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Hoffenheim v Mainz (Sat 2.30pm)
“There have been moments in which I’ve said to myself: ‘If it gets worse than this, I won’t do it any longer.’” Those were the words of Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann in an interview on Monday as he discussed the pressure he’s come under in his second full season in charge.
They have indeed struggled to hit the dizzying heights that they did last season. One win in their last eight games in all competitions tells you how things haven’t gone according to plan of late. Then again, given that Nagelsmann has had his three best players in Niklas Süle, Sebastian Rudy and Sandro Wagner all leave for Bayern since the end of last season, the mid-table position Hoffenheim occupy is still respectable.
That Kerem Demirbay suffered an ankle ligament tear in the 1-1 draw at Hertha last weekend does not help Nagelsmann’s cause. A steady influence in the heart of midfield, it was perhaps no surprise that his absence coincided with the recent heavy defeats to Leverkusen and Bayern.
Playing Mainz represents an opportunity to turn things around however. Sandro Schwarz has been backed by club legend and Liverpool boss Jürgen Klopp this week but a 3-0 defeat to Frankfurt in the DFB-Cup saw some comically bad defending for each of the three goals conceded. “We didn’t show any balls,” was midfielder Nigel De Jong’s assessment.
In the Bundesliga, they’ve taken five points from their last nine games, conceding at least two goals in each of those.
It’s almost a year since Mainz’s last Bundesliga away win too, meaning that even if Hoffenheim are working out problems of their own at present, they should have enough to beat their relegation threatened visitors.
- Hoffenheim 2, Mainz 1 (7-1, Unibet)
- Gnabry to score first (22-5, Unibet)
- Hoffenheim win (16-25, Unibet)
Dortmund v Hamburg (Sat 2.30pm)
Michy Batshuayi hit the ground running for Dortmund last Friday night away at Cologne. His two goals were a just reward for a performance which saw him continually positioned in the right place at the right time. That he could have added to his tally on the evening was a very encouraging sign for Dortmund.
Defensively however they looked suspect. The continual inconsistencies of first choice goalkeeper Roman Bürki didn’t help in that respect with the Swiss at fault for both goals conceded on Friday night.
Meanwhile Hamburg goalkeeper Christian Mathenia was dropped at the halfway stage of the season by Markus Gisdol; an understandable decision given some of the mistakes he’d made.
When Bernd Hollerbach became coach after defeat to Cologne in January though, Mathenia was reinstated ahead of Julian Pollersbeck. A shot at redemption has brought an improvement from the 25-year-old who pulled off some key saves in their 1-1 draw against Hannover last Sunday.
It kept Hamburg firmly in the automatic relegation places and they won’t be helped by the fact that centre-back Kyriakos Papadopoulous is suspended for the trip to Dortmund.
The home side will be without their young English winger Jadon Sancho for the next six weeks after he damaged ankle ligaments in the win over Cologne.
Hamburg’s last away game at Leipzig showed some new found resilience but Dortmund looked much better going forward than they had been recently with Batshuayi’s presence up front. A routine home win should be on the cards here.
- Dortmund 3, Hamburg 1 (19-2, Unibet)
- Batshuayi to score first (31-10, Unibet)
- Dortmund -1 (41-50, Unibet)
Bayern Munich v Schalke (Sat 5.30pm)
Heading into 2018, Schalke were on a 13-game unbeaten run in all competitions. Their start to the new year has been slightly less impressive, with one win from their four league games so far.
The two of those at home against bottom half opposition in Hannover and Werder Bremen yielded just a point. The 2-1 defeat to Werder last weekend included a rare blunder by goalkeeper and captain Ralf Fährmann whilst up front Franco Di Santo didn’t look all that convincing leading the line.
Still, Guido Burgstaller replaced him during the week and scored the winner against Wolfsburg to send Schalke into the semi-finals of the DFB-Cup.
Centre back Matija Nastasic was sent off against Bremen so Benjamin Stambouli is likely to take his place for the trip to the Allianz Arena.
By Bayern’s standards, there is still room for improvement, particularly at the back with Bremen and Hoffenheim highlighting that as they both managed to score twice on their visits to Bayern in January.
Up front on the other hand, the record champions aren’t messing about as the finishing in their 6-0 cup victory over Paderborn proved during the week.
They’ll have to watch out for Schalke midfielder Leon Goretzka on Saturday. It was announced in January that he’ll be joining Bayern in the summer and he’ll be that little bit keener to make a good impression in front of his new employers.
Bayern have Javi Martinez and Thiago coming back from injury meaning that Manuel Neuer is the only first team player out injured at present. That sort of strength in depth is something that no other Bundesliga side can match. Schalke have impressed under Domenico Tedesco this season but a result this weekend is likely to be a step too far, such is the form Bayern are in, going forward at least.
- Bayern 3, Schalke 1 (9-1, Unibet)
- Rodriguez to score first (23-5, Unibet)
- Both teams to score (9-10, Unibet)
Munich-born Raphael Honigstein writes about football for Germany’s biggest broadsheet, Süddeutsche Zeitung, the Guardian, ESPNFC and his tips appear here thanks to our football partner at MrFixitsTips, Unibet. They're making a big splash in the UK betting scene and if you join them today you can claim up to £30 in Welcome Bonuses when you deposit and place your first bet.