MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) shares his favourite fancies from the weekend’s Bundesliga card.
Borussia Monchengladbach v Hoffenheim | Sunday 14.30 | BT Sport 1
Borussia Monchengladbach’s pathetic away record has hampered the Foals’ top-four efforts and Andre Schubert’s side know Sunday’s contest with Hoffenheim could prove decisive in their hopes for a Champions League qualifying position.
After welcoming Hoffe to Borussia Park, Gladbach must travel to Bayern Munich, host Bayer Leverkusen and then finish the season in Darmstadt in three desperately tricky encounters. Recording three points on Sunday is paramount.
It’s unlikely to be straightforward for the hosts, either. Resurgent TSG have picked up 13 points from their past five fixtures and taken 20 points from 10 games since 28-year-old Julian Nagelsmann took charge. The visitors are now potentially two wins away from safety.
But if Gladbach are close to clueless on their travels, they tend to be smooth operators at Borussia Park. Bar the top-two, Gladbach boast the league’s best home record and have dispatched eight of their last nine Bundesliga guests.
Since the start of last season, the Foals have won 23/32 (72%) of their fortress home fixtures and beaten 12 of their past 14 visitors from the bottom-six. Outstanding midfielder Granit Xhaka is back from suspension and Schubert’s men should prove too strong on Sunday.
Like their hosts, Hoffenheim have been poor travellers for some time. Across the same sample, the Sinsheim-based club have lost 17/32 (53%) away dates. But if we head back to 2010/11, Hoffe have been beaten in 30 of their past 30 visits to top-sic clubs.
With Gladbach too short to recommend in the Match Odds market, chuck in Over 2.5 Goals to the equation for a handy 11/10 price with Paddy Power.
Twelve of the Foals’ 15 home outings have featured at least three goals this season, including seven of their eight encounters with bottom-half opposition. Hoffenheim have followed suit in six of their last nine with their 10 matches under Nagelsmann’s watch averaging 3.20 goals-per-game.
Those 10 Hoffenheim fixtures have produced a whopping total of 286 shots – 28.60 per-game – so we shouldn’t short of goalmouth action.
Stuttgart v Borussia Dortmund | Saturday 14.30
Dortmund booked their place in the DFB Pokal final on Wednesday night with a resounding 3-0 success over Hertha Berlin to set-up a mouthwatering showdown against Bayern Munich’s May final.
It’s the third time in five seasons Germany’s biggest two teams will compete in the country’s showpiece cup final and although the gap between the two teams stands at seven points in the Bundesliga, I’m sure we’d all agree that BVB are edging ever closer to the Bavarian powerhouse.
So if Die Schwarzgelben are clearly a team going places under Thomas Tuchel (despite their nightmarish collapse against Liverpool) why are we available to back Dortmund at 8/11 quotes (William Hill) on Saturday at Stuttgart?
I shouldn’t whinge and nor should you. In fact, we should all move quick to snap up the pre-match price as BVB showed last weekend they’re keen to end their league campaign on a high, when swatting bogey-side Hamburg aside 3-0.
Would Bayern be priced so appetisingly for a trip to the Mercedes-Benz arena? Absolutely not. In fact, across the past three campaigns Pep Guardiola’s all-star cast have been chalked up between 1/5 and 3/10 for their visits to Stuttgart.
That aforementioned Hamburg victory included a goal from 17-year-old Christian Pulisic and the feel-good story around North Rhine-Westphalia has at least banished a few of those Liverpool memories.
However, Mats Hummels revealed this week that his sleep is being affected by transfer speculation as he weighs up his options for next season. The centre-back is expected to be in demand over the summer, although his contract does not expire until 2017, and the unwanted attention is unlikely to please Tuchel.
Still, I’m confident that Dortmund can show their teeth here and just can’t turn down 8/11 quotes on a side that’s already beaten Stuttgart 4-1 and 3-1 this season, have won six of the past seven head-to-heads and avoided defeat in 12 against their Swabian hosts.
Die Schwarzgelben have W10-D3-L0 in their past 13 Bundesliga outings, claimed top honours in nine of their 15 road trips this term and seen off seven of their last nine bottom-six hosts – five of which were delivered by a margin of two goals or more.
For Stuttgart, the honeymoon period under Jurgen Krammy has come to an abrupt end. VFB won 18 points between December and late-February but last weekend’s dour 1-0 loss to Augsburg has seen Die Roten take six points from a possible 27 (W1-D3-L5).
The home side have shutout just two of their last 19 opponents. The Swabians have already lost eight of their 15 Mercedes-Benz encounters in 2016/16 and tend to suffer when welcoming the Bundesliga’s elite to Stuttgart, losing 10 of their last 15 when hosting top-six sides.
Key players have lost form, defensive shield Serey Dié is injured – VFB have W2-D3-L11 in his absence, shipping two or more goals in seven of those matches -and the squad seems to have suffered a horribly timed lack of confidence.
It’s not an ideal scenario to be in when sitting just a place above the relegation play-off position and preparing to entertain Dortmund.
The visitors deserve to be much shorter than the 8/11 quoted – even without Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - and should be more than capable of picking up another maximum point return here.
Koln v Darmstadt | Saturday 14.30
Koln came from two goals down to secure a stunning 3-2 success at high-flying Mainz last weekend, a result that almost certainly ensures the Billy Goats will be playing Bundesliga football once more in 2016/17.
Peter Stöger’s uncompromising side went into the contest with just a solitary success in eight to their name and with attacking midfielder Leonardo Bittencourt suspended. Lacking any sort of creativity bar their long balls to Anthony Modeste, the Billy Goats were expected to struggle.
But Stöger’s troops claimed just a fourth win since November and known Koln will be hoping to secure back-to-back victories when Darmstadt arrive on Saturday.
However, the Billy Goats have enjoyed more success on their travels than at their RheinEnergieStadion home since returning to the German top-flight.
The hosts have collected just 16 points in front of their home supporters – the 14th best record in the Bundesliga – and head into this fixture on the back of four successive home defeats and without a clean sheet in eight outings at the RheinEnergieStadion.
Since returning to the Bundesliga, the Billy Goats have bagged just 8/32 (25%) victories when welcoming league opposition and therefore can easily be opposed with Darmstadt available to support at 22/23 (BetVictor) with a +0.50 Asian Handicap start.
Darmstadt boast the league’s fourth best away return and make the journey having suffered just one loss in their last eight – against Dortmund. The visitors have scored in all bar two of their away days and avoided defeat in 11/15 (735) games as guests.
The Lilies haven’t yet confirmed survival this season but Dirk Schuster’s done an extraordinary job in charge of the penniless visitors, taking the club from near relegation to the fourth tier to the top-flight in just two seasons.
SVD have the league’s smallest budget but their aggression, exhaustive work-rate and uncompromisingly physical football is mighty effective and they look well capable of extending their current six-match unbeaten streak on Saturday.
Stuttgart v Borussia Dortmund – Borussia Dortmund to win (8/11 William Hill)
Koln v Darmstadt – Darmstadt +0.50 Asian Handicap (22/23 BetVictor)
Borussia Monchengladbach v Hoffenheim – Borussia Monchengladbach to win and Over 2.5 Goals (11/10 Paddy Power)
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