MARK O’HAIRE’S (@MarkOHaire) turned the Bundesliga card upside down in search of winners. Here’s his favourite three this weekend.
Hertha Berlin v Ingolstadt | Saturday 14.30
Leicester are blazing a stunning trail in the Premier League but head to Germany and Hertha Berlin are doing the unfashionable clubs proud with a stunning season that’s set them on course for Champions League qualification.
The capital club were chalked up as 66/1 shots to finish in the top-four but Pal Dardai’s troops just refuse to buckle or budge. Last weekend’s convincing 2-0 downing of Schalke pushed Hertha four points clear of the fifth-placed Royal Blues with only eight games to play.
The Berlin boys operate on a budget and reputation that’s just a fraction the size of the majority of their Bundesliga rivals but Dardai’s built a dogged squad based around his meticulous organisational skills and problem-solving. The Hungarian’s also added some brains to the brawn whilst blending silk with steel.
The addition of Vedad Ibisevic has give BSC a vital cutting-edge in attack alongside top scorer Salomon Kalou and although Hertha’s tally of 45 points is the lowest by a side siting in third at this point of a campaign, you wouldn’t want to bet against the Berlin boys relinquishing their role as the league’s surprise package.
Relegation candidates just over 12 months ago, Hertha’s superb season has been built upon their fortress Olympiastadion home. As hosts, the capital club have W5-D3-L0 in their last eight, keeping their sheets clean in five of their most recent six in front of their home supporters.
Enjoying their best run of results for nearly 10 years, Dardai’s troops have flourished in their Olympiastadion home ever since he took over the reigns last season.
BSC have W10-D7-L3 on home soil, shipping goals in just eight of those 21 matches – only Bayern Munich (13) and Dortmund (25) have conceded fewer goals than Hertha (26), only table-toppers Bayern (16) have recorded more clean sheets (12) and since Dardai took charge, only Bayern (25) have shutout their opponents more often than Berlin (19) in 41 matches.
Once again Hertha look overpriced at better than evens in places. However, I’m going to be greedy and snap up the 5/2 from Betfair on the hosts to see of Ingolstadt alongside Under 2.5 Goals this weekend.
The newly-promoted visitors are on a five-match unbeaten streak (W1-D4-L0) and now sit nine points clear of the relegation play-off place – it’s one of the most remarkable and puzzling stories across the continent.
Why? Well, FCI have achieved this despite scoring just eight goals from open play situations – yes, that’s only eight goals from open play. Ten of Ingolstadt's last 12 Bundesliga goals have come from set pieces, including two in their 3-3 draw with Stuttgart last time out.
And the guests have been far from accomplished travellers since arriving in the top-flight. FCI are winless on the road since matchday five (W0-D5-L5), scoring just four goals, failing to find the net in five of their last six.
With suspended centre-half Benjamin Hübner absent, I’m hoping the unsexy, stubborn newcomers meet their match in the capital.
As for the Under 2.5 Goals trail; it’s proven profitable in each of Hertha’s last seven as well as eight of their most recent 11 Olympiastadion outings. Ingolstadt have cleared the 2.5 goals line just once in 13 when playing away; when grouping the duos home/away records together, we’d have seen Under 2.5 Goals collect in 21/26 (81% matches.
This was almost my European NAP so 5/2 you say, Betfair? Cheers.
Stuttgart v Bayer Leverkusen | Sunday 14.30 | BT Sport Extra
Stuttgart haven’t beaten Bayer Leverkusen in 11 games (W0-D3-L8) but the rejuvenated Swabians look primed to pick up maximum points in this fixture for the first time since 2010 on Sunday.
VFB have W4-D0-L1 in their last five Mercedes-Benz Arena matches and collected 19 points from a possible 27 since mid-October to equal their tally of home points from the whole of 2014/15 (19).
Only Bayern Munich and Dortmund have collected more points than Stuttgart’s haul of 17 (W5-D2-L2) since the winter break and no side has netted more goals than Jürgen Krammy’s charges this calendar year (21).
Krammy’s impact has lifted VFB from relegation-certs to comfortable mid-table as the Swabians have finally realised their potential. Only the top-two have landed more on-target efforts this season and the hosts will fancy their chances of seeing off an injury-hit, physically drained and out-of-form Leverkusen.
Bayer exited the Europa League on Thursday night without ever laying a glove on Villarreal. And Roger Schmidt’s visitors were forced to thank goalkeeper Bernd Leno for producing a sterling performance between the sticks as Die Werkeself ended a W0-D1-L3 run with an unconvincing 1-0 victory over Hamburg last Sunday.
The pressure on Schmidt to arrest Die Werkself’s 2016 slump remains but his battered and fatigued squad are likely to be without Tin Jedvaj, Sebastian Boenisch, Roberto Hilbert, Kevin Kampl, Lars Bender and Omer Toprak and possibly Christophe Kramer too his weekend. That means playmaker Hakan Calhanoglu may be asked to fill in again with a more defensive role as Bayer bid for just a second shutout in eight (W2-D1-L4).
With Stuttgart underrated in the markets, we can snap up a healthy 7/9 (BetVictor) on the home side off a scratch 0 start on the Asian Handicap line – this selection is effectively the same as a play on the Draw No Bet market and makes plenty of appeal at odds a smidgen shorter than 4/5.
I was tempted by a goals-based bet but Stan James’ 4/6 on Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score is just a bit too short to recommend, really.
The duo are amongst the division’s top-six scorers and collectively they’ve notched in 18 of their past 20 Bundesliga matches, notching 45 goals in the process. Their earlier season meeting ended 4-3 in Leverkusen’s favour and seven of their last eight meetings have featured at least three goals.
Looking purely at the home/away records this season, collectively they’ve ran up 17/26 (65%) winners with Both Teams To Score banking on 15/26 (58%) occasions. Together they’ve fired just 5/26 (19%) blanks and recorded 7/26 (27%) clean sheets so there’s a bit of wriggleroom if you’re keen to get involved.
Augsburg v Borussia Dortmund | Sunday 16.30 | BT Sport Europe
Dortmund have picked up a joint-club record 61 points from their 26 games this season and Thomas Tuchel’s troops have showed no signs of slowing down in their relentless pursuit of champions Bayern Munich.
With a five-point deficit, the Black & Yellows continue to snap at the Bavarians’ heels and I’ll be backing BVB to continue their stunning 2016 streak with maximum points at Augsburg on Sunday.
We can back Dortmund at 4/5 in the Asian Handicap market where a one-goal win will see our stake returned as a push. A two-goal victory or more will prove profit with a draw or Dortmund defeat the only ways in which we’ll end up out of pocket.
BVB have W7-D2-L1 in 10 head-to-heads and make the journey to Swabia on the back of a stunning run (W12-D2-L0) since the winter break, including six successes in seven on their travels.
Tuchel’s troops didn’t need to get out of second gear against Spurs in the Europa League and have now kept their sheets clean in 10 of those 14 aforementioned fixtures this year.
And I wouldn’t be too concerned about Europa League fatigue; Dortmund have W10-D0-L1 in Bundesliga matches immediately following their continental travails this term – the defeat came at Bayern Munich.
Six of BVB’s last eight trips to bottom-six sides have resulted in away wins and so with only Eintracht Frankfurt (7) and Hannover (3) collecting fewer points than Augsburg (8) since the winter break, it’s hard to see the Black & Yellows flopping.
Markus Weinzierl's hosts have W1-D5-L4 as hosts and conceded at least twice in six of their past seven league matches. They fought back valiantly at Darmstadt to take a point last weekend but have fired blanks in four of their 11 outings since Christmas, winning once (W1-D6-L4).
Hertha Berlin v Ingolstadt – Hertha Berlin to win and Under 2.5 Goals (5/2 Betfair)
Stuttgart v Bayer Leverkusen – Stuttgart 0 Asian Handicap (7/9 BetVictor)
Augsburg v Borussia Dortmund – Borussia Dortmund -1 Asian Handicap (4/5 BetVictor)
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