WE'RE delighted to welcome German Football expert Raphael Honigstein to the site for the season thanks to our partner Unibet.
You may know Raph from his excellent work on BT Sport where he shares his knowledge of the European game and we're hoping he can make some of that know-how pay for us on MrFixitsTips. Best of luck Raphael!
Hoffenheim v Cologne (Sat 2.30pm)
“You feel that the belief is there,” said Cologne coach Stefan Ruthenbeck ahead of their trip down south to face Hoffenheim on Saturday.
That’s understandable too after the relegation-threatened side delivered one of their best performances and results of the season before the international break. Their 2-0 victory over local rivals Bayer Leverkusen was fully deserved, even if they’d started the day bottom of the Bundesliga.
That victory moved them into 17th meaning they are five points off Wolfsburg and Mainz, the latter of which occupies the relegation playoff spot.
In the second half of the season they’ve even picked up more points than Hoffenheim. Coach Julian Nagelsmann praised them on Thursday, saying they have more players dangerous in front of goal in comparison to the first half of the season but Leonardo Bittencourt, their most dangerous weapon against Leverkusen, could miss out this time with muscular problems.
As for Hoffenheim, Andrej Kramaric was in excellent form before the international break but he only arrived back from Croatia duty on Thursday. If Nagelsmann doesn’t deem him fit enough to start, then Mark Uth is likely step in against his hometown club.
Nagelsmann’s side have been playing well in the last few weeks, pushing themselves into the picture for a European place again. That they’ve dropped over 20 points after going ahead this season tells you why they’re not in one. Still, home advantage might just help to give them the edge over Cologne on Saturday.
- Hoffenheim 2, Cologne 1 (15-2, Unibet)
- Gnabry to score first (5-1, Unibet)
- Hoffenheim win (27-50, Unibet)
Schalke v Freiburg (Sat 2.30pm)
Schalke are in great form, winning each of their last five games, though you wouldn’t necessarily describe their football as being all that attractive.
As coach Domenico Tedesco put it recently, he looks at how his side can win the game, not at how they can play beautiful football and their last three wins all being 1-0 tells you that. Still, that Tedesco has Schalke second and are within touching distance of the Champions League again with seven games to go is to his credit.
You’d also praise the job that Christian Streich, his opposite number this weekend, has continued to do in Freiburg. Losing key players each summer is something Streich has to accept but that his side are set to survive having sold Vincenzo Grifo and Maximilian Philipp is testament to his work with the rest of the squad.
He’s been helped by Nils Petersen stepping up from being a super sub to leading the line from the start. Freiburg lost 2-1 to Stuttgart last time out, meaning they’re only five points off the relegation playoff. Yet that game saw Petersen score a “goal of the year” in the words of Stuttgart forward Mario Gomez.
Schalke will need to watch Petersen carefully but on the whole, you’d expect Freiburg to arrive with a defensive approach. This might not be the most entertaining game for the neutral, with under 2.5 goals worth backing on this occasion.
- Schalke 1, Freiburg 0 (24-5, Unibet)
- Goretzka to score first (23-4, Unibet)
- Under 2.5 goals (18-25, Unibet)
Stuttgart v Hamburg (Sat 2.30pm)
With seven games left in the season, Stuttgart have already accumulated more points since the turn of the year than they did in the first half of the season. Only Bayern Munich in fact have got more points over that timeframe.
If you want to trace back the reason for that, then look no further at the effect that coach Tayfun Korkut has had since taking over from Hannes Wolf in February, with six wins and two draws in his eight games in charge so far.
That has taken Stuttgart out of a relegation battle and comfortably into mid-table – somewhere that Hamburg would long to be at present.
Christian Titz, Hamburg’s third coach of the campaign, got a great first half out of his team against Hertha but despite taking the lead, they went on to lose 2-1. By the end of the weekend, they’d even slipped to the foot of the Bundesliga table.
Titz made a number of senior players sit out that game, with centre-back Kyriakos Papadopoulous on the bench. After the game, he went into the mixed zone, telling assembled journalists of his disappointment and that Titz hadn’t spoken to him.
However, having apologised to Titz and the club’s hierarchy, the Greek defender is back in the squad ahead of the trip to Stuttgart. Fellow defender Mergim Mavraj and midfielder Walace however still won’t be in the fold.
Stuttgart will need to reshuffle at the back with Andreas Beck suspended whilst up front Mario Gomez will be looking for his first home goal since rejoining the club in January.
He’s scored six goals in his last four away games and given the state that Hamburg are in, you’d think one will follow in Stuttgart this time in what should be a home win.
- Stuttgart 2, Hamburg 1 (15-2, Unibet)
- Gomez to score first (39-10, Unibet)
- Stuttgart win (19-25, Unibet)
Bayern Munich v Borussia Dortmund (Sat 5.30pm)
Should Schalke fail to beat Freiburg, then a win against Borussia Dortmund would hand Bayern Munich their sixth consecutive Bundesliga title.
Dortmund remain unbeaten in the Bundesliga since Peter Stöger took charge in December but the football they’ve played hasn’t been as convincing as that statistic might suggest.
When they came up against Bayern in the DFB-Cup, Stöger’s choice of going with a back five backfired with Bayern tearing through Dortmund in the first 15 minutes. He might look to change it up at the back then this time whilst going forward, he’ll have to cope without Marco Reus.
In an attacking unit which has struggled for coherence, the Dortmund number 10 has been Stöger’s best player since returning from injury in February.
Bayern meanwhile were taken down by Leipzig before the international break, giving a tepid display by their standards in the process.
Coach Jupp Heynckes will be factoring into his team selection that Bayern travel to Seville on Tuesday for the first leg of Champions League quarter-final, a more important game to the club’s season than Dortmund’s visit.
Jerome Boateng picked up a knock on international duty but Heynckes was hopeful he could play a role on Saturday. Kingsley Coman and Manuel Neuer are the only injury absentees in an otherwise fully fit squad.
Who exactly Heynckes picks, with Seville in mind, will be intriguing whilst Stöger needs to have a better plan this time round, with Dortmund needing to raise their game to the level they hit during the first half against Leipzig. You’d expect all the same for Bayern to have too much.
- Bayern 2, Dortmund 0 (15-2, Unibet)
- Lewandowski to score first (49-20, Unibet)
- Bayern -1 (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.