1. FC Köln v VfB Stuttgart
Cologne coach Peter Stöger extended his contract to 2020 on Thursday. That’s his reward for getting the club back into the Bundesliga and keeping them in mid-table obscurity. How Stuttgart wouldn’t mind some of that. Jürgen Kramny’s promotion from the club’s second team coach to the first team was made permanent over the winter break. Now, it’s a case of keeping them up.
You wouldn’t expect the visitors to be too expansive here but Cologne aren’t usually all that comfortable with setting the tempo. They ended the year on a high though with victory over Borussia Dortmund and should they be patient, a home win will follow at 2.20.
FC Ingolstadt 04 v FSV Mainz 05
Despite interest from Borussia Dortmund, Mainz’s Yunus Malli will start against Ingolstadt on Saturday. So says the club’s general manager Christian Heidel and that’s a fillip, given that Malli was their top scorer in the first half of the season with eight goals. Ingolstadt could have done with a few of those, having only managed 11 in 17 games. Their lack of firepower shouldn’t disguise what has been a good first campaign in the top flight. This should be a well matched encounter and expect that to result in draw at 3.25.
Hertha BSC v FC Augsburg
Only Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund are ahead of Hertha, the surprise name in the Champions League places. Now it’s up to Pal Dardai’s side to prove it’s no fluke. The visit of Augsburg will be a good test of that with the Swabians finishing the Hinrunde (first half of the season) in strong fashion. The host’s lofty position in the table however was built on good home form and with a near fully fit squad to choose from, you’d still back Hertha to win here at 2.25.
Hannover 96 v SV Darmstadt 98
After Michael Frontzeck resigned as coach in December, Hannover appointed Thomas Schaaf. That ensures that no matter what, the 96ers will be swinging from the hip in the second half of the season, such are the attacking inclinations of the former Werder Bremen coach. How that’ll work against Darmstadt will be interesting. Dirk Schuster’s team have been particularly effective from set pieces this season whilst Thomas Schaaf sides of late have never been all that good at defending. The end result here should be a few goals with over 2.5 at 2.12.
TSG Hoffenheim v Bayer Leverkusen
Of their last 15 games against Leverkusen, Hoffenheim have only won once but coach Huub Stevens has urged his team to play their own game in the face of Leverkusen’s high intensity pressing game. Whilst Leverkusen as a whole weren’t at their most inspiring during the Hinrunde, Javier Hernandez was. He ended the year with a run of 17 goals in his last 14 games. Stevens has proven himself as an expert in fighting relegation yet this is a difficult first game of 2016 for TSG. Back Leverkusen to win at 1.80.
Borussia Mönchengladbach v Borussia Dortmund
Jonas Hofmann’s move from Dortmund to Gladbach has been the highest profile deal of the Bundesliga transfer window so far – and on Saturday, he gets to face his former club immediately in what should be a cracking game. The home side however are without their feisty midfield maestro Granit Xhaka who’s suspended.
Dortmund are nearly at full strength apart from at left back where Joo-Ho Park is likely to start. He’s not been all that impressive in black and yellow so far and is certainly a player that Gladbach are likely to get at. Xhaka’s absence will probably have a greater bearing on the result – expect it to be in favour of the visitors with an away win at 1.65.