BUNDESLIGA fanatic Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) shares his favourite fancies from Wednesday night's card in Germany.
Bayern Munich v RB Leipzig | Wednesday 19:00 | BT Sport 2
The most anticipated match of the Bundesliga in 2016/17 arrives on Wednesday night as Bayern Munich take on newly-promoted RB Leipzig in a top-of-the-table contest on the eve of the winter break in Germany.
The pair arrive at the Allianz Arena locked on 36 points with the Bavarian hosts edging top spot on goal difference. Should Carlo Ancelotti’s charges avoid defeat, FC Hollywood would claim top spot at Christmas for the sixth season in succession.
But Bayern certainly haven’t been the all-conquering unit we became accustomed to under Pep Guardiola. Ancelotti’s preferred 4-3-3 formation has proven a little too ponderous, predictable and lacking attacking spark.
Bayern were forced to work hard for their victory over struggling Darmstadt at the weekend – it took a stunning strike from Douglas Costa to settle matters on Sunday – and it’s been suggested Ancelotti may abandon his approach here in favour of a more fluent 4-2-3-1.
Such a switch would allow misfiring Thomas Muller an opportunity to start in his favoured central role with the goalscoring burden on Robert Lewandowski eased ever so slightly. But with Phillip Lahm doubtful and Jerome Boateng absent, the home side should be just as concerned about their defensive displays.
Sure, Sunday was the Bavarians third consecutive clean sheet across all competitions but they’ve still only bagged three shutouts in 10 Bundesliga battles and four in 16 across all outings.
RB Leipzig have broken almost every record for Bundesliga newcomers, racing to 11 wins out of 15 matches and losing only once. The chief challengers boast the best away record in the division (W5-D2-L1) and Ralph Hasenhuttl’s built a formidable outfit.
Hasenhuttl only arrived on the scene in the summer but has already moulded a wonderfully energetic side. Leipzig play at pace, high-intensity and put the emphasis on their success around the collective rather than any individual.
Nevertheless, the performances of Swedish midfield schemer Emil Forsberg just can’t be ignored. He’s already played a key role in almost half of Die Roten Bullen’s goals with 20 year-old speedster Timo Werner also hitting the headlines for his finishing ability.
Youngster Naby Keita has been a key component to Hasenhuttl’s flourishing challengers and although the Guinean’s role as the box-to-box midfielder is crucial. Keita’s an injury doubt here, which could play a pivotal role but centre-back Willi Orban also deserves a shout-out for his commanding displays.
Leipzig have upset many German football purists with their commercialised approach to sporting success but it’s hard not to enjoy their on-field performances; the visitors bounced back from their first defeat to beat Hertha Berlin at the weekend and are also the league’s top-scoring team on the road.
Die Roten Bullen have notched at least twice in seven of their last eight, fired a solitary blank in 15 and only scored four fewer goals than Bayern over the opening stanza of the season. I’d back Leipzig to grab a goal and so Both Teams To Score stands out at 19/20 (Bet365).
Depending on Keita’s involvement, it might also pay to back Bayern Munich to win and Both Teams To Score at 9/4 (188BET). Despite the hosts’ toils, they’ve still managed to succeed in 64/76 (84%) of their home Bundesliga fixtures since 2011/12.
Hertha Berlin v Darmstadt | Wednesday 19:00
Hertha Berlin have slipped to successive Bundesliga defeats for the first time this season but don’t let that put you off backing Pal Dardai’s organised outfit on Wednesday evening.
The capital club were well below-par when beaten 1-0 by Werder Bremen 10 days ago but that was the first occasion this season that Hertha had failed to record three points at the Olympiastadion (W6-D0-L1).
Their weekend reverse at Leipzig is understandable considering the newcomers phenomenal rise to title contenders but back on home soil, I’m keen to keep the Berlin boys onside. After all, they have bagged 17/31 (55%) Bundesliga victories in the capital under Dardai.
Per Skjelbred and Vladimir Darida are expected to return for the hosts with the Hungarian boss persisting with his 4-2-3-1 formation. With Hertha a little too skinny to support in the pre-match markets, I’ll chuck in Over 1.5 Goals for an 11/10 play with Betfair.
Hertha have scored at least twice in all of their home league victories this season and in 17/31 (55%) of their Olympiastadion outings under Dardai, firing only seven blanks. They should have more than enough quality to open up a disastrous Darmstadt team.
The Lilies put in a brave display against Bayern Munich at the weekend that ultimately ended fruitless – it was their seventh successive loss and leaves the visitors rock-bottom of the division.
Darmstadt haven't scored a league goal for 354 minutes, failed to score in five of their past seven and have been beaten in all of their away days this season. Head coach Norbert Meier has already been fired and it’s worth noting 19/24 (79%) of their road trips since promotion last season have featured at least two goals.
Hoffenheim v Werder Bremen | Wednesday 19:00
Hoffenheim are the only unbeaten side left in the Bundesliga but nine draws (W6-D9-L0) have hindered their progress towards the top-four under young whizz kid Julian Nagelsmann.
Five of those stalemates arrived in Hoffe’s last six and with visitors Werder Bremen slowly climbing the table, I’m not too keen to invest on the home side here at short prices despite my affection for the Sinsheim side.
Instead, I’ll be following the trends and supporting Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score at 5/6 (Coral). It’s a selection that’s proven profitable in nine of the past 12 meetings with all 12 featuring both sides scoring.
Those 12 meetings produced an eye-watering 45 goals – an average of 3.75 goals per-game – with each of the past six at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena breaking the two-goal barrier.
Hoffenheim come into this clash without suspended defensive midfielder Sebastian Rudy but in Mark Uth, Sandro Wagner and Andrej Kramaric they boast the firepower to trouble most sides in the league, as seen in Friday’s 2-2 draw with Dortmund.
Nagelsmann’s outfit have now scored at least twice in five of their past six home encounters whilst their league fixtures this season have averaged 2.87 goals per-game with nine (60%) breaching the 2.5 goals line and 10 (67%) seeing both sides score.
In 15 Rhein-Neckar-Arena fixtures under Nagelsmann, Hoffenheim have delivered 11 (73%) Over 2.5 Goals winners and 11 (73%) successful BTTS bets as they’ve kept only four clean sheets, scored at least twice in 10 (67%) and fired just a solitary blank.
Bremen are unbeaten in four games now and moved above the relegation zone. Alexander Nouri has stabilised the River Islanders but the return from injury of both Claudio Pizarro and Max Kruse has also had a positive effect.
Werder have now scored in each of their past 14 Bundesliga outings with their 15 games featuring 42 goals – at a rate of 3.47 goals per-game. A huge 13 (87%) have seen Over 2.5 Goals hunters collect and the same figure provide profit for Both Teams To Score backers.
Looking at Bremen’s road record since last season – 18/24 (75%) featured at least three goals, 14/24 (58%) bagged Over 3.5 Goals with 17 (71%) producing BTTS profit. With the visitors scoring in 18/24 (75%) and returning only two shutouts, Wednesday’s contest should be ripe for goals.