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Sports

Men in Black in the Spotlight

The match-rigging affair around referee Robert Hoyzer has dominated the headlines in German soccer this week. When the 19th match day kicks off on Saturday, referees will be under intense scrutiny.

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A German referee's job has become a little more taxing

Whenever your club lost a close match, you could always blame it on the referee for missing a call or being too harsh with your side. Calls from the stands of "fixer" are frequent but almost always unjustified. However, referee Robert Hoyzer's admitted match-rigging will make the work of his companions on the pitch the remainder of this season a thankless one.

Although the scandal has taken on a new facet with Hoyzer's supposed connections to the Croatian Mafia, the German Football Association has yet to turn up incongruities in any other matches. The players of the league need not worry if their game will be manipulated and can concentrate on their job -- scoring and preventing goals.

Top match on Sunday

Bundesliga Hertha BSC Berlin gegen FC Bayern München

Marcelinho (right) scored Berlin's lone goal in the first leg match against Munich. The game ended 1-1

The game of the week is most definitely in Berlin where Hertha host league-leading Bayern Munich. The boys from the capital have been a juggernaut following a home loss to Dortmund on Oct. 26. Since then Falko Götz' squad has collected 18 points in eight games and risen all the way to fifth place.

A match against Bayern Munich is something special for every Bundesliga club. Berlin is expected to have its first sell-out in the renovated Olympic Stadium. Coach Götz said in kicker-online that his squad "will play with courage."

Bayern are used to these circumstances. Every team is after the No. 1 club in the Bundesliga. Berlin have not been a big stumbling block for Munich in the past. In 43 total matchups, Bayern have walked off the pitch as winners 22 times -- Berlin on the other hand only eight.

Fußball Bundesliga: Borussia Dortmund - FC Bayern, 5. Spieltag

Dortmund started off hot last weekend with a 2-1 victory over Wolfsburg

At the other end of the table, two traditional but struggling powerhouses, Borussia Mönchengladbach (15th place) and Borussia Dortmund (14th place) butt heads. Dortmund won their autumn encounter, 3-2 in Gladbach. Dick Advocaat's Gladbach have been awful on the road this season, having yet to take home three points.

His Dutch counterpart, Bert van Marwijk hopes to add on to last week's success against Wolfsburg. A win for either side would give that team some much-needed breathing space away from the relegation zone.

Schalke travel to Kaiserslautern

Wins in Kaiserslautern are far and few between for the "Royal Blues" from Schalke. They have won only a total of four times (35 total games), but on the last two trips to the far west of Germany, Schalke were rewarded with victories. If coach Ralf Rangnick's side win again, they will put pressure on Bayern to match their performance. Otherwise, Schalke will sit atop the standings after the 19th match day.

Kaiserslautern naturally have a word to say here. They have made an impressive move up the standings with five victories in eight matches and sit in 10th place.

Timo Hildebrand

Stuttgart's keeper Timo Hildebrand has rejected an offer to stay -- but where will go?

Third place side Stuttgart are trying to keep pace with the top two Bayern and Schalke. They host Nuremberg. Their drop from the top of the standings (second place after week one) looks like a stock chart from a dot.com company in 2001. Now Wolfgang Wolf's team sits in 13th place (21 points) and will seriously have to contend with relegation. Wolf's side has been plagued by injuries, the latest being the loss of keeper Raphael Schäfer after a collision during practice. The relatively inexperienced Daniel Klewer is stepping in and the word from the front office and coach Wolf -- we have all the confidence in the world in Klewer.

We'll have to see if the keeper can withstand the Stuttgart assault on Saturday.

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