RB Leipzig v Bayer Leverkusen
RB Leipzig will be looking to move into the European places this weekend when they host Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen at the Red Bull Arena. They remain unbeaten at home in the Bundesliga with a draw against Cologne followed by four consecutive wins against Wolfsburg (2-0), Borussia Dortmund (3-0), Bochum (4-0) and Hertha Berlin (3-2). Currently eighth, their impressive home form places them just two points behind Mainz, who occupy the final European spot. In fact, the Bundesliga is close with six points separating Bayern Munich in second and Cologne in 10th. With a third of the games already played, there’s no real runaway in the league in terms of fighting for the title and the European places.
Marco Rose’s Leipzig will also come into their game against Bayer Leverkusen full of confidence after beating Real Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday night – the only team to beat the Spanish side this season. In an unfamiliar role to what he was playing, Mohamed Simakan excelled at right-back, registering one assist and three key passes. With Leverkusen also playing 24 hours later against Atlético Madrid in Spain with a game that lasted 98 minutes because of the amount of stoppage time, Leipzig also have more time to rest and recuperate. Other than Konrad Laimer and Lukas Klostermann, who they’ve been without for much of the season, Leipzig have an almost fully fit squad. We can again expect to see Timo Werner, Christopher Nkunku and Andre Silva play together in some combination. Against a Leverkusen team that has conceded 12 in their last four games, the trio can do some real damage.
When it comes to creating chances, only Bayern Munich (122), Borussia Dortmund (89) and Borussia Mönchengladbach (85) have created more than RB Leipzig (78) in the Bundesliga this season. They’re also accurate with their passing in the final third with only Bayern Munich (7) and Borussia Mönchengladbach (5.4) completing more key passes per 90 than RB Leipzig (5). With the quick transitions that head coach Rose strives for, we could see something reminiscent of Bayer Leverkusen’s 5-1 defeat against Eintracht Frankfurt just a couple of weeks ago.
Patrik Schick was benched against Atlético Madrid on Wednesday night and with just two goals in 10 Bundesliga games this season, he’s been unable to replicate last season’s form that saw him score 24 in 27 league games. With Bayer Leverkusen’s attack, they’ll always have a chance when Moussa Diaby is playing but in truth, the team has been a shadow of what they were last season.
At home, with an attacking quartet that’s gaining an understanding more and more with each passing game, you would expect RB Leipzig to come out with the three points. Defensively, only Bochum (28) and Schalke (26) – who both occupy the relegation positions – have conceded more goals than Leverkusen (23) this season. Expect goals and RB Leipzig to win.
Stuttgart v Augsburg
Stuttgart are still searching for a successor to Pellegrino Matarazzo and this weekend they host an Augsburg side that are exceeding expectations. As interim head coach, Michael Wimmer picked up wins against Bochum (4-1) and Arminia Bielefeld (6-0) in the Bundesliga and German Cup, their first wins of the season. Last weekend though, they were soundly beaten 5-0 against a Borussia Dortmund team that so desperately needed a win in the Bundesliga. Stuttgart picked up just two points from a possible 12 in their first five league games at home before their win against then bottom side Bochum.
Augsburg meanwhile have impressed under Enrico Maassen. In his managerial role at a top flight club, Maassen (38) suffered a difficult start to his tenure with just three points from a possible 15, a win at Bayer Leverkusen. The six Bundesliga games that followed has seen Augsburg lose just one game, and narrowly at that. Leading against Cologne, FCA were then 2-1 down with 30 minutes remaining. They equalised through Daniel Caligiuri but conceded a Cologne winner with nine minutes to go. In their last six games, Augsburg have beat Werder Bremen, Schalke and Bayern Munich, proving they’re no push-overs whilst picking up a point against Wolfsburg.
Against RB Leipzig last weekend, they were leading Marco Rose’s side 3-0 with 65 minutes on the clock. After Leipzig got a goal back through Andre Silva they collapsed with two minutes remaining, conceding two goals and picking up just a single point. Still, Augsburg have shown that they can go head-to-head with the ‘bigger’ teams. With 10 goals in their last five Bundesliga games, it’s quite easy to under-estimate this Augsburg team. Lining up in a 4-4-2, they always look to get crosses in the area for Mergim Berisha and Florian Niederlechner whilst the midfield pivot of Carlos Gruezo and Elvis Rexhbecaj never stop running.
Augsburg don’t really excel in any metric but somehow, they’re turning heads. Against a Stuttgart side, you would fancy Augsburg to go home with one or three points on Saturday. Stuttgart have only scored seven in six home games this season and Augsburg have won three of their five away games. At 1.91 on Betfair, Augsburg double chance is excellent value.
Union Berlin v Borussia Mönchengladbach
Bundesliga leaders Union Berlin host Borussia Mönchengladbach this weekend as they remain one point clear of Bayern Munich. Unbeaten in their opening seven league games, Union have two defeats in their last four games which has allowed the likes of Bayern, Freiburg and Eintracht Frankfurt to move within three points of the capital club. A 1-0 win against high-flying Braga in midweek also keeps their European aspirations alive but it also means that they’ve had less time to prepare after Urs Fischer fielded his strongest XI. Meanwhile with just four points from a possible 12, Borussia Mönchengladbach have struggled of late.
Typically when Union Berlin are involved, goals are scarce. With just eight conceded in 11 Bundesliga games, they have the best defence alongside Bayern Munich. Six of Union’s last seven Bundesliga games have finished with under 2.5 goals – if you look across all competitions, it’s 12 from their last 13 games. If Union score first, they tend to sit back in their low defensive block and look to counter. If they go behind, as they did in a defeat against Bochum last weekend, they struggle to get into an attacking rhythm. Defensively minded, only Werder Bremen (47) has won more defensive challenges than Union (46). With a preference to transition through Julian Ryerson and Christopher Trimmel, Union also average 4.7 accurate crosses per 90. With Yann Sommer sidelined for Borussia Mönchengladbach, they don’t have that leader that can orchestrate the defence which could prove problematic.
As for Gladbach, they come into this game with just two wins for their last eight. They’re without Sommer and Ko Itakura – Sunday’s game against Union is also likely to come too soon for Jonas Hofmann, an integral player in their attack with five goal contributions in 10 games. Marcus Thuram is in excellent form and has scored five in his last four Bundesliga games but is underperforming his xG. Even if Borussia Mönchengladbach do score, expect Union’s back five to remain compact and difficult to break down.
Union’s gameplan first and foremost is not to concede. Four of their last six Bundesliga games has resulted in a clean sheet. They also remain unbeaten at home and have conceded just three in five league games. Jordan Pefok and Sheraldo Becker have struggled in front of goal of late but if they get a chance, expect them to take it – the duo are almost on par with their xG. Gladbach’s attack has also been wasteful in front of goal this season and against an organised defence, they may struggle. It’s difficult to imagine more than two goals in this match and with odds of 2.0 for under 2.5 goals, I think that represents good value.
Cologne v Hoffenheim
Cologne host Hoffenheim this week and after their game against Slovacko was suspended on Thursday night due to fog, the Bundesliga side would resume their Europa Conference League fixture against the Czech club on Friday afternoon, giving Cologne around 48 hours to fly back to Germany, rest and recuperate. It doesn’t bode well for a team that has lost four of their last five games across all competitions (not counting the Friday result against Slovacko).
In the Bundesliga, Cologne have won two of their last four games and despite being 10th, are just three points off Borussia Dortmund, who occupy 5th. Steffen Baumgart’s side have shipped 14 goals in their last four Bundesliga games and against the free-flowing attack of Hoffenheim, this may not be pretty. Just last weekend, Cologne lost 5-0 against Mainz and a yellow-red card for Luca Kilian suspends their best defender for Sunday’s game against Hoffenheim.
Hoffenheim tend to travel relatively well and have picked up seven points from a possible 12 on the road. They’ve also won two of their last three games across all competitions, twice against Schalke (Bundesliga and German Cup) before a 2-0 defeat against Bayern Munich last weekend. Despite an injury to Munas Dabbur, who’s been in excellent form of late with four goals in four games, Andre Breitenreiter is unlikely to deviate from his 5-3-2. Playing as the attacking-midfielder last weekend against Bayern, we’d expect to see Andrej Kramaric alongside Gio Rutter in attack which in truth, probably provides a bigger goal threat. Typically Hoffenheim are quick in their transitions and like to test the ‘keeper. Only five teams have more shots on target in the Bundesliga this season than Hoffenheim (58).
Against a Cologne team that is typically gung-ho, expect Hoffenheim to find space in behind when they’re transitioning the ball in the final third. Kilian’s absence for the hosts is huge in a defence that already ships a high number of goals. With a week to recover from last weekend, Hoffenheim will be fit and ready to go on Sunday. Both teams will want a win to keep in the running for European football but I would expect to see Hoffenheim to pick up the three points.
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