BUNDESLIGA fanatic Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) has delved into the weekend card to bring us the best bets from Germany.
Schalke v Stuttgart | Sunday 16.30 | BT Sport Europe
Nine years ago Stuttgart pulled off an incredible feat by clinching the Bundesliga title. Since that momentous day, their fifth top-tier title, the club have failed to come close to reaching those dizzy heights.
The past two campaigns have seen VFB flirt with the drop and 2015/16 was looking like yet another miserable season for Swabian supporters.
But Alex Zorniger was sacked after taking just 0.80 points-per-game during his tenure with him went the days of a crazed and highly volatile pressing system.
The calming influence of Jürgen Kramny has brought a degree of confidence and results to the VFB camp. His more reactive and sustainable approach has brought about a superb seven-match unbeaten run and five wins on the spin for the first time since 2010.
VFB now have 27 points on the board – their best at this stage since 2010 and no side has claimed more points (12) or scored more goals (11) than the Swabians since the winter break. It’s been a fabulous turnaround considering they were just one point above the drop zone on Christmas Day.
Stuttgart have always had enough quality in the final third to ensure survival – even a top-half finish – and their deeper line under Kramny has at least given the club more control. Their performance data always suggests they’re a top-half team in the making and Krammy’s tweaks have cemented that assumption.
So I’m keen to keep them onside for Sunday as they visit the Veltins-Arena to take on a Schalke side that could be suffering with fatigue after their Thursday night trip to the Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk in the Europa League.
I can’t question the off-field progress made by Royal Blues boss Andre Breitenreiter in bringing the club and players together again but the stats don’t make for pretty reading – their 33 point return is lower than each of their last two campaigns led by Roberto Di Matteo and Jens Keller. Ouch.
Breitenreiter’s found greater balance and consistency since switching from 4-4-2 to a 4-2-3-1 and although their W6-D2-L3 home Bundesliga return looks more than fair on paper, the Royal Blues have only W3-D2-L2 when hosting clubs outside the bottom-four, conceding goals in six of those encounters.
So with Daniel Didavi back from suspension, I’m going to back Stuttgart to make it eight games unbeaten by taking the 24/23 (BetVictor) on offer for VFB with a +0.25 Asian Handicap start.
With this selection, we’ll make money should the visitors avoid defeat. We’ll pocket a full pay-out should Stuttgart take maximum points but also receive half of that possible profit should the fixture end in a draw with half of our stake also returned as a push.
Borussia Monchengladbach v Koln | Saturday 14.30
There’s a fiercely contested derby from the Rhineland on Saturday as Borussia Monchengladbach bid to reverse a worrying slide of results either side of Christmas. The Foals have managed just W2-D0-L6 since early December but there’s nothing like a heated meeting with one of your local rivals to stir the senses.
Despite Gladbach’s obvious downturn in form, Andre Schubert’s side have remained a model of consistency at their Borussia-Park home. The Foals have returned W7-D1-L1 in their last nine in front of their home supporters and I fancy them to add to that record this weekend.
There’s a sense of revenge in the air for the hosts. Their 1-0 reverse earlier in the season marked Lucien Favre’s final fixture in charge of Gladbach as they began the campaign with five defeats from five. Their W10-D2-L4 response since has seen the club notch 42 goals – their best tally at this stage of a season since 1994/95 – only Bayern Munich and Dortmund have scored more often.
Gladbach’s problems tend to arise when opponents opt to press them high but I’m not sure Koln boss Peter Stöger will fancy following that blueprint. His Billy Goat boys prefer to play on the counter, relying on their defensive organisation to see them through when under the cosh.
But recently the Koln head coach has switched to a 3-4-2-1 formation and it’s paid dividends – just one loss in six for the visitors, including four successive draws. Having already won at Schalke and Leverkusen, the visitors may well have their backers here.
The Billy Goats can go level on points with Gladbach, should they win. And the guests are currently enjoying their best top-flight season for 15 years. However, you have to go back to October 2014 for the last time they managed successive Bundesliga victories and they’ve won just once in 24 years in Monchengladbach (W1-D3-L11).
Wideman and leading assist-maker Marcel Risse is suspended and there’s a huge overreliance on Anthony Modeste up front – he’s directly contributed to 14 of their 24 league goals this term. Still, I do think Koln can grab a goal here in an ultimately fruitless away trip.
Since the start of last season, Gladbach have won 19/28 (68%) of their Borussia Park dates against Bundesliga opposition – 17/28 (61%) of those featured both teams scoring with the same 17/28 (61%) figure returning winning Over 2.5 Goals bets. A hunky 13/28 (46%) even went on to break the Over 3.5 Goals barrier.
The hosts haven’t shutout any of their last nine opponents and none of their previous five visitors to Gladbach. Their home fixtures have accumulated a league-high 40 goals so I’d expect them to flow here.
Koln under Stöger’s stewardship aren’t quite as prolific on their travels – unless they’re visiting the league’s leading lights. Ten of the Billy Goat’s previous 13 away days at top-half teams have produced three or more goals as they've lost eight of their last 14 trips to top-half teams.
The visitors have delivered winning BTTS bets in each of their last six and failed to keep their sheets clean in seven so I’m happy to chance my arm at another high-scoring contest on Saturday afternoon.
A Gladbach win and Over 2.5 Goals is rated a 15/8 play with Paddy Power and that’s good enough for me considering the hosts have have won 16 of their last 19 home games when they’ve scored.
Hertha Berlin v Wolfsburg
Hertha Berlin were as big as 66/1 to finish in the Bundesliga’s top-four back in June but the capital club remain in the Champions League qualification positions despite failing to record three points since the winter break.
Hungarian head coach Pal Dardai has sculpted a superbly organised outfit that thrives in front of their home supporters at the Olympiastadion. Since being given the gig midway through last season, Dardai has overseen W8-D6-L3 on home soil with a huge 10 clean sheets kept across those 17 fixtures.
Dardai turned out for the capital club hundreds of times as a tigerish midfielder, and he has built the team in his own image. Hertha work for each other, they are relentlessly disciplined, and these days they have a dash of flair too.
Having only fired blanks in two of their 10 home outings this term, Hertha know where the back of the net is, whilst only runaway league leaders Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen have shipped fewer goals than their tally of 23. It’s true too, only the former have posted more shutouts than Berlin’s record of nine this season, including six from eight in Berlin.
This weekend Hertha host Wolfsburg in the German capital and they look underrated at 15/14 (BetVictor) off a scratch 0 start on the Asian Handicap. Working the same way as a Draw No Bet selection, we’ll get our cash back should the game end all square.
Visitors Wolfsburg were involved in an energy-sapping Champions League tie away to Gent in midweek and although Dieter Hecking’s men ran out 3-2 winners, they were thankful for the genius of Julian Draxler securing the first leg success.
Dieter Hecking’s side have collected 14 points fewer at this stage compared to last season and will need to win all of their remaining 13 fixtures just to match their 2014/15 points tally of 69.
The Wolves have tended to be terrible travellers this term and they make the journey without key striker Bas Dost. Wolfsburg have lost each of their last six on the road without the Dutch hitman and have failed to even score in four of their previous seven away days.
The guests have W3-D3-L8 in away matches since the start of the season, leaking at least twice in nine of those 14 fixtures and accumulating a rotten -13 goal difference in the Bundesliga.
So whilst the Wolves possess more quality across the board, I’m more than happy to oppose the travelsick visitors here.
Borussia Monchengladbach v Koln – Borussia Monchengladbach to win and Over 2.5 Goals (15/8 Paddy Power)
Hertha Berlin v Wolfsburg – Hertha Berlin 0 Asian Handicap (15/14 BetVictor)
Schalke v Stuttgart – Stuttgart +0.25 Asian Handicap (24/23 BetVictor)
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