Hoffenheim v Bayer Leverkusen
Following a 5-2 defeat against relegation rivals Bochum last weekend, Hoffenheim parted ways with André Breitenreiter but have moved quickly to appoint former Stuttgart coach Pellegrino Matarazzo, who returns to Sinsheim after working as an assistant to Julian Nagelsmann. Three points above the relegation playoff, Matarazzo will have his work cut out and it starts with a difficult game against Bayer Leverkusen.
After five successive wins in the Bundesliga, Xabi Alonso has lost his last two games, and their 1-0 defeat against Augsburg shows that there is still plenty of work to be done. Reverting to a 3-4-3 last weekend, the lack of a presence in the box was evident.
With Patrik Schick still missing through injury, Leverkusen are missing that focal point in attack with Amine Adli, Moussa Diaby and Adam Hlozek all preferring support roles. Although averaging 6 Chances/90, converting them appears to be a problem for Bayer Leverkusen this season, having converted just 26% – Only 6 teams have a lower percentage.
As for Hoffenheim, Matarazzo’s first job will be to plug the holes in defence. TSG have conceded 26 goals in their last eight games and what makes this worse is that prior to last weekend, only Schalke (14) had scored fewer goals than Bochum (19), before the latter put five past Hoffenheim.
Both Bayer Leverkusen and Hoffenheim are averaging 12 Shots per 90 and so we can expect to see plenty of action at both ends. Leverkusen will be desperate to find their winning form again, whilst the Hoffenheim players will need to impress their new head coach. Expect to see goals in this fixture
Almeria v Real Betis
Real Betis are in a poor run of form and it won’t be easy for them to return to winning ways this weekend. That’s partly because three suspensions mean they are missing their best player in each positional line, with centre-back Luiz Felipe missing from the back line, with holding midfielder William Carvalho missing from central midfield and with playmaker Nabil Fekir missing from the attack.
It’ll also be tough because they have to go to the Power Horse Stadium, where Almería have been excellent this season. The newly promoted side currently have 22 points to their name and 19 of them have been collected at home, where their record of six victories means they boast the second-most home wins in the division, only behind leaders Barcelona.
Although Real Betis are also from the region of Andalusia, this is still very much an away day for them, with Almería located 320km away, and it’ll be incredibly tough against this Almería squad that strengthened in the January window and that has been improving as the season has gone on.
Real Betis are on the opposite trajectory, as they were collecting 1.71 points per game before the World Cup but have been taking 1.17 points per game since. It would be something of a shock if this depleted Real Betis side triumphs at the Power Horse Stadium.
Monaco v PSG
PSG have lost three of their first 10 matches of the calendar year for the first time since 2010, and ahead of a trip to Bayern Munich in the Champions League in midweek are a team teetering on the brink of a crisis. A trip to in-form Monaco is the last thing that Christophe Galtier’s side need this weekend, particularly after coming off the back of a Coupe de France exit against Marseille.
PSG were disappointing in that 2-1 defeat, with their lack of offensive bite notably clear. Kylian Mbappe continues to miss out for them in this match, and with Lionel Messi also now sidelined, everything is on the shoulders of Neymar. These injuries will also expose how lacking in offensive depth the Parisian side are, with the raw Hugo Ekitike the only other obvious option to start in attack.
Monaco, meanwhile, spent the week resting up and preparing for this match having already exited the cup in January. They are a team on a charge. They have won seven of their last 10 in Ligue 1 and 12 of their last 17.
Philippe Clement’s side may have lost three times at home this season, but only one of these defeats has come since August – and that was a 3-2 reverse against Marseille. On top of this, their previous result against PSG this season was a 1-1 away draw in a match they led for 50 minutes.
With three wins in their last six against PSG, this is a balanced rivalry, and on this occasion the home side should be favoured to get the win because of their opponents’ injury issues and focus on Europe.
Bayern Munich v VfL Bochum
With Union Berlin and Borussia Dortmund within three points of Bayern Munich, it’s imperative that the Rekordmeister pick up three points to ensure their position as leaders come Saturday night. And Julian Nagelsmann’s side won’t have a better opportunity to do so than against Bochum, who sit three points above the relegation playoff. The last time these two met, Bayern won 7-0 in the reverse fixture.
Whilst Bochum have improved under Thomas Letsch, who replaced Thomas Reis earlier in the season, no team has a worse away record than Bochum. They’ve won just one of their 10 games and have conceded a staggering 29 goals. Even after putting five past Hoffenheim last weekend, they face a mammoth task against Bayern Munich, who come into this after beating Wolfsburg 4-2 last weekend.
Unsurprisingly, Bayern Munich lead the Bundesliga for Shots on Target per 90 (8), Key Passes per 90 (6), Successful Dribbles per 90 (21), amongst other key attacking attributes. With 56 goals after 19 Bundesliga games, they certainly have no problem in finding the goal. Also keep an eye on Jamal Musiala – he has 10 goals and 6 assists in 18 Bundesliga games this season and is making a claim for Player of the Season.
As for Bochum, they won’t expect anything from this game, despite last weekend’s impressive performance. Even without Joshua Kimmich, who is suspended, expect Bayern Munich to run riot against Bochum. With Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Thomas Muller, Serge Gnabry, Kingsley Coman etc, Nagelsmann has more than enough options to cause problems in the final third. Bayern could easily finish with four or five, and Over 3.5 Goals certainly feels like a safe bet.
RB Leipzig v Union Berlin
Just three points separate RB Leipzig (4th) and Union Berlin (2nd) and for the first time in a long time, it feels as though we have a title race in the Bundesliga. RB Leipzig vs Union Berlin at the Red Bill Arena takes the Topspiel this weekend, and it’s not one to be missed. Union are just one point behind leaders Bayern Munich, and they’ve shown how to run a club on a minimal budget.
Marco Rose has lost just two of his 21 games in charge of RB Leipzig across all competitions after replacing Domenico Tedesco and the Saxony club are currently unbeaten in 18 games. Even without Christopher Nkunku, Leipzig’s top scorer this season, and Dani Olmo, Rose has done a remarkable job and now they feel like true competitors to Bayern Munich.
Rose fielded a 3-4-2-1 against Cologne last weekend, playing out a 0-0 draw, but expect him to revert to his preferred 4-2-3-1 with Emil Forsberg returning to the starting XI. Nkunku has returned to training, but Saturday’s game is likely to come too soon for the Frenchman.
But Leipzig have more than enough firepower in the final third with Andre Silva, Timo Werner, and Dominik Szoboszlai. Only Bayern Munich (3) average more goals per 90 than Leipzig (2.1) this season – Leipzig are also second to Bayern in the following metrics: Chances per 90, Shots on Target per 90 and Accurate Passes per 90.
Saturday’s game against Union Berlin certainly makes for an interesting fixture with two different styles of play. Urs Fischer’s side are far more defence-minded, but in the final third they look to exploit the wide areas. Union average 5.3 Accurate Crosses/90, the most of any Bundesliga team and without Willi Orban, who donated stem cells, it will be interesting to see how Leipzig are able to deal with the threat.
Like Leipzig, Union are in excellent form and have won their last four Bundesliga games. They’ve scored two goals in each of their last away league games, whilst Leipzig have scored at least two in all but one of their home games under Rose. Over 2.5 Goals offers favourable odds for this fixture.
Sevilla v Mallorca
Sevilla will be looking to keep up their good run of home form when they host Real Mallorca on Saturday evening, having won their past three LaLiga matches at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán. However, it must be kept in mind that the teams they won those last three home games against were Getafe, Cádiz and Elche, the three sides who currently occupy the relegation zone.
Real Mallorca should provide Sevilla with a much sterner test, especially as the islanders come into this game high on confidence after knocking off Real Madrid last weekend. Plus, Real Mallorca are more than capable of taking their good form with them on the road. They have the 10th best away record in the league, just like they have the 10th best home record.
Javier Aguirre’s Real Mallorca side are consistently tough to play against, with their back five so well-drilled, as was evidenced by last weekend’s win over Real Madrid when the reigning champions’ only shot on target was a saved penalty. Going up against Sevilla, the islanders are likely to let their hosts have complete control of possession but give up very few chances.
If the game follows that pattern, we won’t see many goals, as was the case in the previous two clashes between these sides since Aguirre took over at Mallorca: a 0-0 at the end of last season and a 1-0 Sevilla win at the start of this season. Consider too that Real Mallorca games this term have averaged just 1.70 goals, the lowest in the league. Although the average total goals per Sevilla game is higher at 2.50, we have seen them play some tight matches when facing ultra-defensive opponents like Real Mallorca.
Clermont v Marseille
Marseille are arguably Ligue 1’s most in-form side as they travel to Clermont on Saturday with the aim of further securing their place in second.
OM may have lost their last league fixture at home against Nice last weekend, but their response was excellent as they defeated PSG 2-1 at home in the Coupe de France. Impressively, that was Marseille’s 11th win in their last 13 fixtures in all competitions. Playing on the road has been no problem for Igor Tudor’s side either as they have won their last five away from home.
Coming off the midweek high should not prove too great an issue for OM. They boast a squad that is fit and have the depth on the bench to add quality to their starting XI if the coach feels that things need changed around a little.
They will have certainly watched Clermont’s home fixture against Monaco with interest. The home side were well outplayed in that match, with their guests playing with the handbrake on after scoring two early goals. Indeed, Clermont have lost more at home this season (5) than they have won (4).
The home side may have been five undefeated before their match with Monaco last weekend, but they have failed to score in their last three and OM will likely prove to have just too much quality for them on this occasion, just as they did at the Velodrome, where they won 1-0 back in August.
Valencia v Athletic Club
Valencia have returned from the World Cup in terrible form, taking just one point from six league matches since the return of club football, scoring just three goals and conceding nine in the process.
They also got knocked out of the Copa del Rey last month, losing 3-1 to this weekend’s opponents Athletic Club. All this saw Gennaro Gattuso leave and has led to fan protests, sparking a sense of crisis at the club.
However, Valencia aren’t quite as bad as the form book suggests. It should be kept in mind that four of their six post-World Cup LaLiga games were away from home. In the two home games, they lost 1-0 to Cádiz and drew 2-2 with Almería, but Valencia came out on top for xG on both occasions. That has been a theme of their struggles, as Valencia have been underperforming the xG at both ends all season long, and actually sit eight in the xG table for predicted points, compared to their actual position of 17th.
Of course, the situation at Valencia is not good and it’s a worrying sign that they’re underperforming their xG so much. But, they’re not as bad as it being made out and are better value than the 3.15 odds for them to win this Saturday night home game.
Up against them will be Athletic Club, who haven’t been great since the World Cup themselves. The Basque side have one win, two draws and three defeats in the league since club football returned, with the win coming last weekend in a weird game where they didn’t actually play all that well despite beating Cádiz 4-1.
This is also not a team that travels particularly well. Although they’ve won on the road in the Copa del Rey, Athletic Club have just two wins from nine away games in LaLiga this season. The Basques come into this game at Mestalla as favourites, but this feels like a good opportunity for Valencia to get back on track.
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