THE BUNDESLIGA is back and here Jack Lambden (@_JackL_) sets the scene ahead of Saturday afternoon's mouthwatering encounter between Borussia Monchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen.
Borussia Monchengladbach v Bayer Leverkusen | Saturday 23rd May 2020, 14:30 | BT Sport
This should be a cracker.
Two sides playing superb football and battling out for a top four spot in the Bundesliga meet on Saturday knowing that this is effectively a six pointer in the quest for Champions League football (whenever next season starts).
If this match is anything like the reverse fixture back in November, we’re in for a treat. It was a pulsating, end-to-end contest which Gladbach nicked 2-1 against the run of play to consolidate their then lead at the top of the table. The most impressive aspect of that game however was not the away team’s ability to hold on to the win, but the intensity both sides managed to maintain throughout.
Only when Leon Bailey was sent off for violent conduct in stoppage time was the game truly out of sight for Leverkusen but with 25 efforts on goal of their own in a 35 shot game, they’ll be confident of going that extra mile this time and getting something from the match.
The shot market is angle I want to explore here to as I’m expecting another decent head to head between two of the best teams to watch in the league. Both managers, Peter Bosz and Marco Rose, encourage their teams to press high and win the ball back in dangerous areas which leads to plenty of opportunities.
SkyBet are offering evens on 11 or more shots on-target and the stats certainly suggest that price is a generous one. In that aforementioned previous fixture we saw 13, the last 4 Bundesliga matchdays have seen these teams combine for an average of 11 (14, 10, 9 & 11) and their average combined rate is 11.9.
In addition, the amount of goals in these team’s last eight Bundesliga games apiece has been increasing their season long averages so the sides involved have certainly been finding the net more often, conducive to this selection landing.
The bet is also hard to ignore when you look at just how much attacking talent will be on the pitch. Kai Havertz is the star name and his switch to a false nine role in the Werder Bremen win turned from a bold move to a very smart one following his brace. The 20 year-old is surely destined for a move to one of the world’s top clubs but not before continuing to make his mark in the German league.
Havertz’s 12 goals in all competitions, four of them in the last four games, have come as a welcome break for a team who are missing their regular striker Kevin Volland through injury. However, Moussa Diaby’s pace and tricky out wide has caused many a defensive unit nightmares this season and Kerem Demirbay’s box-to-box movement is hard to contain so Bosz’s men have more than enough weapons to hurt Die Fohlen.
It was when I watched back some of Leverkusen’s demolition of Bremen that I noticed just how busy the right side of the home team’s line-up was kept because of that midfield running from deep of the likes of Diaby, Demirbay and Amiri. The stats certainly reflect this too, with Bremen’s right sided centre-back Milos Veljkovic recording seven tackles.
It’s somewhat of a surprise therefore to see Mathias Ginter, who plays in the same position for Gladbach, is 7/5 to make 2 or more successful tackles. Ginter isn’t afraid of getting stuck in himself with eight tackles in his last three games so I’m also going to have a play on three or more at 17/4 with the same bookie.
Despite some improved individual performances in defence – Ginter included – Monchengladbach have needed their best forward players to bail out a back line without a clean sheet in nine league games. Marcus Thuram and Alassane Plea have been scoring and creating plenty but you have to wonder how sustainable their output is in relation to successful results if the defence keep leaking soft goals.
Gladbach’s season has been one of real progress overall though and if they play as well as they did at Frankfurt, it’s going to be hard to split these two teams. One thing’s for sure – three doesn’t go into two as far as the Champions League places go but although it’s a must-not-lose for either, you can’t see them playing that way and it should lead to a classic.