MATCHDAY 24 in the Bundesliga concludes on Wednesday night. We asked German football fanatic Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) for his best bets.
Bayern Munich v Mainz | Saturday 19.00 | BT Sport Europe
For the first time in his Bayern Munich career, Manuel Neuer was forced into making eight saves in a Bundesliga match on Saturday. Nevertheless, the Bavarians survived the Wolfsburg challenge with a consummate 2-0 success, keeping their title challenge well on track.
Pep Guardiola’s men remain eight points clear at the summit and should be expected to continue their 100% winning record at the Allianz Arena when Mainz pitch up on Wednesday night. Augsburg are the only guests to leave without losing by more than a two-goal margin.
Bayern enjoy taking on Mainz, too. They’ve beaten the Carnival Club in each of their last seven meetings and in nine of 11 in Munich. Under Pep, FC Hollywood have overcome the O-Fivers in all five league fixtures so no surprise to see the hosts chalked up at odds as short as 1/10.
But there is value in backing the home win ‘to nil’ at 20/23 with BetVictor. Seven (64%) of Bayern’s 11 home successes have been clinched alongside a clean sheet and 12 of their 23 (52%) in total when including their away fixtures.
Pep’s charges have silenced their opponents on 14 occasions and welcome a Mainz side that’s fired blanks in three of their previous five on the road.
However, this won’t be a completely comfortable task for the Bavarian juggernaut. Mainz beat a jaded and injury-hit Leverkusen 3-1 on Sunday – Yunus Malli bagging a brace – to move level on points with fifth-placed Gladbach, and are now just three points behind third-placed Hertha Berlin.
Martin Schmidt’s taken a team that was one point off the relegation zone to an 11th-placed finish, sold two of Mainz’s best players in the summer – Shinji Okazaki (to Leicester City) and Johannes Geis (to Schalke) – and put the Carnival Club in contention for a Champions League qualifying position. Incredible.
The courageous and spirited O-Fivers are breaking records with their energetic performances too, running and sprinting more than any of their divisional rivals. Against Gladbach a couple of weeks ago, who are by no means slouches, Mainz notched up an outlandish 125km collectively and set a new record with 262 sprints. Their former best was 214. No team comes remotely close.
However, although Schmidt’s men are unbeaten in six at home (W5-D1-L0), they’ve proven less reliable on their travels (W4-D2-L5). And with defeats by at least two-goal margin in five of their last eight at top-six clubs and key central defender Stefan Bell injured, it’s difficult to see them stopping Bayern.
Lively forwards Yoshinori Muto and striker Jhon Córdoba will be in demand this summer but with only five clubs firing in fewer shots-on-target away from home and Bayern strangling visitors to the Allianz Arena with a shots-on-target ratio upwards of 80%,
I’ll take the value and the win ‘to nil’.
Hertha Berlin v Eintracht Frankfurt | Wednesday 19.00
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 with Friday night’s 1-0 success at Koln a timely boost.
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-D7-L3 on home soil with a huge 10 clean sheets kept across those 18 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.
At least one of Vedad Ibisevic (seven goals, four assists) and Salomon Kalou (11 goals, one assist) have been involved in 20 of Hertha's 31 goals and this midweek they welcome back attacking midfielder Vladimir Darida from suspension to aid their offensive output.
Having only fired blanks in two of their 11 home outings this term, Hertha know where the back of the net is, whilst only runaway league leaders Bayern Munich have shipped fewer goals than their tally of 24. It’s true too, only the former have posted more shutouts than Berlin’s record of 10 this season, including six from nine in the capital.
The hosts have beaten seven of their last nine bottom-six visitors to the Olympiastadion and are backable at 20/21 (Matchbook) to extend their fairytale season by seeing off a Jekyll and Hyde Eintracht Frankfurt side.
The Eagles have lost all six trips to teams in 10th and above this season, shipping at least two goals on each occasion. And the visitors have been defeated in seven of their last 10 at top-six clubs, six of which arrived by more than a one-goal margin.
Since the start of last season, Eintracht have lost 16/28 (57%) road trips and if we go back to 2012/13, their return against top-10 teams is just W2-D5-L18. So it’s easy enough to oppose Armin Veh’s troops here.
Schalke v Hamburg | Wednesday 19.00 | BT Sport 2
Schalke look vulnerable odds-on favourites after scoring just twice in a winless run of five (W0-D2-L3) coming into their contest with Hamburg.
The Royal Blues have slid to seventh in the Bundesliga standings and although they remain just a point off the top-four positions, their return of just four wins from their last 11 in Gelsenkirchen, alongside a Europa League exit to Shakhtar Donetsk last Thursday has knocked confidence in the camp.
I can’t question the off-field progress made by boss Andre Breitenreiter in bringing the club and players together again but the stats don’t make for pretty reading – their 35-point tally from 23 games is exactly the same as last season during the troubled tenure of Roberto Di Matteo.
Breitenreiter’s found greater balance and consistency since switching from 4-4-2 to a 4-2-3-1 and although their W6-D3-L3 home Bundesliga return looks more than fair on paper, the Royal Blues have only W3-D3-L2 when hosting clubs outside the bottom-four, conceding goals in seven of those encounters.
What’s more, the club have been hit by injuries and Leon Goretzka’s absence will surely hurt their solidity in the centre of the park. With centre-half and skipper Benedikt Höwedes already sidelined and Matija Nastasic out long-term, I just can’t see Schalke keeping a competent Hamburg side out.
HSV have a horrible record at top-half teams on their travels – 13 losses in 16 – but Bruno Labbadia’s boys come into this contest unbeaten in four (W1-D3-L0) and have the Redshorts have suffered just four losses on their travels this term (W4-D3-L4).
Only Bayern, Ingolstadt and hosts Schalke have shipped fewer goals as guests and with Hamburg notching in all bar two of their previous 14, the visitors look well worth a punt with a +0.50 Asian Handicap start with Bet365 – we’ll be paid out should HSV avoid defeat in the Veltins Arena.
Meanwhile, Both Teams To Score has proven profitable in 11 of Hamburg’s last 13, as well as eight of Schalke’s 12 home fixtures under Breitenreiter, making the 20/23 (BetVictor) a tasty proposition. It’s not often you get the opportunity to back a BTTS bet in the Bundesliga at a squeak under even-money so take it.
Bayern Munich v Mainz – Bayern Munich win ‘to nil’ (20/23 BetVictor)
Hertha Berlin v Eintracht Frankfurt – Hertha Berlin to win (20/21 Matchbook)
Schalke v Hamburg – Hamburg +0.50 Asian Handicap (43/40 Bet365)
Schalke v Hamburg – Both Teams To Score (20/23 BetVictor)
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