Kevin Hatchard’s back with his latest Bundesliga preview, and he expects Augsburg and in-form Wolfsburg to produce a thrilling encounter…
Augsburg v Wolfsburg
I really thought the Wolfsburg Express would hit the buffers last Sunday at Werder Bremen, but it just smashed through the barriers and kept on flying down the tracks. Despite being a goal down on three occasions at the Weserstadion, Dieter Hecking’s men stormed back every time, eventually winning 5-3. Red-hot striker Bas Dost continued his frankly absurd form with a brace, and he has now netted 13 goals since Christmas.
Wolfsburg now visit an Augsburg side that is starting to run out of steam. The lack of depth in Markus Weinzierl’s squad is being exposed, and a heavy workload for the same 15 or 16 players is proving too much of a burden. The Bavarians have taken just two points from their last four games, and it’s intriguing that since their shock win at Borussia Dortmund a month ago, FCA have nosedived while Dortmund have soared. Since that fractious night at Signal Iduna Park, the gap between the teams has shrunk from 17 points to just seven.
Wolfsburg’s recent games in the Bundesliga have featured plenty of goals, and Augsburg’s defence has sprung a few leaks since Christmas. The tricky thing is whether to go for Over 1.5 First Half Goals at 2.568/5 or just a straight Over 3.5 Goals bet at 2.89/5.
There have been at least two first-half goals in eight of Wolfsburg’s last 10 league games, but the same is only true of four of Augsburg’s last ten. Six of Augsburg’s last 11 league games have featured four goals or more, and six of Wolfsburg last 12 have done the same. It’s also worth considering that the Wolves score a lot of goals on the road because of their speed and quality on the break, and six of their last seven away games have contained at least four goals.
My gut feeling is that Augsburg’s poor form may make them a bit wary in the opening stages, and as such the game might take a while to open up, with both sides very strong on the counter-attack against tiring defences. On that basis, I’ll plump for Over 3.5 Goals.
You may also be tempted by the Wolfsburg win at 2.186/5, but Augsburg have only lost two of their 11 home games, so I’m steering clear.
Back Over 3.5 Goals at 2.89/5
Hamburg v Borussia Dortmund
Borussia Dortmund’s remarkable recovery continues, and they were superb in last weekend’s 3-0 Revierderby win over old foes Schalke. Admittedly BVB were encouraged by Roberto Di Matteo’s timid gameplan, but it was still a relentlessly energetic performance which featured a couple of superbly crafted goals.
Jurgen Klopp’s men have now won four games on the bounce in the Bundesliga, their best run of the season. With games coming up against Hamburg, Cologne and Hannover, Dortmund could well be closing in on the top four by the time they face Bayern Munich in early April.
The swagger and fun factor has returned to Dortmund’s play, and injuries have largely cleared up. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is leading the charge in attack, Marco Reus has had a sensational few weeks, and midfield regulator Ilkay Gundogan is starting to have a strong influence again.
While BVB are on the up, Hamburg are falling fast after a decent start to 2015. An 8-0 hammering at Bayern Munich really rocked them, and they were poor in last week’s 2-1 defeat at Eintracht Frankfurt.
The league’s worst attack has at least started to score some goals, but HSV just aren’t playing with any verve or confidence. Coach Joe Zinnbauer is under mounting pressure, and although key midfielder Valon Behrami is back in training, the Swiss international has admitted he’s far from fully fit.
Hamburg have history in their favour. Opta tell us they have won four of their last five games against Die Schwarzgelben, including this season’s reverse fixture 1-0. HSV have also won six of their last eight home games against the men from the Ruhr.
While that is compelling evidence, as things currently stand BVB have a huge advantage in terms of quality and morale, and I’m siding with the in-form visitors.
Back Borussia Dortmund -1.0 on the Asian Handicap at 1.910/11
Hannover v Bayern Munich
Earlier in the season, as Hannover moved into the giddy heights of the top four, there was tentative talk in hushed tones about European qualification. Now, the chatter is about relegation, and it is significantly louder.
Having comfortably guided the 96ers to safety last season, coach Tayfun Korkut is facing his first real crisis, with his side now winless in seven games. If you stretch back further, Hannover have won just one of their last 12 outings.
In attack, Hannover are far too reliant on striker Joselu, who has scored eight of their 26 goals. Their previously impressive defence has also declined, and they haven’t kept a clean sheet since mid-December. They are without suspended skipper Lars Stindl this weekend, and his influence will be sorely missed.
Bayern will undoubtedly have an eye on their forthcoming Champions League clash with Shakhtar Donetsk, but their squad is immensely strong, and I expect them to win this comfortably. The champions and league leaders have won their last four league games, scoring 20 goals and conceding just one. Bayern won this fixture 4-0 last season, and I expect something similar on Saturday against a Hannover team that has really lost its way.
Back Bayern Munich -1.5 & -2.0 on the Asian Handicap at 1.9210/11
Mainz v Borussia Monchengladbach
Live on BT Sport 1
Borussia Monchengladbach set themselves the target of a top-eight finish at the start of the season, and they are on course to do far better. The Foals are currently third in the table, and their last-32 exit from the Europa League to Sevilla may prove a blessing in disguise. They are still in German Cup contention, having disposed of third-division Kickers Offenbach 2-0 in midweek.
That was Gladbach’s fifth clean sheet of 2015, and they have defended very well indeed since the winter break. At the other end, Max Kruse finally scored his first goal of the year in midweek, and Gladbach now need him to kick on.
Mainz have won one and lost one since former youth coach Martin Schmidt was promoted to the top job, but they have only won two of their last 17 Bundesliga games, and Opta tell us Die Nullfunfer haven’t won any of their last seven meetings with Gladbach. I see no reason why Mainz are favourites to win this against a superior team who can catch them out with their speedy counter-attacks, so I’m backing the visitors with a bit of insurance by using Draw No Bet.
Back Borussia Monchengladbach Draw No Bet at 2.021/1
Paderborn v Bayer Leverkusen
Live on BT Sport Extra
Paderborn are sinking into the relegation quicksand, and they are struggling to grab a lifeline. They have now failed to score in six of their last seven Bundesliga games, and they currently occupy the relegation playoff spot.
Bayer Leverkusen have kept three clean sheets in a row in all competitions, and they have managed five shutouts in their last eight outings. They have leaked just 14 goals away from home in the league, the third-best record in the division.
There’s no way a Bayer Leverkusen clean sheet should be priced at 2.568/5 against such shot-shy opposition, so get on.
Back Bayer Leverkusen to keep a clean sheet at 2.568/5
Kevin will be commentating on Hamburg v Borussia Dortmund and Paderborn v Bayer Leverkusen for TuneIn radio with talkSPORT. To hear live coverage, search for “Bundesliga English” on the TuneIn app, or visit the Bundesliga’s official website
2014/15 Bundesliga P/L (1pt per bet)
Points Staked: 95
Points Returned: 96.28
P/L: +1.28 points