MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) sinks his teeth into Monday night’s live Bundesliga action between Werder Bremen and Stuttgart.
Werder Bremen v Stuttgart | Monday 19.15 | BT Sport ESPN
The Bundesliga looks after its supporters better than the majority of major European leagues but Monday night sees the unwanted debut for Monday night football in Germany.
And the stakes for the first ever televised Monday meeting between Werder Bremen and Stuttgart certainly couldn’t be any higher as the two German giants face off with both clubs desperately fighting to avoid relegation.
The duo have both been crowned Bundesliga champions since the turn of the millennium but chaotic and chronic defensive issues have dragged the pair towards the dreaded bottom-two, making this encounter a real six-pointer.
For Werder, Saturday’s win for Eintracht Frankfurt sent the River Islanders into the automatic relegation places, leaving Viktor Skripnik’s side two points away from survival ahead of Monday.
As for Stuttgart, the Swabians are only ahead of Frankfurt on goal difference and would trade places with Bremen if they lose by more than one goal at the Weserstadion. It promises to be a tense affair between the league’s joint-worst defences.
The hosts’ backline problems are arguably worse than their visitors with Werder still yet to keep a clean sheet this season. And that sorry record was all too evident as they fell to a morale-crushing 2-1 defeat at rivals Hamburg last time out.
Star striker Claudio Pizarro missed a penalty and a sitter in that loss last week but Skripnik refuted suggestions the Peruvian will miss the remainder of the campaign through injury.
The Bremen boss was speaking after taking his team away to a mini training camp in Verden on Saturday, with their sessions held behind closed doors. And the River Islanders head coach reckons it is time to separate the men from the boys.
The home side have claimed just two triumphs since Christmas at their Weserstadion base – against relegated Hannover and terrible travellers Wolfsburg – and skipper Clemens Fritz has even gone back on his decision to retire at the end of the campaign, saying that he couldn’t leave the club after a season like this.
Clearly the Werder camp mean business but it’s almost impossible to support a side at close to even-money with only three wins from 15 outings as hosts this season, especially considering Stuttgart are normally suited to playing away.
The Swabians have nosedived from 11th to the brink of the relegation zone having W0-D2-L4 in their last six, leaking 14 goals. But their downturn has coincided with a tough set of fixtures that’s seen them tackle Germany’s top three – Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen – as well as two key injuries.
However, whilst defensive midfielder Serey Die remains sidelined, VFB head coach Jurgen Kramny confirmed Kevin Grosskreutz is back in full training – a major boost for the club that hasn’t won without him on the pitch this season.
The Swabians have also been away; Kramny took the squad to Mallorca to prepare for this encounter and considering the travellers have suffered just three losses in nine games as guests (W2-D4-L3) since the current boss took charge, the value looks to be with siding with Stuttgart.
We can back Stuttgart +0.50 at 7/8 (Bet365) in the Asian Handicap, where we’ll be paid out should the away side avoid defeat, in what’s expected to be an edgy and potentially defining encounter.
Normally I’d be insistent on a goals-based angle as the stats and trends are rather overwhelming. For example, a huge 17 of Stuttgart’s last 20 away days have delivered winning Over 2.5 Goals bets with 10 of their previous 13 road trips featuring at least four goals.
The two teams have been haemorrhaging goals – 63 each all season – whilst Both Teams To Score proving profitable in a combined 22/30 (73%) of the duos respective home/away fixtures. But restrictive odds make the goals markets far from appealing.
These six-pointers have a knack for going against the grain so I’ll keep it simple and stick with Stuttgart avoiding a Monday night meltdown.
Werder Bremen v Stuttgart – Stuttgart +0.50 Asian Handicap (7/8 Bet365)