FC Augsburg 2.10, the draw 3.30, 1.FC Nürnberg 3.40
Markus Weinzierl’s FCA are the team of 2013. They’ve amassed 12 points in seven games since the winter break, a huge improvement on nine points from 17 games in 2012. The Bavarians, seen as nailed-on for relegation in December, have already overtaken Hoffenheim and look like they might even threaten the teams above them. The only problem is the suspension of Daniel Baier, the key central midfielder in Augsburg’s 4-1-4-1 system. The visitors have right-back Timmy Chandler available again after suspension, but Nürnberg aren’t exactly frightening away from home. It’ll be a battle but the longer the game is tied, the more both sides will be happy to take the point. Go for the draw.
FC Bayern Munich 1.10, the draw 9.00, Fortuna Düsseldorf 22.00
“Everybody thinks we will win every single game,” said Bayern centre-back Daniel van Buyten. Yes, they do. And they’re right to think so, the way Bayern have been going in the league this season. The league leaders last dropped points eight games ago. It would take huge “Eier” made from steel to back the visitors here, even though Norbert Meier’s outfit are one of the most annoying sides to play against. The only bit of hope comes courtesy of Bayern’s utter dominance; they found it hard to really up their game last week (1-0 away win at Hoffenheim) and could have one eye on the Arsenal game. But these are straws we're clutching at here. Home win.
Schalke 04 3.45, the draw 3.40, Borussia Dortmund 2.05
It’s derby time! Schalke are on their best run since Huub Stevens’ departure (unbeaten in four) but will have their work cut out to stop the champions avenging their 2-1 defeat at the Westfalenstadion. Dortmund are supremely confident following their 3-0 win over Shakhtar in midweek; even some injury worries - central midfielders Kehl and Sven Bender are probably out, centre-back Mats Hummels is still a little doubtful - didn’t take away any of the optimism. The Royal Blues are without midfield enforcer Jermaine Jones, who’s suspended. “There’ll be less fouls in this game,” joked Jürgen Klopp. But there will be plenty of goals - and a score draw.
SC Freiburg 1.95, the draw 3.45, VfL Wolfsburg 3.75
Wolves have Sotiros Kyrgiakos (ex-Liverpool) at the back - home win! No, seriously: little, honest-to-god, plucky Freiburg look like favourites again here. Christian Streich hasn’t got any problem in terms of personnel. Dieter Hecking, on the other hand, will make plenty of changes in an effort to get his side going. Centre-backs Naldo and Alex Madlung will both be missed at the heart of the defence. Nerves could also be a factor: Wolfsburg are living dangerously, so close to the relegation zone. Having said all that, this could well turn out a pretty dull draw, with a goal each maximum.
Mainz 05 2.95, the draw the draw 3.30, Bayer Leverkusen 2.35
Marco Caligiuri will deputise for the suspended Zabavnik in the left-back spot for Mainz. Otherwise, Tuchel’s team are at full strength - key striker Adam Szalai will return to the fold after missing the disappointing 1-1 draw with Düsseldorf with fatigue. Leverkusen have issues at the heart of defence: the two regular centre-backs, Toprak (knee) and Wollscheid (suspension), are both unavailable. Veteran Manuel Friedrich and Daniel Schwaab will come in, unless manager team Lewandowski and Hyypiä move Michal Kadlec inside. Mainz will try to take advantage of those changes - a small bet on a home win will offer value.
Greuther Fürth 2.60, the draw 3.40, TSG Hoffenheim 2.55
This would be a good time for the Franconians to get their first home win of the season: without the three points from this relegation battle, it’s tough to see Fürth making up the seven-point deficit to the play-off place. The 1-1 draw at Hamburg has brought a bit of confidence to Ludwig Preis’ team but Hoffenheim are also a little less despondent in the wake of their narrow home defeat to Bayern - for once, the crowd were clapping, not booing afterwards. Fürth are without midfielder Edgar Prib, while the visitors are still missing Sejad Salihovic’s dead-ball expertise. I’m inclined to say that both might lose this one. Alternatively, go for the away win.
Borussia Mönchengladbach 2.30, the draw 3.40, Werder Bremen 2.95
A third defeat in a row (0-1 at home to Augbsurg) has seen Werder slip perilously close to the relegation places. Luckily, manager Thomas Schaaf has identified the problem. "Those public training sessions don’t allow you to practice anything, because everyone knows about it instantly." Of course - how can there be another reason for half a decade worth of defensive ineptitude? Schaaf is expected to stick with his, ahem, courageous 4-1-4-1 system but might pick slightly more defensive players in midfield. Kevin De Bruyne, their best player this season, had a knee problem, so watch this space. Gladbach are without central midfielder Thorben Marx but they’ve only lost two out of the last 12 in the league (both away). The absence of Werder’s regular centre-backs Prödl and Sokratis (both suspended) point to a home win.
Hannover 96 2.35, the draw 3.40, Eintracht Frankfurt 2.85
For the home side, it’ll once again come down to Mame Diouf’s availability. The in-demand striker might just get ready in time to lead the line against Armin Veh’s faltering Frankfurt side, who are without a win - and without a single goal - in four games. Without Diouf, Hannover are only half the threat, their pretty good home form notwithstanding. Speculation about Veh’s future - he’s talked about as the next Schalke manager - hasn’t helped Eintracht’s cause. To make matters worse, central midfielder Sebastian Rode is suspended. With Diouf in the line-up, it’s a definite home win. Without him, 96 will scrape through as well.
VfB Stuttgart 2.35, the draw 3.40, Hamburger SV 2.90
The Swabians were rank awful against Lazio on Thursday night; the 2-0 defeat flattered them. Striker Vedad Ibisevic coming back will make a positive contribution in attack but VfB’s season is quickly heading for mid-table irrelevance. Hamburg will get one more chance to make an assault for fourth spot on Sunday. Thorsten Fink’s men are well-rested and will be determined to make up for the disappointing 1-1 draw with Fürth at home. Everyone who’s anyone is fit, so the northerners should be backed for an away win.
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