In his latest Bundesliga preview, Kevin Hatchard can’t quite understand why Real Madrid’s conquerors Schalke are such a big price to win this weekend…
Hertha Berlin v Schalke
Saturday March 14, 14:30
Schalke surprised pretty much everyone with their Champions League efforts in midweek, as they pushed the champions Real Madrid to the brink of elimination. They couldn’t quite shove Ronaldo and company over the edge, but a 4-3 victory at the Bernabeu isn’t to be sniffed at.
Schalke boss Roberto Di Matteo was heavily criticised – not least by yours truly – for his tactics in a recent 3-0 Revierderby defeat at Borussia Dortmund, and to give him credit he has taken the handbrake off. The result has been two wins and seven goals, as the win in Madrid was preceded by a 3-1 victory over Hoffenheim last weekend.
Di Matteo’s tenure began with a 2-0 home win against Hertha Berlin, and since that game the Royal Blues have mounted a Champions League qualification challenge, while the capital club have sunk into the relegation mire. Pal Dardai’s men are only two points above the bottom three, and last weekend they took part in the worst game of the season so far, a stinking 0-0 draw at rock-bottom Stuttgart.
I’ve maintained for some time in this column that Hertha have one of the weakest squads in the division, and blame for that has to lie at the feet of oft-criticised sporting director Michael Preetz. Hertha haven’t replaced injured playmaker Alex Baumjohann, and although summer signings Salomon Kalou and Julian Scheiber have performed well up front, Johnny Heitinga hasn’t been the defensive upgrade they were hoping for.
Hertha have lost three of their last four home games, and frankly I’m amazed that Schalke are 2.77/4 to win this. Even if exciting forward Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting fails a late fitness test, Schalke should have enough quality and confidence to take all three points. It’s also worth noting that Schalke are Hertha’s bogey team – Opta tell us the men from Gelsenkirchen have won the clubs’ last seven meetings.
Back Schalke to win at 2.77/4
Eintracht Frankfurt v Paderborn
Saturday March 14, 14:30
Paderborn’s sad decline continued last weekend with a 3-0 home defeat to Bayer Leverkusen, and that game was another example of the timidity that has gripped coach Andre Breitenreiter. The game was goalless with 20 minutes to go, and Paderborn had shaded it, with scampering winger Suleyman Koc looking a real threat. However, Breitenreiter got cold feet, and replaced Koc with the more defensively orientated Jens Wemmer. Five minutes later, Bayer broke the deadlock.
Paderborn have now failed to score in seven of their last eight games, and although they are coming up against one of the league’s worst defences this weekend, I think they are too bereft of confidence to take advantage.
Eintracht Frankfurt were awful defensively in last weekend’s 4-2 reverse at Cologne, but they are unbeaten in their last six home games, and should be far too strong for Paderborn. Alex Meier bagged a brace last weekend, and he leads the goalscoring charts with 18. Frankfurt have scored at least once in their last 13 games, and their attack should make hay against a rearguard that has shipped a league-high 20 goals in 2015.
With Paderborn now a busted flush, I’m expecting a comfortable home win. You could back Frankfurt outright at a generous 1.758/11, or wait until there is a bit more liquidity in the Asian Handicap market and back the hosts with a goal handicap at about 2.111/10.
Back Eintracht Frankfurt -1.0 on the Asian Handicap at around 2.111/10
Wolfsburg v Freiburg
Sunday March 15, 14:30
Live on ESPN
Wolfsburg’s distant dreams of title success were finally extinguished last weekend, as they were edged out 1-0 at Augsburg. That defeat, coupled with Bayern Munich’s 3-1 win at Hannover, left Dieter Hecking’s Wolves 11 points adrift of top spot.
To their immense credit, Wolfsburg picked themselves up, dusted themselves down, and swept aside Inter Milan 3-1 on Thursday night in the Europa League. Admittedly they were given a helping hand by the abysmal Inter keeper Juan Pablo Carrizo, but it was a fine win nevertheless.
The irrepressible Kevin De Bruyne played a starring role against the Nerazzurri with two goals and an assist. The Belgian is in the best form of his short career, and Hecking has already started trying to implant the idea in De Bruyne’s head that he should stay at the Volkswagen Arena for at least one more season.
Wolfsburg still have to make sure of a top four finish, and I expect them to get three points closer to that goal on Sunday. Freiburg are second-bottom, and Opta tell us they haven’t scored a Bundesliga goal for 245 minutes. The Black Forest outfit have only won four games all season, and they have lost three of their last four away matches.
Freiburg always work hard under Christian Streich, but they lack match-winning quality, and key players haven’t stepped up in the same way they did last season. A classic example is striker Admir Mehmedi, who has netted just one goal in the league all season, and by his own admission he has been in dreadful form.
Wolfsburg have won their last seven home games, and I can’t see that hot streak coming to an end against a Freiburg side in big trouble.
Back Wolfsburg -1.5 on the Asian Handicap at 2.09n/a
Borussia Monchengladbach v Hannover
Sunday March 15, 16:30
Live on BT Sport 1
Although Hannover were a touch unlucky against Bayern Munich last week, with refereeing decisions going against them in a 3-1 defeat, none of that will be remembered if they end up going down this season. A campaign that started very brightly indeed has turned into a scrap for survival, and coach Tayfun Korkut is under pressure.
Korkut insists his team will be fine, and results will improve if the 96ers start being more clinical in front of goal. The coach’s positive outlook contrasts sharply with the reality of recent results – Hannover have gone eight games without a win, and since the winter break they have collected just three points from a possible 21.
Hannover’s cause won’t be helped by suspensions for Leonardo Bittencourt and influential skipper Lars Stindl, and they visit a Borussia Monchengladbach side in fine form. Although the Foals blew a 2-0 lead in a 2-2 draw at Mainz, they still performed well, and they have been rock-solid at home of late.
Gladbach have won their last five home games in the Bundesliga, and the Opta stats show they haven’t conceded a league goal at Borussia Park for 309 minutes. Strikers Max Kruse and Raffael have finally shown signs of life, and I think Lucien Favre’s men are well set to secure a top-four finish.
Gladbach are by far the better side, and their price of 1.84/5 to win is too big to ignore.
Back Borussia Monchengladbach to win at 1.84/5
Kevin will be commentating on Werder Bremen v Bayern Munich and Borussia Monchengladbach v Hannover for TuneIn Radio and talkSPORT. To listen, search for “Bundesliga English” on the TuneIn app, or visit the official Bundesliga website
2014/15 Bundesliga P/L (1pt per bet)
Points Staked: 100
Points Returned: 101.3
P/L: +1.3 points