliga and only three points out of the relegation-playoff spot. Chandler will hope to continue his good play right before the winter break, making kicker's Team of the Week for the last round at right back.
Although not as much as Nuremberg, Hoffenheim struggled into the break, dropping five points in its last two matches - including a 1-0 loss to Braunschweig in last place. Johnson, who will play at either left midfielder or left back, should square off with Chandler along the wing.
Kevin Volland with a toe injury and Tarik Elyounoussi with a shoulder injury are questionable for Hoffenheim, while Stefan Thesker will miss because of an ankle injury. Emanuel Pogatetz and Makoto Hasebe are out for Nuremberg with knee injuries.
Holstein Kiel - Stuttgarter Kickers
Royal-Dominique Fennell and the Stuttgater Kickers will hope to put some distance between themselves and the relegation zone when they travel Kiel on Saturday.
Following the Kickers' 2-1 win over Rot-Weiß Erfurt on December 21, the team exited the relegation zone in the 3.Liga for the first time all season, sitting in 15th place but just one point above the drop. The Kickers had won four of their last six matches before the winter break.
Kiel, meanwhile, went unbeaten in its last two matches to keep itself in safety, but the team sits in a precarious situation as well. Kiel is tied on points with Halle in the relegation zone but sits above Halle in the standings thanks to a positive goal differential.
The Kickers will be without Marc Stein because of a knee injury, Gerrit Müller because of a sprained ankle, Marcos Alvarez because of damaged cartilage and Daniel Engelbrecht because of a heart condition. Kiel will not have Marlon Krause and Fiete Sykora available, as Krause continues to recover from a torn cruciate ligament and Sykora is suspended due to yellow card accumulation.
Rot-Weiß Erfurt - Preußen Münster
Matt Taylor and Münster face a stern test out of the break at Erfurt on Saturday.
Taylor and the Eagles struggled early the season, sitting just above the relegation zone for much of it before climbing up to 11th place. Now, the Eagles are eight points out of the promotion-playoff spot despite being three points above the relegation zone.
Münster is trying anything to get into the thick of that race, including changing from a 4-2-3-1 to a two-striker formation to give Taylor some help up top. No matter how many forwards play, the Eagles haven't struggled to find the back of the net, tied for the second-most goals scored in the 3.Liga with 34.
Erfurt's offensive prowess matched Münster's before the break, accumulating 33 goals, but the team conceded just 24, which has put Erfurt right in the thick of the promotion race. The team currently sits in fifth place with 32 points.
The Eagles will be without Dennis Grote, Patrick Kirsch and Dominik Schmidt because of a torn patella tendon, thigh problems and yellow-card accumulation, respectively. Erfurt's Aykut Öztürk and Rafael Czichos are suspended because of yellow-card accumulation and a red card, while Kevin Möhwald, Andreas Wiegel and Simon Brandsetter will miss the match with a torn abductor muscle and shin injuries.
John Anthony Brooks is still recovering from a knee injury and therefore will miss Hertha Berlin's road match at Frankfurt on Saturday.
Looking for a new team, Jermaine Jones will not be available for Schalke coach Jens Keller when the Royal Blues travel to Hamburg on Sunday.
Steve Cherundolo is questionable this weekend as he has been training on his own