Bayern Munich v Augsburg
Saturday May 09, 14:30
As Neymar nonchalantly rolled the ball past an exposed Manuel Neuer, and the crowd at the Camp Nou roared its appreciation, Pep Guardiola turned away from the pitch. Pain was etched on his face, because he knew that goal had killed his side’s Champions League challenge for another season.
Barcelona’s 3-0 win over Bayern Munich in the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals has sparked criticism of Guardiola, and there are plenty of observers who have accused the Catalan of taking Jupp Heynckes’ treble-winning team backwards. He’s made the tactics too complicated, they say. Bayern aren’t as ruthless, they say.
I will stand up for Guardiola, and offer the following in mitigation. He was shorn of two of his most important players. Arjen Robben has been in breathtaking form this season, and would certainly have transformed a Bayern attack that failed to register a meaningful shot on target. David Alaba is a critical link between defence and midfield, and his boundless energy and impressive athleticism would’ve helped in the battle to contain Barca’s attacking stars.
Sometimes in football we analyse what went wrong, rather than applaud magnificence. Lionel Messi’s ruthless first goal and barely believable second smashed open a game in which Bayern had competed well, and held on for 77 minutes. Guardiola had warned before the match that Messi was unstoppable, and he was emphatically proved right. With the indefatigable Luis Suarez and the stylish Neymar alongside him, Messi was afforded space to make the difference.
That’s not to say Bayern don’t have questions to answer. Guardiola’s decision to play the first 15 minutes like a game of NBA Jam sapped vital energy from his players, and he must find out why excellent individuals like Juan Bernat and Thiago froze on such a big stage.
Bayern have wrapped up the German title, and the market clearly believes they will take a Bavarian derby against Augsburg lightly, as they focus their efforts on an extraordinary European comeback. Seeing Bayern trading as big as [1.61] for a home win is very unusual, especially against a team that isn’t in the top four.
I think Bayern need a win to help them clear their heads, and although Guardiola played a weakened side in last Saturday’s defeat at Bayer Leverkusen, I still think Saturday’s line-up will be strong enough to collect three points. It’s also worth bearing in mind that although Augsburg have had a terrific season, they have only won two of their last 12 league games. Markus Weinzierl’s men have lost their last five away games in the Bundesliga, and they were panned 4-0 by Bayern in the reverse fixture.
Back Bayern Munich -1.0 on the Asian Handicap at [1.98]
Hamburg v Freiburg
Friday May 08, 19:30
Live on ESPN
Hamburg looked to have hit rock-bottom when they lost the Nordderby 1-0 at Werder Bremen a couple of weeks ago, but remarkably they have managed back-to-back wins. Serial underachievers like Pierre-Michel Lasogga have started contributing, and coach Bruno Labbadia has somehow got the team scoring goals. The Redshorts have netted five goals in the last two games – they had only scored 16 goals in the previous 29 outings.
Momentum is a huge factor at this time of the season, and while Hamburg have found some, Freiburg have hit a brick wall. Last weekend’s 2-1 home defeat to Paderborn came as a huge shock, as Christian Streich’s side faded badly after a dominant first-half performance. Freiburg now find themselves in the relegation playoff spot, with Hamburg a point and two places better off.
Freiburg’s defence has collapsed at the worst possible time, and they have shipped seven goals in the last three matches. They also have a dreadful away record, and have lost four of their last seven road matches.
Hamburg are still in trouble, but they have confidence and momentum, and Labbadia has confounded the critics (including me) by infusing the team with some much-needed passion. I fancy the hosts in a crucial game.
Back Hamburg to win at [2.22]
Paderborn v Wolfsburg
Sunday May 10, 14:30
Live on BT Sport 1
Paderborn moved a big step closer towards an amazing escape act last week, as Lukas Rupp’s second-half double saw them win 2-1 at Freiburg. This was incredible for many reasons, not least that Rupp almost never scores, so to bag a brace was a Herculean achievement. Andre Breitenreiter’s men are now a point above the bottom three.
Wolfsburg have wobbled in recent weeks, taking just two points from their last three games. This has allowed Borussia Monchengladbach to close to within a couple of points in the race for second spot, while Bayer Leverkusen are only four points adrift of the Wolves.
With Gladbach and Leverkusen playing each other this weekend, this is a great chance for Wolfsburg to nail down their claim for a top-two finish. The latest news from the training ground suggests that Wolfsburg coach Dieter Hecking will select a strong team, with Kevin De Bruyne looking for a record-breaking 19th assist.
Paderborn are to be commended for their efforts, but it’s worth remembering they have lost eight of their 14 games since Christmas, and playmaker Alban Meha is still out with an elbow injury. This could be the moment when an superior Wolfsburg wake up from their slumber, and rack up their seventh away win of the season.
Back Wolfsburg -1.0 on the Asian Handicap at [2.12]
Kevin will be commentating on Borussia Monchengladbach v Bayer Leverkusen and Cologne v Schalke for TuneIn Radio with talkSPORT. For live commentary search “Bundesliga English” on the TuneIn app, or visit the official Bundesliga website
2014/15 Bundesliga P/L (1pt per bet)
Points Staked: 127
Points Returned: 137.24
P/L: +10.24 points