MARK O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) highlights his three favourites fancies from week two of the Bundesliga.
Koln v Wolfsburg | Saturday 14.30
Koln rode their luck last weekend away at Stuttgart but they won’t be too bothered. The Billy Goats’ 3-1 win was their best opening Bundesliga day result for 19 years and marked a clinical counter-attacking display from Peter Stöger’s men.
On Saturday they welcome Wolfsburg to their RheinEnergieStadion home and having consolidated in their first season back in the big time, are keen to keep pushing forward. The hosts are awkward opponents, especially on their own patch, and no visiting team has walked away from Koln with maximum points this calendar year (W3-D7-L0).
Stöger’s troops work hard without the ball and defend deep. They’re a tough unit to breakdown and with just 4/17 (24%) losses last season in front of their home fans, are used to grinding out results. Their safety first approach lends itself well against the Bundesliga’s big guns and they look a good shout to avoid defeat on Saturday with Bet365’s 21/20 standing out on the +0.50 Asian Handicap.
Wolfsburg were far from their fluent best when despatching Eintracht Frankfurt last Sunday 2-1. The Wolves fired in just five attempts on goal and went off the boil in the second-half. Kevin De Bruyne’s future remains clouded in mystery and the Belgian magician was subdued in that victory.
Boss Dieter Hecking will be hoping for a big improvement but Wolfsburg fans should be aware, despite their outstanding campaign last time out, the Wolves only managed 7/17 (41%) away wins with a W2-D5-L4 return against the top-12. They’ve failed to keep their sheets clean in their last eight and are still without goalkeeper Diego Benaglio and André Schürrle.
Schalke v Darmstadt | Saturday 14.30
Last weekend I banked in Werder Bremen getting a positive result at home to Schalke – I got it totally wrong. Schalke were the better side from the first whistle and new coach Andre Breitenreiter must have been thrilled with his team’s performance in their Bundesliga bow under his charge.
Centre-half Matija Nastasic suffered a serious Achilles injury in the only negative but the Royal Blues were vibrant and energetic, positive and entertaining and most importantly, hard working. New signings Franco Di Santo and Johannes Geis lived up to their promise and old heads Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar were clinical in front of goal.
Schalke now have the opportunity to go two from two with tiny Darmstadt visiting Gelsenkirchen on Saturday afternoon. Last season the hosts were formidable in front of their home fans W10-D5-L2 and should they keep a clean sheet in this encounter, it’ll be the first time ever the Royal Blues have opened their account with back-to-back shutouts.
There’s plenty in favour of the home side who should be capable of swallowing the Lilles relatively comfortably. Schalke -1.5 is rated a 23/18 chance with BetVictor and pays out if Breitenreiter’s troops win by two goals or more.
Darmstadt started their first Bundesliga season for 33 years with a well-earned 2-2 draw at Hannover. Marcel Heller grabbed both goals but the visitors were poor travellers during their promotion season (W4-D9-L4) and netted just five goals in their final eight road trips. Schalke no longer look a soft touch and should put the minnows to the sword.
Borussia Monchengladbach v Mainz | Sunday 16.30 | BT Sport Europe
Borussia Monchengladbach will hope to put their nightmare start to the new season behind them on Sunday when Mainz visit and I’m confident Lucien Favre’s men can find the winning formula. I’ve putting Gladbach up with a -1 start on the Asian Handicap line at 16/13 with BetVictor, meaning a single-goal victory will see our stake returned and a win by two goals or more netting profit.
The Foals were completely destroyed by Thomas Tuchel’s fluent Dortmund last Saturday and the 4-0 scoreline didn’t flatter BVB at all. The defensive doubts in Martin Stranzl’s absence certainly came to the fore as young centre-half partnership Andreas Christensen and Marvin Schulz were chasing shadows as Gladbach put up the white flag.
A return to Borussia-Park should help remedy the pain of the opening day, mind. Favre’s troops have been impeccable on home soil since he took charge of the club and returned staggeringly strong W45-D18-L11 figures – 27 of those 45 victories were secured by a two-goal margin or better.
Mainz began with a desperately disappointing 1-0 defeat to Ingolstadt and Martin Schmidt’s men make the journey on the back of W2-D6-L7 in their most recent 15 away days. In fact, the 0-Fivers have lost by two or more goals in seven of their last 12 trips to top-six sides and are clearly still struggling to come to terms with the departures of key performers Shinji Okazaki and Johannes Geis.
The visitors may well find their feet in the coming weeks but a date in Gladbach against a wounded Foals side would not be top of their wish-list this weekend. I’ll bank on Gladbach putting right some of last weekend’s wrongs with a -1 Asian Handicap bet at an attractive 16/13 (BetVictor).
Koln v Wolfsburg – Koln double chance (21/20 Bet365)
Schalke v Darmstadt – Schalke -1.5 Asian Handicap (23/18 BetVictor)
Borussia Monchengladbach v Mainz – Borussia Monchengladbach -1 Asian Handicap (16/13 BetVictor)
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