Borussia Dortmund v Paderborn
Saturday April 18, 14:30
All good things must come to an end, and after a season that proved to be more challenging and stressful than anyone could have anticipated, Jurgen Klopp has decided to call time on his tenure at Borussia Dortmund. Many of my fellow writers have detailed the whys and wherefores of his shock departure, but I’d like to focus on the wonderful job he did.
Klopp took a club that had narrowly survived bankruptcy, and with a physical style of play that mixed relentless pressing with speedy and precise counter-attacking, he bloodied the nose of Bayern Munich. BVB won the Bundesliga title in both 2011 and 2012, three German Cups and Supercups, and were narrowly edged out by old foes Bayern in the 2013 Champions League final at Wembley. Charismatic both on and off the pitch, Klopp has been a credit to the Bundesliga, and I for one will miss him when he quits Germany.
The Klopp that Bundesliga fans knew and loved faded away this season, and on reflection, the recent 1-0 defeat to Bayern in Der Klassiker gave us a big clue as to what was to come. The winner was scored by former Dortmund darling Robert Lewandowski, hammering home the painful point that BVB had been unable to keep their best players out of the clutches of their rivals.
Even more instructive was the feeble way in which Dortmund struggled to get back into the game after Lewandowski’s opener. They were reduced to punting the ball long to the lumbering Adrian Ramos, a player who they should never have signed. This wasn’t the real Dortmund, and it wasn’t the real Klopp.
So the love affair is over, and BVB will move onto a new partner. Former Mainz boss Thomas Tuchel is available, and would be my choice for the role. He is young, tactically astute and has the man-management skills to reshape the squad.
For now, Klopp still holds the reins, and I expect BVB to use the emotion of his departure to good effect. Die Schwarzgelben can still sneak into the Europa League, either via the league or the German Cup, where they will face Bayern in the semis.
Saturday’s opponents Paderborn boosted their survival hopes last weekend, as they beat Augsburg 2-1 to end their long waits for firstly a goal and then a win. While they deserve credit for that victory, I’ve said for some time that I think Augsburg are running on empty, so the win should be put into context.
If you look at 2015 as a whole, third-bottom Paderborn have collected just eight points from 11 matches. They have scored a pitiful four goals in that sequence, and conceded 27. They don’t lack determination, but they do lack quality.
I think Klopp’s decision to quit might just give BVB the jolt they need, and it’ll be an emotional occasion at Signal Iduna Park. Paderborn could find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Back Borussia Dortmund -1.5 & -2.0 on the Asian Handicap at [1.98]
Hoffenheim v Bayern Munich
Saturday April 18, 14:30
So all is not well at Borussia Dortmund, and it’s not going entirely swimmingly at Bayern Munich either. Although the champions are closing in on a second successive domestic double under Pep Guardiola, their abject performance in a 3-1 Champions League defeat at Porto was a real shock to the system.
Bayern were uncharacteristically sloppy in possession, and made some awful defensive errors, and there is absolutely no guarantee they will turn the tie around next week. The departure of veteran doctor Hans Muller-Wohlfahrt after nearly 40 years has added a twist to the tale. He claims his medical staff were blamed for the defeat at the Dragao, and Guardiola is known to be frustrated about the catalogue of injury problems Bayern have suffered this term. It’s not just the number of injuries that has irked the Catalan coach, but the amount of time it’s been taking to get injured players back to full fitness.
Despite these problems, Bayern are still flying in the Bundesliga. With the league’s current top-scorer Alex Meier out for the rest of the season, Lewandowski looks nailed on for the Torjagerkanone title, and he’s helped Bayern win eight of their last nine league games.
Hoffenheim have never beaten Bayern, and they have lost their last three games in all competitions, leaking ten goals in the process. They were thumped 4-1 by Borussia Monchengladbach in their last home game, and despite Bayern’s injury issues, I’m expecting a comfortable away win. Hoffe coach Markus Gisdol deserves the improved contract he’s just signed, but he might have to wait a bit longer to celebrate.
Back Bayern Munich -1.0 on the Asian Handicap at [2.11]
Werder Bremen v Hamburg
Sunday April 19, 14:30
Live on ESPN
Rock-bottom Hamburg’s nightmare season has descended to new levels of farce in the past fortnight. HSV sacked Joe Zinnbauer with no plan regarding who would replace him, and then put sporting director Peter Knabel in charge. Knabel hadn’t coached for 15 years, and it showed. A 4-0 defeat at Bayer Leverkusen was followed by a 2-0 home reverse against Wolfsburg, and in another panic-stricken move, HSV have yanked Bruno Labbadia off the managerial merry-go-round.
Labbadia’s last spell as HSV coach lasted less than a year, and he has to hit the ground running if the Redshorts are to avoid their first ever relegation from the Bundesliga. Unfortunately, he is taking over a team that is totally bereft of self-belief.
Hamburg haven’t scored in any of their last five games, and they haven’t won since the first week of February. Ahead of Sunday’s derby at bitter northern rivals Werder Bremen, they are without suspended centre-back Johan Djourou, who disgracefully talked himself into a red card last weekend. Labbadia has worked on new tactics, but has he had time to implement them?
Opta tell us Werder have won their last four home games against Hamburg, and although they haven’t won in their last four matches, they’ve been unlucky not to pick up more points in that spell.
Inspirational coach Viktor Skripnik has had a motivational meeting with his players to discuss the slump, and with top scorer Franco Di Santo fit and key defender Sebastian Prodl back from suspension, I fancy the hosts against one of the league’s worst sides.
Back Werder Bremen to win at [2.08]
Kevin will be commentating on Hoffenheim v Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg v Schalke for TuneIn radio and talkSPORT. To hear 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: 116
Points Returned: 123.81
P/L: +7.81 points