MARK O’HAIRE’S (@MarkOHaire) analysed the Bundesliga card this weekend and believes these are the best bets available in Germany’s top tier.
Mainz v Bayer Leverkusen | Sunday 16.30 | BT Sport Extra
Bayer Leverkusen were left outraged by a few refereeing decisions in their 1-0 defeat to Borussia Dortmund in last Sunday’s Bundesliga blockbuster, specifically the goal that proved to be decisive.
Head coach Roger Schmidt took his protests too far and was asked to leave the technical area but the Leverkusen boss refused to leave without a full explanation from the officials. With none coming and Die Werkself’s boss standing his ground, the match was suspended for nine minutes as the teams were taken off the pitch.
Such drama on the sidelines is relatively rare in German football and Bayer had the opportunity to let off steam in the Europa League on Thursday night when progressing from a tough continental encounter with Sporting Lisbon.
Schmidt’s suspension comes into play this Sunday as Die Werkself look to ready themselves for a Bundesliga battle with high-flying Mainz.
The visitors have managed just two triumphs in five league outings this calendar year and having been beaten in six of their past nine visits to top-half teams, I wonder whether they’ll be ready.
Mainz are missing centre-half Stefan Bell but right-back Giulio Donati is back from suspension and young Colombian forward has proved himself as a decent option with Yoshinori Muto still sidelined.
Martin Schmidt's men had won three on the spin before losing 3-2 at rejuvenated relegation-haunted Hoffenheim last weekend but they’re a resilient bunch, proudly sitting inside the top-half of the league’s standings.
Take out their home results against both Bayern and Dortmund and Mainz have managed a very decent W6-D3-L2 in front of their home supporters, including victories against Gladbach, Schalke and Wolfsburg.
The Carnival Club should be more than capable of enhancing the above record against a weary Leverkusen side on Sunday. I’ll back Mainz to avoid defeat with a +0.50 Asian Handicap start at 17/20 with Bet365.
Stuttgart v Hannover | Saturday 14.30
What more can I say about Stuttgart that hasn’t been said in these parts previously?
Flirting with relegation during the past two campaigns, VFB appeared to be heading for disaster under Alex Zorniger at the beginning of 2015/16. His dreadful spell – yielding 0.80 points-per-game – put the Swabians deep in the drop-zone with a collection of shocking defensive showings.
The calming influence of Jurgen Kramny has brought confidence and positive results back into the Stuttgart camp as the hosts have finally begun to produce the results their performance data has merited.
A more reactive and sustainable approach under Krammy has brought about a superb eight-match unbeaten run (W5-D3-L0) including 16 points from their past 18 on offer. Indeed, their 28-point tally is their best return at this stage since 2010 – it’s been a fabulous turnaround considering the Swabians were just one point above the drop zone on Christmas Day.
Following a respectable draw at Schalke last weekend, VFB are back at their Mercedes-Benz Arena base where they’ve won three on the spin, scoring at least twice. Star attacking midfielder Daniel Didavi is absent but Alexandru Maxim is an able replacement and the Swabians should prove too strong for beleaguered Hannover.
The hosts have claimed winning honours in six of their last seven when hosting Hannover and with the 96ers losing 15/28 (54%) of their road trips since the start of last season, another wouldn’t be a huge surprise here.
So we’ll enhance the price to 29/20 (Coral) by backing Stuttgart to be leading at half-time and full-time. Rock-bottom Hannover have been beaten in each of their past eight matches and failed to even score in six of their last seven.
January signing Hugo Almeida is suspended and playmaker Hiroshi Kiyotake isn’t yet 100%. With Thomas Schaaf ‘s travellers pointless in their last five as guests and now eight points away from safety having suffered 16/22 (73%) defeats in 2015/16, they’ve also been behind at the break in 15 of their most recent 20 away trips.
Wolfsburg v Bayern Munich | Saturday 14.30
Bayern Munich were utterly dominant for the majority of their midweek Champions League tie at Juventus so the Bavarians will be upset they only came away with a 2-2 draw from Turin.
Pep Guardiola’s side are strolling towards an unprecedented fourth successive Bundesliga title but they’ll be angry with their failure to seize the first leg initiative against the Old Lady and that could spell trouble for a Wolfsburg side that’s been riddled with a flu virus this week.
The hosts will be without a lengthy list of players for Saturday's clash, including Diego Benaglio, Sebastian Jung, Daniel Caligiuri, Joshua Guilavogui, Bas Dost, Bruno Henrique, Paul Seguin and Carlos Ascues with a number of others rated doubtful and nowhere near 100%, should they play.
Dieter Hecking’s men have fared poorly without both Caligiuri and Dost in domestic action and that’s highlighted in their offensive stats when either player has missed out. The Wolves have scored 2.16 goals per-game in Caligiuri‘s 31 appearances since the start of last season but that drops to just 1.48 goals per-game without him – Dost’s 27 matches have seen the side score 2.26 goals per-game but that also drops to 1.48 goals per-game in his absence.
Even without the pair, Wolfsburg have been a shadow of the side that shocked Bayern with a 4-1 win in January of 2015 at the Volkswagen Arena, notably with talismanic playmaker Kevin De Bruyne having left for Manchester City last summer.
Hecking’s charges have won just once in nine (W1-D4-L4) Bundesliga games, are 16 points off where they were at this stage last season and since 2011/12 they’ve lost eight of nine matches against Bayern, including five defeats by more than one goal.
The Bavarians have W14-D1-L1 in the last 16 meetings and bagged W19-D2-L1 in their league outings this term (W8-D2-L1 away). Pep’s troops were far from their best when seeing off Darmstadt 3-1 last weekend but with Franck Ribéry and Mario Götze returning to the fold and Mehdi Benatia also back available, Bayern should deliver the goods.
I’m keeping it simple and backing FC Hollywood with a -1 start on the Asian Handicap line at 7/10 with BetVictor. We’ll be paid out should Bayern win by two goals or more but see our stake returned if they only manage a one-goal victory.
Wolfsburg have suffered just one reverse in 33 Volkswagen Arena encounters, scoring in each of their last 41 – a 42nd would create a new German record – but they’re in no condition to compete with the rampant league leaders, who’ve seen off 11 of their last 17 top-half hosts by at least two clear goals.
Stuttgart v Hannover – Stuttgart-Stuttgart Half-Time/Full-Time (29/20 Coral)
Wolfsburg v Bayern Munich – Bayern Munich -1 Asian Handicap (7/10 BetVictor)
Mainz v Bayer Leverkusen – Mainz +0.50 Asian Handicap (17/20 Bet365)
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