SC Freiburg v Bayern Munich, Friday 7.30pm
It’s no great surprise that Bayern Munich lead the way ahead of the restart but they could get a shock in Freiburg if they’re not careful. The promoted outfit are only four points off the Champions League spots. They’ve not really received all that much attention given the overachievements of other sides above them but Bayern need to be wary ahead of their trip to the Black Forest.
Carlo Ancelotti won’t have Jerome Boateng at his disposal. He’s out with a long term shoulder injury whilst creative maestro Thiago is also unavailable until the end of February. The champions do still boast a sizeable amount of talent who will be fit for the game but they’ve not had it easy on their last few visits to Freiburg. That might well be the case again here, so back both sides to score at 2.07.
FC Augsburg v TSG Hoffenheim, Saturday 2.30pm
Hoffenheim are the only unbeaten team left in the Bundesliga this season but that record will be sorely tested down in Augsburg. Manuel Baum was made head coach after two impressive results in his time as Augsburg’s interim boss before the winter break. The four points gained against Gladbach and Dortmund were made even more impressive by the fact they were missing several key players.
The away side themselves could be without centre back Niklas Süle for this one. He’s off to Bayern at the end of the season but a calf problem could keep him out here and his absence could prove crucial. Hoffenheim didn’t exactly race out of the blocks at the start of the season, racking up four draws. The value here though is to be found in going for a shock win for improving Augsburg at 2.90.
FC Schalke 04 v FC Ingolstadt, Saturday 2.30pm
The problems which plagued Schalke at the end of 2016 have continued into the new year. They still have a raft of players out injured whilst star man from the first half of the season, Nabil Bentaleb, is currently at the Africa Cup of Nations.
There is some fresh hope however. Guido Burgstaller was prized away from second tier Nuremberg where he had been the top scorer in the division so far this season. The ever so slightly injury prone Holger Badstuber also looks a smart loan pick up from Bayern. Ingolstadt certainly improved in their last few games of 2016 under coach Maik Walpurgis but you’d still back injury-hit Schalke to win this one at 1.83.
SV Darmstadt 98 v Borussia Mönchengladbach, Saturday 2.30pm
Darmstadt are bottom of the table. They’re five points off the relegation playoff spot and it’s been just over seven hours since they last scored in the Bundesliga. Former Germany international Torsten Frings certainly fancied a bit of a challenge then as he became Darmstadt coach over the winter break.
Gladbach too also made a coaching switch of their own. Out went André Schubert after a string of bad results. In came Dieter Hecking, fresh off the back of a string of bad results with relegation rivals Wolfsburg. However, Hecking does have a little more on his coaching C.V. than that. There is plenty of quality in the Gladbach squad and it should shine through here in Darmstadt – the scene of the club’s last Bundesliga away win back in May. Expect a repeat result with an away win at 1.90.
SV Werder Bremen v Borussia Dortmund, Saturday 2.30pm
It may seem like a good thing to start the new year with two home games. Werder Bremen fans might point out to you that it depends who you’re playing. First up, they’ve got Borussia Dortmund and next week, it’s Bayern Munich.
Dortmund though weren’t a very menacing prospect away from home in the first half of the season. Far from it, with just two wins accumulated from their eight games on the road. Then factor in too that top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is away at AFCON, goalkeeper Roman Bürki is still out with a hand injury whilst Marco Reus is also a doubt. Whilst Werder, like Dortmund, struggle to defend, their attacking trio of Serge Gnabry, Claudio Pizarro and Max Kruse are quite potent. Best to go for over 3.5 goals at 2.23.
VfL Wolfsburg v Hamburg SV, Saturday 2.30pm
Both Wolfsburg and Hamburg have made some upgrades to their squad in January. Wolfsburg, who only scored 15 goals in 16 games, have brought in attacking talent in Paul-Georges Ntep from Rennes and Yunus Malli from Mainz. Hamburg, who have the second worst defence in the division, signed centre backs Mergim Mavraj from Cologne and Kyriakos Papadopoulous from Leipzig. These new additions should bring about a marked improvement from both sides in what is a big game at the bottom. Expect it to be a tight one too with under 2.5 goals at 1.90.
RB Leipzig v Eintracht Frankfurt, Saturday 5.30pm
Leipzig’s final game before the winter break saw them turn in their worst performance of the season. It just so happened to come away at Bayern Munich in what was undoubtedly their biggest game of the season. Still, all hope is not lost with Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side only three points off Bayern at the top.
The visit of Eintracht Frankfurt however does not mean an easy three points. Niko Kovac’s side were one of the most stubborn teams in the first half of the campaign. They even set a new club record by conceding just 12 goals in 16 games. What ’s more, Leipzig are without creative tour de force Emil Forsberg after his red card in Munich. Another key cog in their midfield Naby Keita is lacking match fitness too. Yet Leipzig have shown a surprising strength in depth so far this season when beset by personnel problems. Back them to still just about squeeze through here at 1.65.
Bayer Leverkusen v Hertha Berlin, Sunday 2.30pm
Despite spending the majority of last season up and around the Champions League places, it was still a surprise to see Hertha in third at the turn of the year. Pal Dardai might have preferred that his side had played this fixture before Christmas however. On Sunday, he won’t have striker Salomon Kalou who’s away at AFCON nor will he have influential defender Mitchell Weiser who’s out with a back problem.
Leverkusen meanwhile haven’t had a great season to date but they do have Karim Bellarabi back from injury. That’s a huge boost for Roger Schmidt, given how toothless his side looked going forward on numerous occasions in the first half of the campaign. Facing Dardai’s Hertha is never a comfortable experience but Bellarabi’s return should signal a home win at 1.72.
1. FSV Mainz 05 v 1. FC Köln, Sunday 4.30pm
Cologne have fond memories of their last trip to Mainz, having come back from two goals down to win. It also effectively secured their place in the division for this season but few expected them to challenge for a European spot this time around.
That’s where Mainz landed at the end of the last campaign but an ultimately fruitless Europa League campaign has left them in mid-table. Their top scorer Yunus Malli has trotted off to Wolfsburg but don’t expect the goals to dry up. Jhon Cordoba is suspended but Yoshinori Muto and Pablo De Blasis have all proven themselves capable in the scoring department. Expect one of them to find the net on Sunday but back Cologne to do so as well, with Anthony Modeste second only to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the Bundesliga’s scoring charts. Both teams to score is priced at 1.79.