The weekend proved obstinate to change, only Frankfurt and Mainz moving up the Bundesliga table in pursuit of credible season finishes. Bayern Munich look ominous as they continue to stalk the hundred-goal barrier in yet another year of unrivalled dominance on the part of the German giants. The weekend did bear frustration for yours truly, once again having a clean sweep thwarted by an insipid Dortmund performance and a surprising win for Mainz on the road. BVB’s goalless draw leaves the club wedged in mid-table, with even the prospect of a spot among Europe’s not-so-elite perhaps a bridge too far for Jurgen Klopp’s charges.
Friday 20 March
Hamburger SV 13/10
Hertha Berlin 23/10
Jaroslav Drobny was dismissed midway through the first-half, reducing Hamburg to ten men and resigning them to a 3-0 loss on their trip to Hoffenheim. Hamburg cannot afford another slip-up with the visit of fellow relegation candidates Hertha Berlin. The sides are placed just a point apart, Hamburg a mere two points above the drop zone. Berlin gave up a lead in the dying minutes against much-fancied Schalke but should still be pleased with the point. Salomon Kalou could be facing legal action after chiseling out pieces of the Berlin Wall in a failed television stunt. Distractions aside, this could well be cagey affair as both sides contemplate the importance of not losing the fixture. Under 2.5 goals is the most shrewd way to play this at 11/20.
Saturday 21 March
VfB Stuttgart 29/20
Eintracht Frankfurt 18/10
Stuttgart’s dire season continued as they slumped to a 4-0 loss to Bayer Leverkusen last time out. Coach Huub Stevens has surprisingly been backed by the club in the aftermath of the loss, a defeat that sees the Swabians having claimed only four of a possible 27 points in their previous nine outings. Somehow, a couple of wins could see them to relative safety and they’ll feel that they’re in with a shot against a Frankfurt side notoriously poor on the road. It is this inconsistency that sees Frankfurt eighth on the table when they could realistically be challenging for Champions League spots. A 4-0 win against Paderborn at the Commerzbank-Arena bears testament to the danger they pose, but away losses to the likes of Cologne, Mainz and Freiburg in recent times shows their vulnerability. The reverse fixture was a nine-goal humdinger with Stuttgart the victors 5-4. But after Stuttgart’s woeful performance last week and their manager on the bench, I’d advise taking Stuttgart to win or draw on the Double Chance at 4/10.
Sport-Club Freiburg 19/10
FC Augsburg 14/10
Freiburg will be proud of the way they acquitted themselves against a top quality Wolfsburg side, the eventual 3-0 scoreline not quite reflecting the belligerence of the visitors. They had their fair share of shots on goal after Wolves opened the scoring but could not make their chances count as their opponents struck twice late on to put the game to bed. Augsburg’s European hopes were dented by Mainz last week, suffering a 2-0 loss at home in a game in which they threw caution to the wind. It didn’t pay off and with European football a reality for Augsburg for the first time in their history, I expect a more clinical performance. They’ve dropped far too many points in the Ruckrunde already and are tipped to get back to winning ways at 14/10.
1899 Hoffenheim 21/20
Hoffenheim narrowed the gap behind the top six and underlined their strong European ambitions with a comfortable 3-0 win over struggling Hamburg. Polanski scored one from the penalty spot and added another late on before Sebastian Rudy rounded off the scoring to add insult to injury. They will view this trip to Paderborn as another opportunity to pick up three points and should other results go their way, Hoffenheim could find themselves among the Europa League positions next week. Paderborn were thumped by Frankfurt last weekend, stretching their losing streak to four matches. In this time they’ve failed to hit the back of the net and have conceded a staggering fifteen times. But it gets worse. They’ve won only one of their previous sixteen Bundesliga fixtures and have scored only twice in their last ten, both coming against Hannover, their solitary win since November. It doesn’t make for pretty reading but does lead me to tip Hoffenheim to get the away win at 21/20.
Hannover 96 4/1
Borussia Dortmund 13/20
Hannover remained winless in 2015 as they were outgunned by Gladbach and a Patrick Herrmann double in their last outing. Gladbach remained the superior side throughout and with the majority of the game played in Hannover’s half, the scoreline could well have made for a grim headline. It won’t get any easier with the visit of Dortmund despite the underperforming German giants being held to goalless draws by Cologne and Hannover in their previous two matches. One feels that it is only a matter of time before Dortmund begin to find the back of the net again and they could not ask for a better opportunity this weekend. BVB have done me two weeks in a row, here’s hoping they grab the away win at 13/20 and don’t make it a third.
FC Cologne 12/10
Werder Bremen 23/10
It is no secret that Cologne need a win. They have only one to their name in their last eight outings but the point gained from keeping Dortmund scoreless last week has kept the relegation zone at bay. They face a Werder Bremen side also in need of three points, their winning streak halted just over a month ago by Schalke. They have won only one match since then and were handed a comprehensive defeat by to-be champions Bayern Munich last week. Bremen only narrowly avoided relegation last season but the change to coach Skripnik reinvented the side. They’ll be pleased with ninth position on the table following last season’s tribulations and will be confident of picking up three points here. However, one feels that Cologne’s bus-parking has the ability to frustrate Bremen. Take the away/draw Double Chance at 6/10.
FC Schalke 21/10
Bayer Leverkusen 5/4
The Royal Blues snatched a point in the capital after stunning the Santiago Bernabeu with their midweek heroics against Real Madrid. The match in Spain wasn’t enough to see Schalke progress further in Europe but the point against Berlin sees them three points off the top four in the Bundesliga. Leroy Sane shone on his full debut, a last minute addition to the starting line-up following an injury to Choupo-Moting. Sane looks a fantastic prospect and a valuable asset at this late stage of the season, particularly partnering the dangerous Huntelaar. Leverkusen cruised to victory against a clearly overwhelmed Stuttgart but face a stern test in Spain against Atletico in midweek. Bayer Leverkusen have won and kept clean sheets in their last five matches, their defensive solidity melding perfectly with the attacking sensibilities of Heung-min Son, Karim Bellarabi and Hakan Calhanoglu. I think fatigue will play a part on their visit to Schalke and they may be forced to settle for point. You won’t find me tipping a draw however and I think the value lies in Both Teams to Score at 7/10. Another clean sheet seems beyond Leverkusen’s reach.
Sunday 22 March
Mainz 05 21/10
Wolfsburg kept their cool against a spirited Freiburg side and reaped the reward from a soft penalty given twelves minutes from time. Ricardo Rodriguez made no mistake from the spot to put Wolfsburg two ahead before Kevin De Bruyne, who opened the scoring, put through Maximilian Arnold for another. It kept Wolfsburg eleven points behind Bayern Munich and nine ahead of Gladbach in third. Mainz continue to defy logical thought this season and a 2-0 away win at Augsburg sent the club in eleventh. Previously battling relegation, Mainz will perhaps consider safety a job well done. They’ll relish the opportunity to play spoilers again this week but after being overpowered in the reverse fixture and lacking consistency, I can’t help but back Wolfsburg at an alluring 11/10.
Bayern Munich 2/11
Borussia Monchengladbach 53/4
Free-scoring Munich continued their goal line assault with a 4-0 romp away at Werder Bremen. This without several first-team players and on the back of a 7-0 destruction of Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League. They’ll be rested and back to doing what they do best at the Allianz Arena; scoring goals and picking up three points. Gladbach dominated much of their 2-0 win against Hannover and remain two points clear of Leverkusen in third-place. However, for all of their industry and good recent form, Gladbach will prove no match for the mighty Bavarians. Over 3.5 goals has proved successful in recent weeks but you know what they say about too much of a good thing. Bayern Munich to win both halves is value at 12/10 considering that they have done so in eight of their last eleven Bundesliga home matches.