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Hamburg v Mainz (Sat 2.30pm)
Hamburg’s Nordderby defeat to Bremen leaves them in a sorry state ahead of their final 10 games of the season. So far under new coach Bernd Hollerbach, they’ve collected two points from five games meaning that they’re now 11 Bundesliga games without a win.
Now they play Mainz, current occupants of the relegation playoff spot, who are seven points above them. If they are to complete yet another unlikely survival, then only a win on Saturday will do.
“Perhaps a relegation would do Hamburg some good” were the words of Mainz midfielder Nigel de Jong, a former Hamburg player no less who could well be given a start in midfield by Sandro Schwarz.
Goalkeeper René Adler too only left Hamburg last summer but he’s in line to make his return from injury at the Volksparkstadion on Saturday and just in time too, with number two Robin Zentner struggling with a hamstring injury.
“We have to be clever and not be foaming at the mouth,” was the eloquent way Mainz coach Sandro Schwarz described how their approach needs to be on Saturday.
They’d been on a dreadful run themselves before picking up four points from their last two games but the difference here might just come down to Mainz’s ability to score. Their striker Yoshinori Muto for instance has seven goals this season – more than the entire Hamburg strike force put together over the course of the campaign.
Hamburg have also scored just five in their last eleven games and look destined for the drop.
Schalke v Hertha Berlin (Sat 2.30pm)
Coach Domenico Tedesco said that only the fans were allowed to dream of a return to the Champions League after their 2-0 victory over fellow challengers Leverkusen last Sunday.
That win was good evidence for why they could be about to end a three-season absence from the competition. Even before Leverkusen had Dominik Kohr sent off towards the end of the first half, Schalke were in control even if they weren’t hammering their hosts with particularly adventurous football.
That shouldn’t take away from how well organised and tactically flexible Tedesco’s side are nor should it diminish the control and finish from Guido Burgstaller as he ended his seven-game wait for a Bundesliga goal. There was time too for Nabil Bentaleb to come off the bench, ending his two game exile from the squad and score a late penalty.
Yet what Hertha did at Bayern was, from a defensive standpoint, more impressive as they became the first team in 69 games in all competitions to stop Bayern from scoring at the Allianz Arena. That made it three away clean sheets on the trot too for them.
They won’t have to face Burgstaller who picked up a fifth yellow card last weekend and with question marks over Leon Goretzka’s fitness, Bentaleb could start for Schalke. Either way, this one isn’t likely to have many goals.
- Schalke 1, Hertha 0 (27-5, Unibet)
- Harit to score first (15-2, Unibet)
- Under 2.5 goals (39-50, Unibet)
Leipzig v Dortmund (Sat 5.30pm)
Despite going in front against Cologne last weekend, Leipzig ended up suffering a shock 2-1 defeat to the Bundesliga’s bottom club as Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side also slipped out of the top four.
Dortmund remain second meanwhile despite their 1-1 draw at home to Augsburg on Monday night which brought some damning verdicts from those in charge.
Coach Peter Stöger questioned how much his players wanted it whilst sporting director Michael Zorc said: “We’re playing like civil servants.”
The nine-game unbeaten streak which Stöger has enjoyed in the Bundesliga since taking over in December has been overshadowed by how unconvincing the side have been during that period.
The return of Marco Reus has certainly helped the team but there’s far too much reliance on a moment of individual brilliance going forward, with the team’s attack looking particularly incoherent in the past few games.
Leipzig themselves are going through problems of their own. The result against Cologne last weekend meant that in home games this season against the bottom three, they’ve picked up two points out of a possible nine – not the sort of form you can usually afford when you’re chasing a Champions League place.
That last weekend, Emil Forsberg made his first start against Cologne since coming back from injury, and that should provide Leipzig with a timely boost. Such is the way Dortmund are playing, it seems only a matter of time until they are found out. Whilst Leipzig have struggled against some of the division’s underdogs recently, playing a direct opponent for the top four should help to bring out the best in them here.
- Leipzig 2, Dortmund 1 (19-2, Unibet)
- Forsberg to score first (8-1, Unibet)
- Leipzig win (37-20, 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.