Eintracht Frankfurt - FC Augsburg
Frankfurt’s 1-0 at Leverkusen was the surprise result of last weekend; Augsburg exceeding expectations (1-0 at HSV) has almost become the norm this season. They’re in 8th place and a whopping nine points and seven places ahead of their much bigger opponents. Many injured players have come back and the mood in Frankfurt has improved a lot since the Leverkusen result, to the point where club boss Heribert Bruchhagen has said that Armin Veh could renew his contract “any time”. All that’s missing for a nice farewell is the first win at home. I’d fancy Augsburg to spoil the party though. DNB 2.3.
Borussia Dortmund - Hertha BSC
The Black and Yellows haven’t won a Bundesliga game at home since November 1. Jürgen Klopp has more options in the defence, with Marcel Schmelzer and Lukasz Piszczek coming back, and a full deck of cards in attack. Holding midfielder Sven Bender is unlikely to feature with a ligament strain. The big news for Hertha is the absence of regular keeper Thomas Kraft. He’ll be replaced by 18-year-old Marius Gersbeek, who’ll make his Bundesliga debut. Dortmund will be really up for this one and start like a house on fire. I’d recommend taking them to be ahead at half-time (1.82).
Werder Bremen - Bayer Leverkusen
Only one win in ten games has taken the northerners close to the relegation zone. The preparation for the last game in the calendar year wasn’t ideal either: there was a small skirmish in training and a debate about Robin Dutt giving the team two days off after the 3-2 defeat at Hertha. Key midfielder Aaron Hunt is almost certainly out as well. Leverkusen suffered a set-back with the 1-0 defeat at home to Frankfurt, but there are no new injuries, and tactically, they’ve got the perfect set-up to catch Werder cold. Bayer at 1.75.
SC Freiburg - Hannover 96
It’s been the first half of the season from hell for last year’s surprise package Freiburg. Injuries and matches (in the Europa League) have piled up, but the points haven’t. They’re lucky that Nürnberg (17th, 10 points) and Braunschweig (18th, eight points) have somehow managed to be even worse. “We don’t feel ashamed,” said manager Christian Streich in view of the difficult circumstances. Mirko Slomka, his opposite number, is under more pressure still - 12th place is seen as a severe underachievement by club boss Martin Kind. Both sides are so poor defensively that goals will be the order of the day. Over 3.5 at 3.55 is tasty.
Eintracht Braunschweig - TSG Hoffenheim
Markus Gisdol has warned his team against being being complacent ahead of the trip to Lower Saxony. Braunschweig, the worst team in the league, will run and fight as usual, but Hoffenheim should be able to pick them off on the break fairly easily. One or two injury worries about keeer Jens Grahl and midfielder Sebastian Rudy won’t change the basic equation. TSG at -1 (3.2).
Hamburger SV - Mainz 05
Hamburg were happy that their 3-1 defeat in Munich didn’t end up more drastic. Mainz, too, had a good weekend; the way they negated Gladbach (and destroyed the game) in the 0-0 on Saturday pleased Thomas Tuchel. Mainz will try to do the same here. Hamburg have decent line-up available but my hunch is that Mainz will frustrate them. Take them on the double chance at 1.73.
1. FC Nürnberg - Schalke 04
It’s hard to know whether one should feel sorry for Nürnberg or laugh about their gross incompetence. Not closing out the game v Hannover after a 3-0 lead was criminal, even if they got unlucky with a refereeing decision. The Franconians have to make do without their best defender - Emanuel Pogatetz is suspended. Schalke were up to their usual Schalke stuff during the week. Conflicting news about the future of coach Jens Keller was leaked on an hourly basis. He’s still in charge though, and S04 should be good enough to get a result against this type of opposition, the injury to Julian Draxler notwithstanding. They’ll win (2.15).
Borussia Mönchengladbach - VfL Wolfsburg
Sunday brings the most interesting match of the weekend, Lucien Favre’s high-flying Foals (if you excuse the mixed metaphor) against the rapidly improving Wolves of Dieter Hecking. There’s not much (three points) between fourth and fifth in the table and the match in the Borussia Park could well prove a little attritional. Both defences (17 goals conceded, each) are unusually solid by comparison to most sides. Under 2.5 (1.9) looks like a good bet to me.
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