Hamburg v Bayer Leverkusen, Friday 7.30
Former Hamburg midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu won’t play again this season after being punished by the Court of Arbitration for Sport for a breach of contract in 2011. His absence is a boost to Hamburg tonight, given how poorly they’ve started 2017. Markus Gisdol’s side have had two crunch games against rivals at the bottom of the table and they’ve lost them both. Mind you, Leverkusen had a stinker against Gladbach last weekend after they threw away a two goal half time lead to lose 3-2. That sort of inconsistency is likely to cost them a place in the Champions League again next season but Hamburg aren’t in good shape at present making it best to back an away win at 2.07.
Bayern Munich v Schalke 04, Saturday 2.30pm
There was plenty of shrill whistling at the Veltins Arena last Friday night. Schalke put in a dire display in their 1-0 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt. Having been mediocre the weekend before against Ingolstadt, the locals expected a reaction which simply didn’t arrive. If Markus Weinzierl’s team don’t up their level this weekend, they’ll lose by more than a goal too.
The consolation for the visitors is that Franck Ribéry, who looked sharp in Bayern’s win at Bremen, won’t feature for the hosts due to a muscle injury. The champions will be relieved to be back at home again after two tricky away games. Both were successfully negotiated though and seeing off Schalke in their current form shouldn’t be a problem either. Home win -2 is at 2.40.
Borussia Mönchengladbach v SC Freiburg, Saturday 2.30pm
Last Saturday night saw Gladbach put in an emphatic performance at the BayArena. Despite having been 2-0 down, their eventual 3-2 win over Leverkusen was well deserved. That said, their defending from set pieces will be a major concern to coach Dieter Hecking with Leverkusen scoring from two simply worked corners.
So this weekend at the Borussia Park, it’s Freiburg – one of the best teams in the league this season at scoring from set pieces. They didn’t score from any in their 2-1 win against Hertha last weekend but the victory did keep them in with a shout of a European spot. If Gladbach turn up and play in the same fashion as they did against Leverkusen, then this will be a home win. Freiburg will run them close no matter what but go for a Gladbach win still at 1.74.
Hertha BSC v FC Ingolstadt, Saturday 2.30
Hertha remain in the hunt for a Champions League place but their form has tailed off recently having lost four of their last five Bundesliga games. The one game in that run which they won was against rock bottom Darmstadt. Ingolstadt are only two spots above the aforementioned foot of the table but they got a huge win over Hamburg last Saturday.
Coach Maik Walpurgis has coerced more out of his side so far than many anticipated. A trip to the capital though will be a good marker of his side’s survival capabilities. Hertha are rarely free flowing at home but they usually get the job done. Expect that to be the case here with a Hertha victory priced at 2.12.
1. FC Köln v VfL Wolfsburg, Saturday 2.30pm
Last week, this column predicted Cologne to draw away at Darmstadt. So naturally, they went and recorded their biggest Bundesliga away victory in 37 years, winning 6-1. Somewhat surprisingly, top scorer Anthony Modeste only scored one of those goals, and he’s been cleared by the German FA this week for elbowing Aytac Sulu off the ball. The good news for Cologne is that he’s yet to be punished for his actions meaning he can play on Saturday.
Wolfsburg on the other hand were beaten at home by Augsburg last weekend. Daniel Didavi was injured for that game but he’s back in the squad for the trip to Cologne. The Wolves had been improving steadily before defeat last weekend but there are reasons why Cologne are unbeaten at the Rhein-Energie-Stadion this season. As a result, expect a home win at 2.23.
TSG Hoffenheim v FSV Mainz 05, Saturday 2.30pm
Hoffenheim’s unbeaten run stopped at 17 games with their defeat to Leipzig last weekend. Their cause wasn’t helped by Sandro Wagner’s red card in the second half. It means Julian Nagelsmann will be without his top scorer for the game against Mainz.
Martin Schmidt’s team had to dig in against Dortmund last Sunday as they barely saw any of the play in the first half. Their patience paid off late on when Danny Latza scored with their only shot on target to secure a draw. If they want to take anything from Hoffenheim, similar patience will be needed such is the possession the hosts usually have. Even without Wagner though, expect Hoffenheim to have enough to respond with a victory at 1.87.
Borussia Dortmund v RB Leipzig, Saturday 5.30
The Bundesliga’s Saturday evening offering has all the potential to be the game of the weekend. Leipzig though are without a few key men. Leading scorer Timo Werner has gone down with flu whilst Emil Forsberg is still suspended. Yet without Forsberg in 2017, Leipzig have still won both of their Bundesliga games.
Dortmund will be looking forward to being at home once again. Four points from two away games may not sound shabby but their displays at Bremen and Mainz were patchy. At the Signal Iduna Park though, they haven’t lost any of their last 29 Bundesliga games. With all their finest attacking talent fit, back them to come through this test with a home win at 1.68.
FC Augsburg v SV Werder Bremen, Sunday 2.30pm
Werder did not play all that badly against either Dortmund or Bayern but from both games, they came away with nothing to show for it. Then there’s Augsburg, five points above Bremen but in danger of being dragged into the relegation mire should they lose. In their last outing though, they came from behind to beat Wolfsburg 2-1 with an impressive performance. They won’t have to face Claudio Pizarro from the start on Sunday but the Werder striker, who scored on his last visit to Augsburg, is likely to be on the bench. With this one likely to be very closely fought, plump for a draw at 3.20.
Eintracht Frankfurt v SV Darmstadt, Sunday 16.30
Darmstadt beat their Hessen rivals earlier this season with an exceedingly fortunate cross-cum-shot from Salvatore Sirigu. That though was the second game of the campaign and since then, both clubs have shot off in opposite directions. Frankfurt are third and boast one of the best home records in the division. Darmstadt are bottom and have the worst away record in the Bundesliga, with a grand total of 0 points on the road this season. It is said that strange things can happen in derbies but such was the haplessness of Darmstadt in their 6-1 defeat to Cologne last weekend, it’s difficult to see anything other than an emphatic Eintracht victory with a home win -1 at 2.60.