Our German Bundesliga writer previews matchday 17 of the 2016/17 season.
The Bundesliga Ruckrunde - or second half of the season - gets underway with Bayern Munich commanding a three-point lead over trailing surprise package Leipzig. The pair are streets ahead of a rather congested pack of clubs all in contention for European qualification.
The pressure is truly on the managers of Dortmund (sixth) and Leverkusen (ninth) - German giants who have underwhelmed this term - while Wolfsburg are still very much at risk of relegation. Monchengladbach and Schalke are also entrenched in the bottom half of the table and will be gearing up for a strong return to league competition.
Friday 20 January
Freiburg 19/2 | Draw 47/10 | Bayern Munich 1/4
Before the break, Freiburg beat Ingolstadt 2-1 with a Florian Niederlechner double that ensured the club finished the Hinrunde in the top half of the table, a tremendous achievement for Christian Streich’s men. Although Freiburg’s season has been built on a strong home record thus far, the victory proves that the club are also capable of picking up points on the road.
Bayern Munich beat nearest rivals Leipzig 3-0 with goals from Thiago Alcantara, Xabi Alonso and Robert Lewandowski coming in a first half in which Leipzig were also reduced to ten men. Munich controlled the game from start to finish and Over 2.5 Goals looks a good bet here at 5/10.
Saturday 21 January
Schalke 8/10 | Draw 5/2 | Ingolstadt 7/2
Schalke won the race to sign Holger Badstuber on loan from Bayern Munich, certainly strengthening central defense after losing 2-1 to Hamburg before the league break. The club lies 11th, their form once again in decline before the break, going four Bundesliga matches without a victory.
Ingolstadt had beaten both Leverkusen and Leipzig before going down 2-1 to Freiburg - a remarkable achievement considering they’ve won only three times in sixteen league games. Ingolstadt will probably find a visit to Schalke a difficult way to kick off the Rückrunde. Back the home win at 8/10.
Wolfsburg 9/10 | Draw 5/2 | Hamburg 29/10
Wolfsburg turned an awful run of form around to win both of their final two matches going into the winter break. Wolves beat fellow strugglers Monchengladbach 2-1 with goals from Daniel Caligiuri and Mario Gomez to move up into 13th, however, they’re still only three points clear of the relegation zone.
Hamburg moved out of the bottom two with a 2-1 win at home over Schalke. They were good value for the win, with goals from Nicolai Muller and Bobby Wood sealing the win. Another three points here will bring Hamburg level with Wolfsburg. I’m willing to take the punt on the away win here at 29/10.
Augsburg 18/10 | Draw 9/4 | Hoffenheim 31/20
Augsburg picked up a point away at Dortmund in their last Bundesliga outing, ensuring the club are unbeaten in their last seven league matches. Caretaker coach Manuel Baum picked up a 1-0 win over Monchengladbach in his first game in charge before the stalemate and has now been appointed as manager until the end of the season.
It has been confirmed that Hoffenheim’s Niklas Sule and Sebastian Rudy will leave for Bayern Munich next season, diluting a side who has gone the entire Hinrunde unbeaten with six wins and ten draws. Sandro Wagner gave Hoffenheim the lead in a 1-1 draw with Werder Bremen last time out, making him the most prolific German goalscorer in the calendar year. Hoffenheim on the Win/Draw Double Chance at 4/10 is the best bet here.
Werder Bremen 9/2 | Draw 7/2 | Dortmund 11/20
Serge Gnabry scored his seventh goal of the season to bring Werder Bremen level with Hoffenheim in their last outing, picking up a point that sees the club three points clear of the relegation zone. Dortmund drew their third consecutive league match as Augsburg fought back for a 1-1 draw - parking the bus sufficiently to prevent Dortmund finding a winner.
Sixth on the table and 12 points shy of Bayern Munich, Thomas Tuchel will be disappointed that Dortmund haven’t fought harder to take three points from situations that they should. They simply must start the second half of the season with urgency. Back the away win at 11/20.
Darmstadt 31/10 | Draw 49/20 | Monchengladbach 9/10
Darmstadt ended 2016 rooted to the bottom of the table, four points adrift. The 2-0 loss to Hertha Berlin before the break was Darmstadt’s eighth consecutive league defeat, leaving them with only eight points from their 16 matches - scoring a measly 11 goals.
Monchengladbach have also struggled this season, although not quite to the same extent. However, they have only one win from their last eleven league matches and Andre Schubert’s future is very much uncertain at this stage. With both sides averaging less than a goal per game, Under 2.5 Goals is a good bet at 7/10.
Leipzig 13/20 | Draw 26/10 | Eintracht Frankfurt 17/4
Leipzig have signed defender Dayot Upamecano from Red Bull Salzburg - the ninth player to leave Salzburg for their sister club - amid interest from Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Arsenal and Manchester United. Leipzig are only three points off the German champions and will be hopeful of challenging for the title in the first ever Bundesliga season. However, their form wobbled slightly with their only two losses coming in their final three matches before the break.
Eintracht Frankfurt finished the Hinrunde fourth on the table with a 3-0 win over Mainz in what was a very successful first half of the season for the club. They’ve lost only once in their last 10 league matches and this could be explosive encounter. Both Teams to Score at even money is a great bet.
Sunday 22 January
Leverkusen 15/20 | Draw 26/10 | Hertha Berlin 37/10
Leverkusen will be disappointed with their ninth place standing at the end of the first half of the season. The club shared the spoils with Rhine rivals Cologne in their last league outing, perhaps a slightly harsh result considering Leverkusen were by far the more dangerous of the two sides. As usual, Javier Hernandez is also subject to transfer speculation.
Hertha Berlin ended 2016 with a 2-0 win over Darmstadt that sealed third place in the league for the men from the capital. The Old Lady’s form was up-and-down leading into the winter break and this will be a tough fixture against a Leverkusen side that found a fine vein of form in the second period of last season. The home win is the tip at 15/20.
Mainz 15/10 | Draw 9/4 | Cologne 37/20
Mainz limped into the winter break with one win and four losses from their last five league matches. They were soundly beaten 3-0 by Eintracht Frankfurt in their last match, going down to 10-men early in the second half. Still, a league position of 10th will give the club some optimism for the coming term.
Cologne’s bright start to the season dissipated slightly and they drew four of their last five fixtures, their last three ending with 1-1 scorelines. Having only lost three times all season, Cologne are primed for a push for European football but will need to start well. For that reason, I’m taking a punt on the away win at 37/20.
TREBLE @ 53/10
Schalke Win 8/10
Leverkusen Win 15/20
Leipzig vs Eintracht Frankfurt BTTS 1/1
Written by Rick John Henry @Hollywoodbets