MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) continues his hunt for the continent's best bet with his European NAP focussing on Saturday's Bundesliga action.
Borussia Monchengladbach v Werder Bremen | Saturday 17.30 | BT Sport 2
Borussia Monchengladbach began 2015/16 appallingly and with Lucien Favre walking away from the head coach’s role, Andre Schubert reluctantly took the reigns in a bid to steady the Foals ship.
Schubert made an immediate impact, remedying Gladbach’s seasick side and putting the team back in action with a serious cutting-edge in attack. The Foals’ offensive approach made them fantastic viewing and Borussia recovered to finish fourth in the Bundesliga.
Key central midfielder and skipper Granit Xhaka left in the summer but Christoph Kramer has returned from a fruitful loan spell at Leverkusen to take his place. Elsewhere, Tobias Strobl is an able replacement for Havard Nordtveit and Jannik Vestergaard joined to bolster their centre-back options in their new-look 3-5-2 formation.
2016/17 has started in much the same manner as last year for Gladbach – the Foals have been fearsome at home and pretty shabby away. Although Young Boys were crushed 9-2 on aggregate during Champions League qualifying and Leverkusen were beaten 2-1 in the Bundesliga opener, Schubert’s side were poor in a 3-1 defeat at newly-promoted Freiburg and at Manchester City in midweek.
When Gladbach click, they are wonderful to watch. Raffael and Lars Stindl are a clever front two, Kramer has boundless energy, and 20-year-old playmaker Mahmoud Dahoud is earning rave reviews. Former Chelsea player Thorgan Hazard has also impressed and back at Borussia-Park on Saturday, I expect the Foals to bounce back to form.
As hosts, last term, Gladbach won 13 times and scored an average of 2.73 goals-per-game in their final 15 outings. And over the past few campaigns, the hosts have returned an intimidating W25-D4-L5 when welcoming league opposition.
Taking results under Schubert-only, the Foals have W14-D1-L1 in the Bundesliga, beating Leverkusen (twice), Schalke, Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich in that sample. Gladbach scored at least twice on 13 occasions, three times in nine encounters and won by at least two goals in nine matches.
Goals were prominent in Gladbach encounters during 2015/16 with a huge 25/34 (74%) featuring Over 2.5 Goals, 17/34 (50%) creeping over the Over 3.5 Goals line, whilst 20 (59%) games saw both sides score.
The loss of Xhaka has cost the Foals some bite in midfield, and the defence has been exposed as a result. The once-dependable defender Tony Jantschke has lost his way in the last year or so, and there's a lot of pressure on on-loan Chelsea centre-back Andreas Christensen, who is just 20.
Six of Gladbach's seven games in all competitions this season have featured at least three goals, as have 13/16 (81%) of home Bundesliga battles under Schubert.
Nine (56%) of that sample saw four or more goals scored which tallies nicely alongside Bremen – the visitors have seen 20/30 (67%) of their away days break the Over 2.5 Goals barrier and 14/30 (47%) overcome the three-goal hurdle with Victor Skripnik in charge.
Werder have had an awful start to the new season; dumped out of the DFB Pokal on the opening weekend to third-division Sportfreunde Lotte has been followed by thumping 6-0 defeat at Bayern and a tough-to-take home loss against Augsburg last weekend.
Head coach Skrypnyk is under intense pressure to turn the River Islanders around but his road record in charge of Bremen won’t inspire too much confidence from travelling supporters. Werder have lost 15 of their 30 away league contests under the Ukrainian’s watch with just two clean sheets kept.
Bremen have been beaten by at least a two-goal margin eight of those 15 losses with six arriving by three goals or more. Defensively the away side appear just as inept as last term and another heavy defeat could well be on the cards here.
The guests remain without last season’s top goalscorer Claudio Pizarro up front and they’ve now lost 11 of the 16 games he’s failed to start since 2015/16. Last season Werder were demolished 5-1 at Borussia-Park and a repeat wouldn’t be the biggest surprise of the weekend.
With that in mind plus the overwhelming evidence in our favour, I’ll snap up the 8/11 on offer for Gladbach to win and Over 1.5 Goals.
Borussia Monchengladbach v Werder Bremen – Borussia Monchengladbach to win and Over 1.5 Goals (8/11 BetStars)