VfL Wolfsburg 7.00, the draw 4.50, Bayern Munich 1.43
Only Augsburg and Fürth have amassed fewer points at home than Wolfsburg’s ten. Dieter Hecking side are always happier playing on the break. Against Bayern, they will be able to do just that. The league leaders continued their fantastic run in 2013 (no points dropped, no goals conceded) with a 4-0 win over Schalke, and few see a different outcome on Friday night. Jupp Heynckes is expected to restore Mandzukic, Müller and van Buyten to the starting XI. Javier Martinez is out though; Luiz Gustavo will replace the Spaniard in central midfield. Everything points to a Bayern win and that’s reflected in the odds. A small gamble on the draw at 4.50 could pay off.
Bayer Leverkusen 1.53, the draw 4.00, FC Augsburg 6.00
Leverkusen (3rd) have been playing spectacular football since the winter-break but they haven’t been very efficient. Eight goals in four league games have only yielded one win. Less than 48 hours after their disappointing Europa League home defeat against Benfica (0-1) tiredness could come into it. Bayer’s coaching staff rested the regular full-backs against the Portuguese but the key midfielders were all in action on Thursday night. Augsburg are unbeaten this calendar year. But Leverkusen are likely to win regardless - especially if one or more of the key Augsburg players Koo, Mölders or Baier misses out.
Werder Bremen 2.00, the draw 3.40, SC Freiburg 3.60
“He’s like a new signing”: rarely has this cliché been more apt than in the case of Mehmet Ekici. Injuries have restricted the midfielder’s input to a minimum since his move in 2011 but now the 22-year-old is showing his class and versatility. Either Eljero Elia or Marko Arnautovic will have to make room for him on Saturday. Right-back Gebre-Selassie (broken hand) is out. The visitors can recall Daniel Caligiuri on the left and move Max Kruse back to CF. If Bremen’s only defensive midfielder of any use, Junuzovic, won’t make it (muscle problem), Fritz will come in, and Freiburg’s chances to get a point will increase. A lot.
Fortuna Düsseldorf 2.30, the draw 3.20, Greuther Fürth 3.10
Fortuna coach Norbert Meier will have to shuffle the pack after the painful 0-1 defeat at Freiburg. Captain Andreas Lambertz and Artur Bodzek are both suspended, Bellinghausen and Fink will come in in midfield. Mike Büskens is without midfielder Stephan Fürstner but he has plenty of options. The lack of quality in the squad remains the key issue though. Düsseldorf will play with more urgency and should scrape through.
Mainz 05 2.20, the draw 3.30, Schalke 04 3.20
Free-falling Schalke - one win in eleven in all competitions - will continue to struggle without Huntelaar (CF), Marica (CF), Papadopoulos (CB), Uchida (RB) and Afellay (MF). Replacement RB Höger is also doubtful. With confidence at an all-time low and Galatasary looming in the CL, this has all the markings of another away defeat. Mainz are particularly strong at home, too. Tuchel’s team have to make do without defender/midfielder Kirchhoff and forward Shawn Parker (suspended) but the Royal Blues are there for the taking. Home win.
Hamburger SV 2.00, the draw 3.30, Borussia Mönchengladbach 3.75
Defender Slobodan Rajkovic will make his first start of the season in the absence of the injured Mancienne and Bruma (suspended). Hamburg’s defence will be further weakened by a change in goal - veteran Jaroslav Drobny has to stand in for the injured Rene Adler, a key player this season. On the plus side, holding midfielder Milan Badelj is back after suspension. Hamburg’s stunning 4-1 win at Dortmund last week has lifted spirits while Gladbach come into this game after only two days rest following a demoralising 3-3 draw with Lazio. Home win.
Borussia Dortmund 1.44, the draw 4.50, Eintracht Frankfurt 6.50
The champions came through the tricky tie with Shaktar relatively unscathed (2-2) and didn’t pick up any more injuries. Key striker Lewandowski is definitely out (suspended) however, and midfielder Gündogan, who’s become very important in recent weeks, is also still doubtful with a bruised toe. Schmelzer and Piszczek both suffer from problems, too, so there’s a chance either of them will miss out. Utility player Großkreutz could feature on either side of the back four. Dortmund’s relatively poor home form will encourage Eintracht. They are at full strength and should be fresher. Nevertheless, Dortmund will find a way to beat them.
1. FC Nürnberg 2.05, the draw 3.30, Hannover 96 3.55
The “Club” from Franconia have only lost one of their last six Bundesliga matches. Hannover are the second-worst team away from home with only six points from ten games. A tiring trip to Russia (3-1 defeat by Anzhi) wasn’t the ideal preparation either, so Michael Wiesinger’s side will fancy their chances. He is likely to field a third unchanged side in a row. Mirko Slomka, by contrast, is still without captain Steven Cherundolo, centre-back Mario Eggimann and Sebastien Pocognoli, the new full-back. Arsenal’s Johan Djourou hasn’t exactly steadied the ship in the meantime. Home win.
TSG Hoffenheim 2.15, the draw 3.30, VfB Stuttgart 3.40
In the Swabia, they are rarely happy, even when Stuttgart are playing fairly well. Now that they’re awful and have lost five league games on the trot, the mood couldn’t be gloomier. Another defeat at Hoffenheim and both sporting director Fredi Bobic and manager Bruno Labbadia will come under serious pressure from irate supporters and the notoriously nervous board. Stuttgart’s form is a bit of a mystery. The team’s not that bad and there are no injury problems. Hoffenheim, meanwhile, sanctioned Tobias Weise and Tim Wiese for partying too hard at the carnival. Neither would have featured anyway though. Stuttgart will get their act together and carve out an away win.
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