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FC Augsburg - Schalke 04
The home side have been nothing short of sensational this season. Yet another win at Gladbach last weekend has put them within touching distance of the Champions League places.
Nobody thought they’d be playing this well before the start of the season. Augsburg have only lost one game out of the last twelve and Schalke are yet to win there. In the two previous visits, the Royal Blues could only draw. “We know how tough it will be,” said sporting director Horst Heldt. Augsburg have no significant injury worries. For Schalke, Chinedu Obasi will probably replace Jefferson Farfan in midfeld.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, the hat-trick hero against Hoffenheim (4-0), could well make the difference here. Schalke at 2.90.
Borussia Dortmund - Borussia Mönchengladbach
Eight thousand Gladbach fans will make the trip the Signal Iduna Park, despite their team’s bad run (nine games without a win) in 2014, and even worse statistics: the Foals haven’t won in Dortmund since 1998.
Lucien Favre is sweating on the fitness of right-back Tony Jantschke (bruised foot) and midfielder Granit Xhaka (flu); Jürgen Klopp will be without Marco Reus. Robert Lewandowski is expected to play again after sitting out last week’s win at Freiburg with knee trouble.
The Dortmund coach has made the pertinent point that the visitors have played better than the results suggest but Dortmund have looked much improved as well. I take them to start well and be in front at the break at 1.83.
Werder Bremen - VfB Stuttgart
After the 2-2 draw with Braunschweig, Fredi Bobic and the Stuttgart board pulled the plug on Thomas Schneider. Veteran Huub Stevens has been brought in to save the Swabians from the drop.
Werder are favourites and look a little bit more comfortable after picking up five points from their last four games. Robin Dutt won’t make changes but Stevens will surely shuffle the pack a little in search of a winning formula.
VfB’s performances have been pretty good throughout, the poor results notwitstanding. The new manager could give the visiting team the bit of confidence that they’ve been missing. I don’t think they will lose here. The Draw or Stuttgart Double Chance is 1.53.
TSG Hoffenheim - Mainz 05
The kings of goals were at it again in the away game at Schalke on Saturday, albeit in a passive sense. Hoffenheim conceded four (and scored none) to remain true to their billing.
TSG’s 24 games this season have seen 52 goals in both columns. That’s an incredible average of 4.3 goals per game. Mainz will make it hard for them with their usual unforgiving pressing and the slightly more defensive diamond formation that they use in away games. Hoffenheim will be hampered by their leaky back-four but nevertheless go for it.
Both teams can play without pressure and it should be fun for the neutrals. Over 3.5 strikes is 2.33.
Eintracht Braunschweig - VfL Wolfsburg
“It’s not a derby for us,” Eintracht coach Thorsten Lieberknecht said this week, “there’s only one derby, and that’s v Hannover”. File under: Ouch.
Whether it’s a good idea for the bottom side to rile their big neighbours even further ahead of Saturday’s games is doubtful though: Wolves were already out to avenge their 2-0 home defeat in the first meeting last autumn. Dieter Hecking’s side can re-introduce Luiz Gustavo into central midfield and should be strong. The away win is 1.90.
Hertha BSC - Hannover 96
Hertha have been largely unconvincing in recent games (0-0 v Freiburg, 1-1 v Mainz) , as have Hannover (1-1 v Leverkusen, 1-1 v Augsburg). Both sides don’t create too many chances and to make matters worse for the away team, top scorer Mame Diouf (eight goals) is probably out for the rest of the season.
Tayfun Korkut could well line up in a more defensive 4-2-3-1 at the Olympiastadion. It doesn’t sound as if it’ll be a very engrossing contest. You could look at the Unders because these sides are pretty hard to split, but the draw at 3.45 could be profitable.
Bayern Munich - Bayer Leverkusen
Gary Lineker quipped that Bayern might just lose the odd game before Uli Hoeness’ release from prison.
The Bayern president was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison and has resigned from his office, but he is expected to be at the Allianz Arena for a very emotional farewell on Saturday. The team are unlikely to be affected to much at this stage.
Pep Guardiola will once again rotate his squad and give those who didn’t start v Arsenal - Thomas Müller, for example - a chance to stake their claim. Leverkusen happen to be the last team to beat Bayern in the Bundesliga, back in October 2012.
They looked half-decent against PSG in midweek but shouldn’t trouble Bayern too much. Bayern -1 is 1.40.
Hamburger SV - 1. FC Nürnberg
Mirko Slomka has brought more stability to Hamburg and the atmosphere is reportedly more relaxed in the camp, but the situation in the table is still precarious enough to make this a hugely important game.
Nürnberg have been unrecognisable since Gertjan Verbeek took over before the winter break, their 2-0 defeat at home to Bremen last week notwithstanding. HSV have huge injury problems at the back and only the ineffecive Jacques Zoua upfront. Nürnberg could well catch them out on Sunday and win at 3.20.
Eintracht Frankfurt - SC Freiburg
SC coach Christian Streich alleged a refereeing conspiracy after the 1-0 defeat against Dortmund. His side continue to perform well but don’t quite get the breaks to climb up the table after writing off the first half of the season.
Frankfurt are without Carlos Zambrano at the back - Marco Russ will come in for him - so Streich’s men should get a few chances to get a good result. I don’t think they will be beaten at the Commerzbank-Arena, with the Draw or Freiburg Double Chance appealing at 1.96.
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