PREVIEW: WEEKEND GERMAN ACTION
Michael Parkhurst will make his first start for Augsburg, while Danny Williams could make his 2013 debut for Hoffenheim.
Bayer Leverkusen - FC Augsburg
Following the tear to right back Ronny Philip's MCL, Michael Parkhurst will record his first Bundesliga start when the team travels to Leverkusen on Saturday.
Parkhurst replaced Philip just before halftime in last week's 1-1 tie against Mainz and had an up-and-down debut. He almost allowed a goal after coming on and took a high kick to the face from Shawn Parker, but he also looked dangerous in the second half, sending in a few crosses from the wing and having a shot that barely missed being a goal.
Despite being in the relegation zone, things are looking up for the Fuggerstädter. The team hasn't lost in its last five league matches and is only one point behind Hoffenheim for a chance at survival.
Stretching that five-match unbeaten streak could prove difficult, as Leverkusen has only lost one home match all season - the team's last home match against Dortmund. The team sits in third place going into the weekend.
Along with Philip, the Fuggerstädter will be without captain Paul Verhaegh because of an ankle injury and midfielder Milan Petrzela because of knee problems, while Leverkusen is not reporting any significant injuries at this time.
1. FSV Mainz 05 - FC Schalke 04
Jermaine Jones and Schalke will hope to keep themselves in the European discussion against Mainz on Saturday.
The Royal Blues have been in a tailspin since mid-November. In the past 11 league matches, Schalke has recorded only one win (against Hannover on January 18) and has dropped from second to 10th place in the Bundesliga.
Mainz, meanwhile, finds itself in sixth place for Germany's last Europa League spot. With three teams tied at 31 points, though, Mainz needs the points to hold onto that spot and to have a chance to play in Europe next season.
Injuries continue to plague Schalke, as many key players will be out. Klaas Jan Huntelaar will miss again following a ruptured vein in his left eye, Kyriakos Papadopoulos will sit out again after a knee operation, Atsuto Uchida has a torn thigh muscle, Ibrahim Afellay has a thigh injury as well, Christoph Moritz will miss with a knee injury and Ciprian Marica is continuing to recover from a meniscus operation.
Shawn Parker is the only major piece missing for Mainz due to his red card from last week's match against Augsburg.
1. FC Nuremberg - Hannover 96
Timothy Chandler and Nuremberg will look to take advantage of Hannover's horrible away record when the teams face off on Sunday.
Hannover hasn't recorded a tie on the road, going 2-8 away and conceding 25 goals away from home. Only Hoffenheim, a team mired in the relegation battle, owns a worse record on the road.
In need of some points to put more distance between itself and the relegation zone, Nuremberg will hope that Hannover's road woes continue. Currently sitting in 13th place, Der Club has a nine-point advantage over Hoffenheim in the playoff spot.
Midfielder Timo Gebhart will miss for Der Club because of groin problems, while Hannover has a list of missing players. Steve Cherundolo will miss for a while because of arthroscopic knee surgery, Mario Eggimann because of an ankle operation and Lars Stindl with a syndesmosis tear.
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim - VfB Stuttgart
Following Carnival antics from normal starter Tobias Weis, Danny Williams could make his first start for Fabian Johnson and Hoffenheim in 2013, when the team hosts struggling Stuttgart on Sunday.
Williams' last start for his club team came on December 7 in a 2-0 loss to Hamburg. Since his tough outing, then, the American defensive midfielder has come off the bench in three of five matches. Weis' antics at a Carnival party, along with calf problems, means that coach Marco coach could call on Williams from the start.
Stuck in the playoff spot, Johnson, Williams and Hoffenheim will attempt to secure three valuable points against a slumping Stuttgart team. The Schwaben have started the Rückrunde with a four-match losing streak, which dropped into 14th place and only nine points above this weekend's opponent.
Sebastian Rudy, Sejad Salihovic, Sven Schipplock and Roberto Firmino will miss for Hoffenheim with an ankle injury, a torn meniscus, an Achilles injury and yellow card accumulation. Cacau is the only major absence for Stuttgart, as he continues to recover from a cruciate ligament injury.
TSV 1860 Munich - VfL Bochum
Having lost to Bochum in the third round of the DFB Pokal, Bobby Wood and 1860 Munich want a little payback when the two teams meet up in 2.Bundesliga action on Friday.
After last week's one-goal, one-assist performance filling in for Rob Friend, Wood is expected to make his second-consecutive start in 2013. Even with captain Benjamin Lauth returning from his four-match suspension, Wood has earned playing time for the Lions.
Bochum, meanwhile, needs three points to keep itself afloat in the 2.Bundesliga. The team sits in 15th place and has a three-point cushion over Sandhausen in the playoff spot between the 2.Bundesliga and 3.Liga.
Friend is the only major injury for Munich, as he recovers from a muscle injury in the abductor region. Bochum will be without Paul Freier and Christoph Dabrowski because of knee irritation and a red-card suspension.
Dynamo Dresden - SV Sandhausen
Andrew Wooten will start at right outside midfielder once again for Sandhausen at Dresden on Sunday.
Wooten earned his third appearance on kicker's 2.Bundesliga Team of the Week last week, recording an assist and creating a penalty in Sandhausen's 4-1 shellacking of St. Pauli. The team will need another great performance from Wooten and his teammates to get a crucial three points in the relegation zone.
Like Sandhausen, Dresden sits in the relegation zone, one point behind Sandhausen for the playoff spot and a chance at survival. It also will need to turn around a seven-match winless streak in which the team has recorded five points.
Daniel Klotz will miss for Sandhausen, as he tries to return from a pinched nerve, while Cheikh Gueye and Tobias Kempe are out with a torn syndesmosis and yellow card accumulation, respectively.
Preußen Münster - Hallescher FC
Matt Taylor will return to Münster's starting lineup against Halle on Saturday.
Taylor started last week's 3-1 loss to Heidenheim on the bench due to a virus but still played the last 23 minutes. The loss dropped the Eagles into the promotion playoff spot with the loss, three points behind Osnabrück and Karlsruhe and one point ahead of both Bielefeld and Heidenheim.
After earning promotion into the 3.Liga last season, Halle has seen some success in the third tier this season, sitting in 12th place through 25 matches. Unfortunately for Halle, the team has a four-point advantage over Babelberg for safety.
Münster will be without Robin Neupert due to a hip injury, while Pierre Becken, Patrick Mouya, Maik Wagefeld and Anton Müller will miss for Halle due to a broken metatarsal bone, a broken shin bone, an abductor injury and yellow card accumulation.
SV Darmstadt 98 - SV Wehen Wiesbaden
Preston Zimmerman should start up top in Darmstadt's 4-4-2 formation when the team hosts Wiesbaden on Sunday.
The Lilies pulled off a magical run late last season to survive in the 3.Liga, and - sitting in last place through 23 matches - they need a similar run to get out of the relegation zone this year. Having the league's worst offense hasn't helped Darmstadt at all, as they've scored only 18 goals so far this season.
Darmstadt's task to turn it around this week will be difficult against Wiesbaden. The away team is riding a three-match unbeaten streak into this weekend's encounter.
Due to yellow card accumulation, Benjamin Baier is out for Darmstadt, while Wiesbaden will be without Alf Mintzel because of an Achilles tendon injury.
Alfredo Morales could make the bench for Hertha Berlin against Aalen on Saturday.
Joe Gyau should start on the bench for St. Pauli when the team hosts Cologne on Monday.
Three 3.Liga matches were postponed because of the playing surface conditions, including Royal-Dominique Fennell and the Stuttgarter Kickers' home match against Bielefeld.
Jerome Kiesewetter is at the United States U-20 national team camp and is unavailable for Stuttgart II, which has its match on Saturday postponed.