The title race is pretty much over. Wolfsburg fell eleven points behind Bayern Munich at the weekend and kissed whatever slim hopes they had of catching the German champions goodbye. Wolves were one of the two supposed German powerhouses that put me out of my multiple last week, Dortmund held to a draw at Hamburg. While the battle for German supremacy is largely at a simmer, the fight for places in next season’s UEFA Champions League rages on. Of course, the struggle against the dreaded drop has begun to intensify, making every set of fixtures crucial for the futures of throne pretenders and basement dwellers alike.
Bayer Leverkusen 9/20
VfB Stuttgart 11/2
Leverkusen left it late but ended up departing resounding winners in their Bundesliga clash with Paderborn last weekend. Bayer defended well as the league strugglers controlled possession and almost pushed them to breaking point. Nevertheless, Leverkusen rallied to rifle home three late goals, a brace from Son Heung-min taking his Bundesliga tally into double figures. They’re fourth on the table, well within grasp of the Champions League, but will need to continue their good run of form that has seen them win four of their last five matches in all competitions. Stuttgart missed an opportunity to move off of the bottom of the table in their tussle with travelling Berlin, the draw extending the gap between them and safety to five points. Coach Huus Stevens will be sweating at the prospect of an away trip to Leverkusen and his imminent departure. Back Bayer at 9/20.
Eintracht Frankfurt 7/10
Alexander Meier was on twice on target to top the Bundesliga scorer charts with eighteen goals, yet it wasn’t to be enough as Frankfurt conceded four to succumb to defeat away to Cologne. They let in three of them in the space of sixteen minutes and Meier’s late penalty proved only a consolation. Regardless, Frankfurt will draw upon their strong home form that has seen them pick up results in all of their last six matches at the Commerzbank-Arena. Paderborn lacked composure in front of goal in a match that they could easily have stolen from Leverkusen had they taken their chances. Instead, they remain in the relegation zone and I’m betting that they won’t be out of it come the end of the weekend. Frankfurt are tipped for another strong display at home at 7/10.
1899 Hoffenheim 8/10
Hamburger SV 33/10
Hamburg held Dortmund to a goalless draw at home to earn a valuable point in their battle against relegation. They now reside two points above the drop zone but have a tricky test away to a Hoffenheim side with their egos bruised. Hoffe had been on a good run of form prior to a comfortable beating at the hands of Schalke last weekend. Kevin Volland pulled one back with twenty minutes remaining but it only served to take the gloss off of Schalke’s result. These sides drew 1-1 in the reverse fixture but Hoffenheim have dominated other recent meetings with Hamburg. The home side is tipped to win again at a fairly valuable 8/10.
Werder Bremen 17/2
Bayern Munich 3/10
Werder Bremen got back to winning ways last weekend after tasting defeat twice, once at home against Wolfsburg and the other away in the German Cup to 3. Liga side Arminia Bielefeld. A spectacular Franco di Santo goal had Werder Bremen back on track, having been in fantastic form prior to the two aforementioned losses. However, they have been hammered time and time again by Bayern Munich and one feels that their luck has run its course. They are simply no match for Munchen, who have racked up 24 goals in their last four head-to-heads with Werder Bremen, conceding only three times. Indeed, they haven’t lost to Bremen since way back in 2008. Bayern recovered from a shock early goal to come out 3-1 winners at Hannover, Dante’s indiscretion in conceding leading to him being substituted in the first-half. I can’t see Werder Bremen stopping Bayern’s scoring trend and Over 3.5 goals is the tip at 21/20.
Hertha Berlin 7/4
FC Schalke 31/20
Berlin played out a goalless draw away to Stuttgart in their last outing and although the men from the German capital came closest to scoring, they were made to leave with a point in a game of few chances. They are most certainly missing their top scorer Julien Schieber, out for what looks to be the rest of the season with damaged cartilage in his left knee. It’s all about results at this stage for Hertha Berlin, two points above the drop zone. Schalke were commanding winners against Hoffenheim; Fuchs was on fire as the Royal Blues waltzed to a 3-1 win. They lost concentration towards the end of the match to concede and will also be immensely drained from a midweek Champions League meeting with Real Madrid. Both sides are priced up rather evenly but I feel Schalke have the edge. I’d still advise prudence in taking Schalke to win or draw at 9/20.
FC Augsburg 19/20
Mainz 05 28/10
Augsburg are back on track in their push for a place among Europe’s elite, coming out 1-0 winners against an in-form Wolfsburg side. Augsburg are the first side to have beaten Wolves since Everton last November, such was the magnitude of their achievement. They caught their opponents on the counter-attack after nullifying their array of attacking threats and forcing Wolfsburg to shoot from range. They are likely to come out with a more attacking mindset at home to the Bundesliga draw specialists. Mainz came from two goals down to draw with Gladbach in their last outing but will likely struggle here on the road. I’m tipping Augsburg to come away with the three points at 19/20.
Borussia Dortmund 7/20
Dortmund’s four-match winning streak was brought to an end as they were held to a draw away at Hamburg, a venue that doesn’t hold much luck for the German giants. Following their catastrophic start the season, the point keeps them firmly in mid-table, a position from which they will look to advance as the Ruckrunde draws to a close. It was probably a case of tired legs in their last outing following participation in Europe and they’ll fancy their chances against a Cologne side that recorded only their second home win of the season against Frankfurt. Kevin Wimmer saw red at the end of the match to concede a penalty but Cologne will have no such luxuries against a Dortmund side increasing in momentum. The home side are a bit too short for my liking. I prefer better value in Over 2.5 goals at 7/10.
Sport-Club Freiburg 7/1
Wolfsburg fell eleven points off the pace in the league race as they were defeated last weekend to end a massive eighteen-match unbeaten streak. Their dream of securing the Bundesliga title was fanciful at best, but perhaps next season a title charge is in the making. Star striker Bas Dost was marked out of the game at Augsburg and if Wolves can retain his services next season, they’ll continue to be a formidable unit going forward with plenty of supply for the Dutchman. They’ll likely reap revenge against a Freiburg side that fought hard in their outing with Werder Bremen but could not come up with an equaliser. They looked organised and motivated but all the heart in the world will still see them battle against the quality available at the hands of the hosts. Again, 7/20 looks a bit too short. Over 2.5 goals has more appeal at a shade more value, priced up at 5/10.
Borussia Monchengladbach 15/20
Hannover 96 36/10
Gladbach missed a golden chance to move within striking range of Wolfsburg on the Bundesliga table when they wasted a two-goal lead at the weekend. Raffael scored a brace but the goals were thrown away as Gladbach conceded twice in the space of five minutes to share the spoils with Mainz. They can take positives from the way they reacted on attack and were truly unlucky not to bag another goal at the death and leave with the three points. Hannover are struggling. Despite opening the scoring against Bayern Munich, they lost the lead within three minutes, conceded a penalty to go a goal down and then allowed Bayern to wrap up the match with a third without much resistance. I can’t see them halting their slide down the table here. Gladbach to get the win is tipped at 15/20.