MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) runs the rule over the best bets from the Bundesliga this weekend.
Werder Bremen v Hertha Berlin | Saturday 14.30
Anyone who tuned into last Sunday’s Bundesliga matches might still be wondering (as I am) how on earth Werder Bremen burgled a 3-1 victory at Schalke.
The River Islanders were a goal down but should have sent to sleep before skipper Clemens Fritz’s scorcher levelled proceedings. The 35-year-old then laid on two more goals in a Man of the Match display to drag his struggling side to a crucial three points on his 300th Bundesliga appearance.
It was Bremen’s first victory in six and lifted Victor Skrypnyk’s side four points clear of the bottom-two. But Werder remain entrenched in a relegation battle so they’ll be desperate to arrest a worryingly poor record at their Weserstadion home this weekend.
The hosts have enjoyed a superb return when welcoming Saturday’s visitors Hertha Berlin (W7-D0-L0) in recent years but their four-point tally from eight fixtures (W1-D1-L6) in front of their home fans is a Bundesliga low in 2015/16.
The River Islanders have notched just five goals across those eight games but a diabolical backline has allowed visitors to smash 16 goals past them and Skrypnyk’s side have now shipped goals in each of their last 21 Bundesliga fixtures – an unwanted club record.
Werder have been beaten in 13 of their previous 20 when hosting top-six clubs and that’s a position Hertha find themselves in, on merit.
The capital club have been beaten just once in seven (W5-D1-L1) and that came against runaway league leaders Bayern Munich as they sit third with a five-point cushion over fifth.
Pal Dardai’s done a remarkable job with Berlin, building the foundations of success upon an outstanding defence – only Bayern Munich have kept more clean sheets than the visitors’ eight. And Hertha aren’t far off breaking a club record of their own…
Coming into this clash, the guests have kept their sheets clean for 421 minutes across all competitions. If they hold out for another 66 minutes, they’ll beat the previous record set in 1989/99 and you wouldn’t bet against them doing just that.
Only Bayern and Dortmund have more away wins than Hertha and the odds appear to significantly overrate Bremen here. I just have to be with Dardai’s men and we can get them onside at 3/4 (BetVictor) with a +0.25 Asian Handicap start.
With this selection, we’ll make money if the visitors avoid defeat. A Hertha victory will bag us a winner but if the game ends all square, we’ll see half our stake returned with the second half paid out at the advertised odds. The only way in which we’ll lose our stake is if Bremen bag an unlikely second home win of the season.
Bayer Leverkusen v Hannover | Saturday 14.30
I’ll get the harsh words out of the way first. Bayer Leverkusen are massively underachieving this season and Roger Schmidt’s fortunate that the bulk of the Bundesliga’s ‘bigger’ sides are also stumbling.
Die Werkself are enduring their worst campaign for 10 years and for someone who believed they’d be biting at Bayern’s ankles this season, it’s a tad embarrassing.
However, I do feel a bit of sympathy for Schmidt, especially for last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Hoffenheim. Bayer again dominated the match, out-shot their opponents 17-5 (8-3 on-target) and enjoyed 64% of possession but once again poor finishing let the side down. Hoffe scored with a wonder strike on the volley and it was down to Omer Toprak to scramble home an equaliser.
Nevertheless, I’m keeping the faith and I’m backing Leverkusen to bounce back to winning ways in style when rock-bottom Hannover arrive. Because, if they can’t beat Hannover, they don’t deserve a place in the Champions League next season.
The 96ers slipped to a 2-1 home loss to newly-promoted Darmstadt last weekend, sending the Reds back to the bottom of the pile for the first time since matchday seven. But significantly, it’s the first time since 1988/89 that Hannover that been bottom of the Bundesliga in the second half of the campaign, that year they were relegated.
Legendary Werder Bremen boss Thomas Schaaf took the reigns over the winter from the hapless Michael Frontzeck but four successive losses as well as six in their last seven shows what a major job he has on his hands. And the team news for Saturday is far from encouraging for the visitors.
Captain and centre-back Christian Schulz and holding midfielder Salif Sané are both suspended, leaving a defensive hole in the team. And the attack is hampered by the on-going absence of injured livewire Hiroshi Kiyotake – the 96ers have won just once in the last 13 matches he’s missed, losing seven of their most recent eight.
Hannover struggled for goals in the Hinrunde, scoring just 18 goals in 17 matches and although Schaaf will look to implement front foot, offensive football, you do worry if that approach will reap rewards when their unable to stem the bleeding at the back.
The stats look really ugly for the Reds. They’ve lost each of their last eight trips to the BayArena, failing to score on seven occasions. They’ve been beaten in 15 of their last 20 away days at top-six teams and they’ve trailed at half-time in 14 of their last 18 on their travels.
If Schmidt fields Stefan Kießling and Javier Hernández together in a 4-4-2 formation again here, Leverkusen could have a field day. We can back them at 17/20 in the Half-Time/Full-Time market and that holds huge appeal.
Bayern Munich v Hoffenheim | Sunday 16.30 | BT Sport Europe
Champions Bayern Munich hold an eight-point advantage at the top of the table and should saunter towards another three points when struggling Hoffenehim arrive.
Despite their cushy position, Kicker magazine reported that the relationship between Pep Guardiola and his players was coming under strain.
The boss is said to be unhappy with some players’ professionalism and their behaviour on days off, with trips abroad causing particular annoyance. Kicker also said Guardiola criticised players for being overweight before the league resumed after its month-long winter break last weekend.
So you'd assume the Bayern players would heed the words and frustrations of the planet's leading head coach and channel it towards a position performance.
Bayern have returned W11-D4-L0 figures against Hoffenheim in recent seasons, taking 19 points from a possible 21 when meeting at the Allianz Arena. And with Pep's charges recording 15 successive home triumphs and a huge 49 points from their first 18 games, they’re unlikely to be stopped.
FC Hollywood hold a 100% home record this season and have beaten all 21 bottom-half visitors to Munich in the Guardiola era with 10/21 (48%) being secured by three goals or more.
But Huub Stevens has found greater defensive stability since taking over Hoffe so, while they’ve been beaten in 17/23 trips to top-half teams, they may prove a little tricky to bypass.
So rather than opt for a handicap angle, I’m keen to support the Bavarian powerhouses in the win ‘to nil’ market thanks to BetVictor’s generous 3/4 odds.
The visitors have scored just 18 goals this term – a club record low at this stage of a season – in contrast, Thomas Müller and Robert Lewandowski have both been involved in 18 goals this season.
Jerome Boateng’s out for some time but Holger Badstuber’s an able replacement as the hosts look to enhance a defensive record that’s seen them leak just three goals in their nine Allianz Arena league games, accumulating six clean sheets.
You have to go back to early October for the last goal scored by a visiting team in Munich and so a shot-shy Hoffenheim side that’s fired blanks in three of their last four away days look unlikely to breach the Bayern backline.
Werder Bremen v Hertha Berlin – Hertha Berlin +0.25 Asian Handicap (3/4 BetVictor)
Bayer Leverkusen v Hannover – Bayer Leverkusen-Bayer Leverkusen Half-Time/Full-Time (17/20 Ladbrokes)
Bayern Munich v Hoffenheim – Bayern Munich to win ‘to nil’ (3/4 BetVictor)
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