THE BUNDELSLIGA returns from its winter break and Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) picks out his favourite fancies from the weekend action.
Eintracht Frankfurt v Wolfsburg | Sunday 14.30 | BT Sport 1
Eintracht Frankfurt hold a pretty poor W2-D10-L8 record over their last 20 Bundesliga battles with Wolfsburg but there’s plenty of reason to keep the eagles onside this Sunday.
Armin Veh’s had a tricky time of it on his return to the club and Eintracht signed off for 2015 with just a solitary success in seven (W1-D2-L4). The poor form left the Eagles perched just two points above the relegation zone.
But Frankfurt spent a bit of cash in January to reinforce their midfield with the return of Szabolcs Huszti to the Bundesliga perhaps their most eye-catching addition. The break has also given Eintracht time for a number of injured players to return to fitness, such as stalwart centre-half Carlos Zambrano.
The hosts can also call upon a reasonably strong home record. Since the start of last season, the Eagles have returned W11-D8-L6 at the Commerzbank-Arena when entertaining league opposition. So the home side look underrated with a +0.50 Asian Handicap start at 17/20 (Bet365).
Wolfsburg accumulated eight points fewer than at this stage last season and it’s no major surprise following the sale of Kevin de Bruyne last summer. But the club also sold centre-half Timm Klose this month and seen top goalscorer Bas Dost crocked. What’s more, Luiz Gustavo is rated doubtful for Sunday.
Without Dost, the Wolves have seen their goals-per-game rate drop from 1.77 to 1.25 in the 13 away matches he’s missed since the start of last season, including just a solitary strike in three this term.
And Dieter Hecking’s charges were already struggling in the final third. Wolfsburg have managed just three road victories from 12 this season, have W1-D3-L4 in eight Bundesliga away trips notching a paltry four goals.
I can’t see how a patched up, out-of-form Wolfsburg side can be trusted to pick up the points here. So I’ll happily oppose them.
Schalke v Werder Bremen | Sunday 16.30 | BT Sport 1
At the midway point of the campaign, Schalke are occupying sixth and sitting two points off the Champions League qualifying positions. The Royal Blues didn’t often convince in the first half of 2015/16 but new head coach Andre Breitenreiter's at least unified the dressing room.
Often the Gelsenkirchen-based club relied on individual brilliance with youngsters like midfielder Johannes Geis and forward Leroy Sane attracting rave reviews. But you do get a sense that Breitenreiter's the right man to continue to stabilise Schalke and move them forward.
So it’s quite surprising to learn that their record after 17 games this term is identical to the one they had at this stage of 2014/15 under Roberto Di Matteo (W8-D3,-L6). Nevertheless, the Royal Blues have continued their outstanding return when taking on the league’s lesser lights.
Schalke hold a 100% record against teams who occupy the bottom-five slots this season and further back, they’ve dispatched 16 of the last 19 bottom-six visitors to the Veltins Arena. That’s no-nonsense.
The hosts have captain Benedikt Howedes sidelined and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar suspended but Roman Neustädter’s capable of dropping back into central defence with Sane and Franco Di Santo more than good enough of giving the lousy Werder Bremen backline problems.
Bremen rounded up 2015 without a win in five (W0-D2-L3) and on a club record run of 20 outings without a clean sheet and shipped 32 goals. The River Islanders dropped into 16th and head coach Viktor Skripnik, who saved the club from a similar position last season, is on the verge of the sack.
Werder have picked up 11 of their 15 points on the road, beating Hoffenheim, Mainz and Augsburg on their own patch but defeats by at least two goals in five of their most recent nine at top-six clubs doesn’t inspire confidence. Nor does their W0-D3-L8 head-to-head record with Schalke.
I expect Schalke will prove too good for Bremen but I’m not ruling out the travellers getting on the scoresheet. A huge 16 of Werder’s last 19 away days have resulted in winning Both Teams To Score bets with 13/18 of the two clubs’ respective home/away games this term also on the BTTS trail.
With that in mind, I’ll take Schalke to win and Both Teams To Score at a weird 28/13 with 888 Sport – that’s 3.15 if you prefer your odds in decimal format.
Borussia Monchengladbach v Borussia Dortmund | Saturday 17.30 | BT Sport Europe
The Bundesliga is back!
Thirty-three days after the last final whistle of 2015, the German top-flight roars back into action on Friday night as Bayern Munich take up their quest for home and continental domination at Hamburg.
But the game of the weekend takes place on Saturday evening with a Borussia derby as Dortmund travel to Gladbach.
Thomas Tuchel has reinstated the Black & Yellows as one of Europe's best attacking sides but unfortunately, their swag has come with a limp at times. A sloppy 2-1 defeat at Koln just before the winter break saw BVB drop eight points behind Bayern as the Hinrunde came to a close.
If it looked unlikely beforehand, Dortmund’s title challenge is in tatters. Nevertheless, Tuchel’s troops have played some breathtaking football at times, scoring more goals than any other side, racking up a ridiculous 84 in all competitions before the end of 2015.
Dortmund’s 43-point tally is their best return since the title-winning campaign of 2010/11 and, although I’ve the utmost respect for BVB’s 2015/16 achievements, I just can’t be having the visitors at a best-priced 8/11 (BetVictor) to win here.
The 8/11 odds indicate the bookmakers believe the Black & Yellows stand just under a 58% chance of walking away with maximum points. By my own ratings, I give the guests closer to a 52% shot.
A visit to Gladbach is never a walk in the park. And the way Andre Schubert transformed the Foals from pointless, rock-bottom messes to a top-four team in 12 matches, deserves serious respect.
The former U23 coach went unbeaten in his first 10 Bundesliga outings and even downed runaway leaders Bayern. In fact, Bayern are the only side to pick up more points than Gladbach since he took charge and their 32-goal tally across those fixtures make the hosts the most lethal goalscorers across those 12 fixtures.
Stand-in skipper Granit Xhaka is suspended here but Gladbach added highly-rated centre back Martin Hinteregger and Jonas Hofmann to their ranks over the winter and will fancy their chances of grabbing a couple of goals – they’ve netted at least twice in 10 of their previous 12 fixtures.
The Foals have also triumphed in 15 of their last 19 at Borussia-Park, holding a W6-D1-L0 record under Schubert’s tenure and so they look vastly underrated in the markets. With 4/5 (BetVictor) available on the hosts with a +1 start on the Asian Handicap line, I have to be involved.
This selection means, should Dortmund win, we’ll get our stake returned. But any other result – home win or draw – we’ll be in profit. And with Gladbach unbeaten on home soil against Dortmund since 2009, they stand a great chance.
But I’m also going to take a goals approach. Gladbach have conceded 30 goals already this term – the worst defensive record of any top-14 club. Tie that return in alongside their superb scoring streak under Schubert and it’s no surprise to see their Bundesliga outings averaging 3.76 goals-per-game.
All bar two of Gladbach’s opening nine home encounters have produced at least three goals and it’s worth noting, of the eight games that Xhaka’s missed since the start of last season, five were at Borussia-Park with each breaking the Over 2.5 Goals barrier and three producing four or more goals.
Dortmund can play their part in an open and exciting fixture. Both teams have scored in each of BVB’s most recent eight league games with all eight contests also breaking the Over 2.5 Goals barrier.
BVB have suffered defeats in two of their last three away, have kept just two shutouts in nine on the road and only three clubs hold a worse defence record on their travels. So with 17 of their last 20 Bundesliga matches rewarding Over 2.5 Goals punters, it’s hard to ignore.
I’ll back Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score at 8/11 with Bet365. Looking at the two teams’ respective home/away games, this bet should be closer to 1/2.
Borussia Monchengladbach v Borussia Dortmund – Borussia Moncehngladbach +1 Asian Handicap (4/5 BetVictor)
Borussia Monchengladbach v Borussia Dortmund – Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score (8/11 Bet365)
Eintracht Frankfurt v Wolfsburg – Eintracht Frankfurt +0.50 Asian Handicap (17/20 Bet365)
Schalke v Werder Bremen – Schalke to win and Both Teams To Score (28/13 888 Sport)
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