BUNDESLIGA fanatic Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) shares his three favourite fancies from Germany this weekend.
Bayern Munich v Hoffenheim | Saturday 14:30
The transition from Pep Guardiola to Carlo Ancelotti hasn’t been quite as smooth as many in Munich will have hoped. Sure, Bayern are top of the Bundesliga but the Bavarians have been far from their authoritative selves this season.
FC Hollywood’s midweek match at PSV marked the seventh occasion in eight in which Bayern have failed to keep their sheets clean. Despite boasting an impressive roster of defensive personnel, Ancelotti’s been unable to keep the backdoor closed.
The hosts have won 20 of their last 23 at the Allianz Arena but they’ve left us all feeling a bit short-changed in the first three months of the Italian’s reign. I’ve counted up to nine fixtures from 13 since September where Bayern weren’t quite as hot as the full-time result may have suggested.
German international pair Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels will start at centre-back here and youngster Joshua Kimmich should be given another chance to impress in midfield with Thiago doubtful. And Bayern should ensure their world class talent justifies their short pre-match odds.
The Sinsheim side sped away from the relegation zone soon after appointing 29 year-old Julian Nagelsmann and have continued to rise through the ranks this term – having drawn their opening four fixtures, Hoffe have churned out five successive Bundesliga victories.
Hoffenheim’s unbeaten start has put them within four points of their hosts ahead of this encounter and only Bayern and Dortmund have collected more points since Nagelsmann arrived on the scene. It’s been a remarkable turnaround.
The visitors were very impressive in beating fellow high-flyers Hertha Berlin last weekend and they represent one of the division’s best at keeping the ball. I’d fancy Hoffe to frustrate Bayern for large swathes and would even back them to grab a goal at the Allianz Arena.
If Bayern continue to show complacency and a laboured attitude to league fixtures, Hoffe can strike and certainly make this contest a lot closer than the odds suggest. If we can back the +2.25, we’ll make money if they stay within two goals of the defending champions.
We’ll seal a half-stakes profit should Hoffenheim lose by exactly two goals but a one-goal loss, a draw or an away win would return us full-stakes profit. The only way in which our stake will be lost if Bayern run out winners by three goals or more.
Eintracht Frankfurt v Koln | Saturday 17:30 | BT Sport
The appointment of Niko Kovac in March gave Eintracht Frankfurt the foundation and direction they required to stave off the threat of Bundesliga relegation last term.
The Eagles only survived via the relegation play-off but they showed enough steel in the weeks before those decisive two matches to suggest they were too strong for demotion.
Kovac has continued the upward curve this term with Frankfurt sitting as high as seventh in the standings (W4-D3-L2) – a run of results that’s included a richly-deserved 2-2 draw at home to Bayern Munich. In fact, Eintracht are still unbeaten (W2-D2-L0) at their Commerzbank-Arena base.
Home form was the Eagles’ forte last term – losing on only five occasions – and their defensive resolve has ensured Saturday evening’s hosts have only shipped eight goals in their first nine games – their best start at the back for 24 years.
However, Eintracht do open up a touch more in front of their home supporters and with a number of players still on the treatment table, there’s definitely room to manoeuvre in the Both Teams To Score market with William Hill offering 10/11.
The hosts have only kept their sheets clean once at the Commerzbank-Arena this season and the mooted return of talisman Alexander Meier should at least give the group a big boost in the attacking third.
Koln have exceeded expectations to sit fourth, losing just once this campaign. The Billy Goats have claimed a solitary success on their travels and tend to be happy to settle for a share of the spoils on the road – 10 of their last 15 away days have ended all-square.
But this weekend Peter Stoger’s team are without skipper Dominic Maroh, meaning Dominque Heintz will start at centre-back here. Still, the visitors can call upon the Bundesliga’s top scorer in 11-goal man Anthony Modeste.
The ex-Blackburn flop notched a hat-trick last weekend against Hamburg and should prosper again with Koln creating bundles of opportunities in the final third for the Frenchman.
Since the start of last season, 13/21 (62%) of Koln’s away days rewarded Both Teams To Score backers with the same 13/21 (62%) figures proving profitable for BTTS hunters when looking at Frankfurt’s home fixtures across the same timeframe.
Collectively the pair have managed just 11/42 (26%) home/away clean sheets in that above sample, scoring in 31/42 (74%). Plenty of proof – if more was required – to support an attack at that 10/11.
Schalke v Werder Bremen | Sunday 16:30 | BT Sport
Schalke made their worst ever start to a Bundesliga season this term, losing their first five matches, but they have steadily been building momentum under new coach Markus Weinzierl.
The Royal Blues have taken eight points from their following four matches and impressed during the first-half of the Ruhr derby against bitter rivals Borussia Dortmund on Saturday evening.
Schalke have won all four of their Europa League ties, already sealing progression to the knockout stages. Put the two runs of results together and the guys from Gelsenkirchen can boast a W6-D2-L0 return since late September, scoring 17 goals and keeping five clean sheets.
At the Veltins Arena, the Royal Blues have particularly impressed – winning each of their past four fixtures, shutting out three. In the Bundesliga the hosts have ousted both Borussia Monchengladbach (4-0) and Mainz (3-0) with consummate ease.
Schalke’s turnaround has been brought about by a switch to a more balanced and fluent 3-5-1-1/3-5-2 formation. Weinzierl’s troops have control at the back but crucially aren’t being overrun in midfield areas. With undoubted quality in attacking areas, the hosts have a team capable of pushing for a top-four finish.
The Royal Blues are regular flat-track bullies; their W8-D3-L1 record against Bremen over the past 12 meetings is a strong starting point for this selection but even more eye-catching is their return of 16 home wins from their past 20 encounters with clubs residing in the bottom-six positions.
I went further back, too. Go back to 2011/12 and Schalke have W31-D9-L5 in Veltins Arena clashes with sides in the bottom-half of the Bundesliga. The hosts scored at least twice in 28/45 (62%), notched three or more goals in 20/45 (44%) and kept 18/45 (40%) clean sheets.
A huge 23/45 (51%) of those matches saw Schalke win by at least a two-goal margin with 9/45 (20%) of contests resulting in a home success by three or more goals. Very strong trends.
The alternative to supporting a -1 Schalke win on the Asian Handicap market – where a one-goal win sees our stake returned – is to get involved with the 17/20 (BetStars) on the hosts to win and Over 1.5 Goals. We'll pocket profit should Schalke win by any scoreline other than 1-0.
Visitors Bremen made an awful start to the new season; dumped out of the DFB Pokal on the opening weekend to third-division Sportfreunde Lotte was been followed by a thumping 6-0 defeat at Bayern Munich and a tough-to-take home loss against Augsburg.
Two more league defeats followed and after a pointless start from four games, Victor Skrypnyk was sacked. The River Islanders moved to appoint U23 coach Alexander Nouri on a temporary basis and having inspired Werder seven points from a possible nine, the club made his position permanent.
However, Bremen have slipped back to their sorry ways of late. The visitors have suffered back-to-back 3-1 defeats and with centre-back Lamine Sane and star centre-forward Claudio Pizarro unavailable, the guests look short at the back and also in attack this weekend.
Werder have yet to record a shutout in 2016/17, have W0-D1-L3 on their travels shipping 15 goals and leaked at least twice in seven of their past eight away days. The River Islanders’ longer-term road record is just as awful – 20/38 (53%) defeats, 12 (32%) by at least two goals – as is their return at top-six sides.
Since 2011/12, Bremen have lost 24/30 (80%) of their visits to the top-six as they’ve failed to record a clean sheet. A huge 15 (50%) of those losses were by that two-goal margin with a further 13 (43%) seeing the away side fall to a three-goal defeat or bigger.
This could get ugly.
Bayern Munich v Hoffenheim – Hoffenheim +2.25 Asian Handicap (3/4 Bet365)
Eintracht Frankfurt v Koln – Both Teams To Score (10/11 William Hill)
Schalke v Werder Bremen – Schalke to win and Over 1.5 Goals (17/20 BetStars)