EUROPEAN football fanatic Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) is heading to Germany for his next best bet from the continent.
Borussia Dortmund v Bayer Leverkusen | Sunday 24th February 2019, 17:00 | BT Sport
Game of the weekend in Germany sees Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund welcome Bayer Leverkusen to the Westfalenstadion as the pace-setters look to preserve their position at the top of the table following three successive draws.
Monday night’s listless effort in a 0-0 draw at rock-bottom Nurnberg has allowed Bayern Munich to close to within three points of the summit and the Bavarians could even top the table on goal difference should they see off Hertha on Saturday, potentially piling the pressure on BVB here.
Dortmund boss Lucien Favre has called for calm In the Die Schwarzgelben ranks but will be well aware a statement performance is required to lift the paranoia and strengthen belief around the club. An injury to talisman skipper Marco Reus hasn’t helped, although the leading light in the BVB squad is expected to be available again this weekend.
The hosts have won just one of three Bundesliga games that their 13-goal captain has missed this season, whilst Paco Alcacer’s timely return to fitness will also boost Dortmund’s offensive output. The Spaniard has notched 12 goals since signing and could feature from the off in Favre’s preferred 4-2-3-1 system.
Leverkusen a team reborn
This is certainly no gimme for BVB. Leverkusen have looked like a side reborn under former Dortmund coach Peter Bosz. The Dutchman had been out of a job since being shown the door at the Westfalenstadion in December 2017, but has worked wonders after being brought in from the cold to replace Heiko Herrlich in December.
Bayer have have won four of their five league games in 2019 on the former Ajax tactician's watch, whilst scoring 13 goals to revive their hopes of a top-six finish. Attacking players Kai Havertz, Julian Brandt and Kevin Volland are all in excellent form, and Jamaican speedster Leon Bailey is returning to his best. Die Werkself provide plenty of threat.
Leverkusen are the form team in Germany this calendar year and have already turned over Bayern Munich under Bosz. Reservations remain over his ability to marry a solid defence alongside his high-octane attacking game, but from a neutral’s perspective it should at least set Sunday’s showdown up to be a fascinating watch.
Goals on the agenda
There’s no denying Dortmund were wretched on Monday night and placid against Spurs at Wembley. However, the hosts have looked electric at their North Rhine-Westphalia home under Favre and it’s hard to imagine BVB will fire a third blank of the 2018/19 campaign.
Die Schwarzgelben have actually racked up 37 goals – at a rate of 3.36 per-game – in 11 home league outings this term. That includes striking at least twice in each meeting with a top-half team here, whilst all bar two of their 11 tussles have featured winning Both Teams To Score selections.
Ten of Dortmund’s 11 Westfalenstadion fixtures have produced Over 2.5 Goals profit, as well as 8/11 (73%) surpassing the Over 3.5 Goals line. Nine therefore paid out for Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score backers and that’s my preferred play with Coral offering 3/4.
Leverkusen’s road trips are averaging 3.46 goals per-game with Bayer scoring eight in their first two away days under Bosz at Mainz and Wolfsburg. Die Werkself have only twice kept their sheets clean in 11 games as guests, leaking at least twice in five of six on their travels to clubs occupying a berth inside the top-10. Six saw Overs and BTTS collect.
Collectively, the pair have seen 4.05 goals per-game on average in their combined home/away contests in the Bundesliga with 18/22 (82%) seeing at least three goals and 11/22 (50%) breaking the Over 3.5 Goals barrier. Sixteen (73%) delivered for Both Teams To Score backers as they teams kept five clean sheets and scored in 19/22 (86%).
If we look at Expected Goals (xG) data, Dortmund are delivering a match average of 2.85, with Leverkusen’s outings producing a hefty 3.26 – that leaps to 3.63 under Bosz and so all the evidence points towards a potentially thrilling meeting on Sunday evening.
Borussia Dortmund v Bayer Leverkusen – Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score (3/4 Coral)