Schalke 04 1.62, the draw 3.65, TSG Hoffenheim 5.60
It’s been a pretty bad international week for Schalke. Armin Veh, their preferred choice for the managerial position, extended his contract at Eintracht. And three players - Jermaine Jones, Benedikt Höwedes, Juian Draxler - came back with injuries from their national teams. The latter two will be able to play, but holding midfielder Jones is definitely out. “Much depends on our attitude,” said Christoph Metzelder. At home, Schalke should be able to play with the necessary verve to overcome the absence of long-term absentee Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. Hoffenheim’s important midfielder Sejad Salihovic is almost able to play again but he won’t feature here. It’s hard to see anything but a comfortable victory for the home side.
VfB Stuttgart 4.10, the draw 3.55, Borussia Dortmund 1.85
“I don’t want to congratulate Bayern for the title just yet,” said Borussia manager Jürgen Klopp. If his side fail to beat the Swabians, Bayern could win the title later on Saturday night against Hamburg. Will that be enough motivation for the Black & Yellows ahead of their Champions League match vs Malaga though? Hummels and Blaszczykowski are both out injured, Piszczek continues to have a groin problem. Stuttgart feel a little better about themselves after their win at Frankfurt two weeks ago. Bruno Labbadia will have to make do without central midfielder William Kvist, however, and centre-back Serdar Tasci is doubtful with flu. Go for a high-scoring draw here.
SC Freiburg 2.00, the draw 3.40, Borussia Mönchengladbach 3.55
Neither side have relevant injury problems, so all important players are available. Only two points separate the sides and it’s easy to see them playing out a pretty drab stalemate. Christian Streich’s SC are masters of the pressing game but lack individual quality while Borussia have talented players like Herrmann, Arango and Luuk De Jong but not quite the collective brilliance of last season. Form points to an away win; Freiburg haven’t won any of their last four league games - transfer speculation was unsettling the players, Streich feels - while Gladbach are unbeaten over the same stretch, with two fine wins over Frankfurt and Hannover. Lucien Favre’s strong defence suggests that Freiburg should be opposed here.
Fortuna Düsseldorf 4.20, the draw 3.55, Bayer Leverkusen 1.80
On paper, this looks obvious. But despite the huge gulf in class between those sides, Leverkusen’s results since the winter break have been almost as poor as Fortuna’s. Bayer have won only three out of nine games, Düsseldorf two. There’s speculation that the uncertain future of co-manager Sascha Lewandowski has unsettled the side. Be that as it may, it’s clear that key players like André Schürrle have lost their way badly. The Chelsea target might even lose his place to Sidney Sam on Saturday. The visitors could also be without centre-back Philipp Wollscheid (stomach bug) and midfielder Lars Bender (inflammation of the heel). Düsseldorf are at full strength, by contrast. Much points to a draw but Leverkusen are surely due a decent performance. Edgy away win.
Mainz 05 2.05, the draw 3.50, Werder Bremen 3.35
“There’s tension in the side,” admitted Bremen’s injured captain Clemens Fritz in midweek. There certainly is: Marko Arnautovic and Sokratis nearly beat each up in an altercation in training during the week. The pressure’s on coach Thomas Schaaf, too: there’s been much paper talk about Werder getting sucked into the relegation battle. Holding midfielder Zlatko Junuzovic is out but Aleksandar Ignjovski is fit to replace him in central midfield. Sokratis and Lukimya are expected to pair up at the back. Mainz have plenty of options after the return of Kirchhoff, Junior Diaz and Soto. Their pressing game should be able to hurt an unsettled Werder. Home win.
FC Augsburg 2.10, the draw 3.35, Hannover 96 3.40
Following the 0-1 defeat at Gladbach two weeks ago, Hannover are the worst away side in the league, with only seven points from 13 games. More trouble could loom for Mirko Slomka’s team on Saturday: they are without key striker Mame Diouf and Sergio da Silva Pinto, their midfield enforcer. Augsburg are the the third-best side of 2013, full of confidence, with a much better hit rate (26 per cent of chances are being converted since the winter break) and the best XI on the pitch. Striker Jan Mölders and midfield linchpin Daniel Baier are both fit. A home win is on the cards.
FC Bayern 1.27, the draw 5.50, Hamburger SV 9.50
Jupp Heynckes plans to play with his best XI but a win by Dortmund in Stuttgart - and a delay to Bayern’s title celebrations - could yet force a slight rethink. If Dortmund win, Bayern might find it difficult to concentrate. The Juventus game on Tuesday is occupying everybody’s minds already. Javier Martinez, suspended against the Italians, is likely to be replaced by Luiz Gustavo, who needs match practice. Franck Ribery is also a doubt. Thorsten Fink feels that his team might well surprise people, “we have often done well against the top sides,” he said. That’s true: HSV are at their best when they play on the counter against a side who dominates. A point is possible here, especially if Dortmund spoil it for the Bavarians.
VfL Wolfsburg 1.95, the draw 3.40, 1 FC Nürnberg 3.80
Nürnberg’s excellent run under new coach Michael Wiesinger - 14 points in nine games - has opened up the possibility of the 40-year-old getting the job for next season, too. The visitors should be unchanged after their back-to-back wins over Augsburg and Schalke in the meeting with their former manager. Dieter Hecking has improved Wolfsburg marginally - they average 1.33 points in 2013, in 2012 it was 1.11 - but they remain inconsistent and terribly unpredictable. Maybe good individual performances from Vierinha and Olic, with Portugal and Croatia respectively, will give them both a decisive lift. Wolfsburg’s class should come to the fore.
Greuther Fürth 2.95, the draw 3.30, Eintracht Frankfurt 2.30
Frankfurt are happy that Armin Veh is sticking around a little longer. Now the focus has shifted to the squad: the club have promised to fulfill the manager’s wishes in the transfer market and are desperate to tie down right-back Sebastian Jung and midfielder Sebastian Rode to longer contracts. On the pitch, things haven’t been going that well, however. Frankfurt have only scored one goal in rotten run of six games without a win. Kevin Trapp broke his hand (veteran Oka Nikolov will be in goal instead) and there are worries about centre-back Carlos Zambrano. Fürth have all but stopped fighting against the drop, but resignation could give them some freedom. They’ll get a point.
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