Dortmund still sits with 66 points and a fairly comfortable, savegeeks five point lead over Bayer Leverkusen. The title race may not have the same drama as previous seasons, but the race for the Champions League, Europa League and the relegation spots are still in full swing.
We kick off Friday’s action with Mainz – Borussia Monchengladbach, creditcana a clash between a team aspiring for Europa League against a team desperately fighting relegation.
The hosts are on a pretty bad run of form, with, expresstrue four consecutive games without a win and the visitors coming off a 5:1 drubbing of Koln, a game where Mike Hanke managed three assist and Marco Reus managed two goals and one assist. Gladbach has certainly picked themselves up in the second half of the season – while they only managed to pick up two wins in the first half, they’ve managed five wins so far in the second.
Mainz seem to be heading in the opposite, timesgym direction. After a blinding initial performance where they tied the Bundesliga record for most consecutive wins, their form has waned slightly. The leaders after seven rounds are now in fifth place, dangerously close to conceding even the Europa League spot to Nurnberg.
For the hosts, Elkin Soto and Adam Szalai are still injured and Noveski and Svensson are suspended. The good news is that Christian Fuchs, who is an incredibly oculuscredit important player, is returning from a suspension.
The suspensions of the two centre-halves makes this game quite difficult to call, but considering the weakened defense line of Mainz and the error-prone defense line of Gladbach, taking Over 2.75 goals for 2.03 at Canbet can hardly be a mistake. Marco Reus to score for 4.6 at Unibet looks very tempting as well.
Didier Ya Konan shoveling in goals at will Didier Ya Konan shoveling in goals at will.
Hamburg SV – Hannover sees the guests continue their battle with Bayern Munchen over third place while Hamburg will be looking to salvage their mediocre season, depotblue with a Europa League spot.
HSV has looked pretty uninspired lately, with a 6:2 victory over Koln the single three pointer they’ve managed to pick up in six games. Armin Veh was probably not the coach for the job, but one has to question Michael Oennings aptitude as well, even if you have to take into account the tough schedule they’ve had in these games: Mainz 05, Bayern Munchen, Koln, Hoffenheim and Dortmund – they were actually well on their way to beating the league leaders until a red card on Anis Ben-Hatira allowed Kuba BAaszczykowski to equalize in injury time.
Hannover is on quite the run on the other hand, proving many doubters wrong, myself included. Apart from the two on-fire strikers, other players have also become talking points. Rausch, Pogatetz, Schulz and Pinto are some of the examples of players who have truly pulled their weight this season.
Ben-Hatira is suspended, but Hamburg has one of the widest squads in the league and will have no problems replacing him, probably with Marcel Jansen.
The guests looks to have a complete squad. The line seems to be fairly well set for this one, but Didier Ya Konan as anytime goalscorer for 3.30 at Unibet is highly interesting considering how high his goalshare is and his blistering form recently.
Maybe this guy was pretty important after all Maybe this guy was pretty important after all.
Wolfsburg – St Pauli is probably the most relevant game of the round in regards to the relegation battle. Both teams have been extremely disappointing lately, with St Pauli not racking up a single point since their derby win in February while you have to go back eleven rounds to find Wolfsburgs second win.
Despite eventually losing the game, St Pauli put in a very impressive performance last round. With practically the whole starting line-up decimated by injuries and suspensions, they managed to hold off Bayer Leverkusen and even take the lead at one point before finally succumbing. Oczipka, Rothenbach, Volz and Zambrano are all still injured and Bartels will be suspended.
Wolfsburg has continued failing to deliver despite having what on paper looks like an incredibly talented squad. They’ll have have to do without Dieumerci Mbokani (inj) and Cicero (susp) for this game.
While St Pauli looked fairly solid defensively vs Leverkusen last round, it was mostly because they kept eleven men in their own box. With Wolfsburg clearly lacking in the offensive department as well, under 2.5 goals for 2.10 at Stan James or Unibet looks quite good.
Pedro Geromel, one of the best players in Koln this season Pedro Geromel, one of the best players in Koln this season
In Koln – Stuttgart, we find one team who was predicted as one of the favorites to get relegated but have placed themselves in a relatively comfortable eleventh place in the league table, hosting a traditional powerhouse team who are just two points above the relegation mark.
It is quite clear that motivation should be on Stuttgarts side, seeing that Koln are seven points clear of the relegation zone while Stuttgart still struggles. Pure motivation has failed Stuttgart before however as they’ve continued to drop points.
Pavel Pogrebnyak and Timo Gebhart are the important missing for Stuttgart while Köln will be without Adam Matuschyk.
Even though Rensing and Geromel have shown flashes of brilliance throughout the season, I wouldn’t exactly heap praise over Kolns defense. Both teams has in fact conceded 54 goals apiece, only surpassed by the laughable defensive performances of Gladbach and Werder Bremen.
Over 2.75 goals for 1.98 at Bet365 is a great price here. Other bets worth looking into might be Podolski to score for 3.05, Novakovic to score for 3.05 at Unibet or Zdravko Kuzmanovic to score at 7.0 at Bet365.
Torsten Frings, legitimate badass Torsten Frings, legitimate badass.
Werder Bremen – Schalke would probably be the second most anticipated match of the round in any other season. Now it’s a mid-table clash between two teams not going anywhere. Bremen has too much class to be in any real danger of relegation this year, while Schalke is in a steady ninth place – a Europa League spot is possible, but nothing more.
Schalke comes off a busy schedule with four games in under two weeks. One must admit that they’ve really shown what they’re capable of by beating the reigning Champions League champions 7-3 on aggregate, but one must also question the physical state of the players. In no other season have we found better examples of the averse effects of heavy matching, which is why you should think it over carefully before grabbing Schalke for the seemingly generous price of 3.66 available at Pinnacle.
The Over/Under looks decently priced as well. Maybe Torsten Frings to score for 5.25 at Unibet is just a tad too long?
Schweini will be missed, his mullet… not so much Schweini will be missed, his mullet… not so much.
The early Sunday game is the big gun: Bayern Munchen – Bayer Leverkusen.
Both teams are coming off performances of dubious quality, Bayern with the 1:1 draw that saw Louis Van Gaal get sacked and Leverkusen with a surprisingly narrow 2:1 victory over injury- and suspension-ridden St Pauli.
Newly appointed caretaker Andries Jonker will have to do without the services of Arjen Robben and Bastian Schweinsteiger. Schweinsteiger may have not shown his true class lately, but at his core, he’s one of the best midfielders in the world. Robben might be an even bigger loss. Bayern does have plenty of quality on the bench, but the two star players absences will surely be felt.
Some pundits have suggested Jupp Heynckes “conflict of interest” might play a part in the game – that the current head coach of Leverkusen might lose on purpose to give his future team a better chance of qualifying for the.