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Augsburg v Bayern Munich (Sat 2.30pm)
“If we want to win the Champions League, then we have to improve,” said Jupp Heynckes after Bayern snuck past Sevilla on Tuesday evening. It was by no means a comfortable 2-1 win but with home advantage on Wednesday for the second leg, it should prove enough.
First though they have a Bavarian derby and a chance to secure their sixth consecutive Bundesliga title. With the second leg against Sevilla in mind, the likes of Sebastian Rudy, Sandro Wagner, Niklas Suele should all start here. Jupp Heynckes didn’t risk Arjen Robben from the start in Spain either as a precaution over his fitness but he’ll begin at the WWK-Arena.
The hosts have caused Bayern difficulties in previous years though. Manuel Baum’s side showed their resoluteness too last weekend by taking an unlikely point away from Leverkusen. Up front they get to welcome back Alfred Finnbogason. The Icelandic striker is their joint top scorer this season with 11 goals but has missed the last two months of the campaign through injury.
This is the first weekend of the season however where Bayern have had their title fate in their own hands, with a win on Saturday ensuring that the Meisterschale stays at the Allianz Arena again regardless of other results.
Last weekend’s 6-0 victory against Borussia Dortmund emphasised the current difference in quality between themselves and the rest of the division. This shouldn’t be quite so comfortable but a win nevertheless to get them over the line.
Cologne v Mainz (Sat 2.30pm)
Cologne are second from bottom on 20 points in the automatic relegation places. Mainz are six points above them in the relative safety of the relegation playoff spot.
An away win then so close to the end of the season would effectively consign Cologne to the second division – less than a year after Cologne clinched a European spot with a 2-0 win on the final day against Mainz of course.
You can expect a few changes in the Cologne team that steps out this weekend after the 6-0 hammering they took at Hoffenheim last weekend. Goalkeeper Timo Horn said their away fans deserved their money back such was their performance.
Mainz did not offer much in their goalless draw against Cologne’s arch-rivals Borussia Mönchengladbach but were tantalisingly close to snatching it through Alexander Hack’s header, tipped on to the bar by opposition goalkeeper Yann Sommer.
Injuries to first-team regulars haven’t helped away coach Sandro Schwarz this week. Neither midfielder Danny Latza nor defenders Stefan Bell and Abdou Diallo have been able to train for most of the week due to injury, with a similar story for Diallo’s replacement at the back Leon Balogun.
As for Cologne and their “most important game of the season” in the words of Stefan Ruthenbeck, defender Fredrik Sörensen is likely to step in for Dominic Maroh whilst Marco Höger could be replaced by stalwart Matthias Lehmann.
This should fit the stereotype of a six pointer in being a scrappy, tight affair but despite their defeat last weekend, Cologne look the likelier winners, just.
Hamburg v Schalke (Sat 5.30pm)
With six games to play, Hamburg are seven points from safety after their 1-1 draw at Stuttgart. Like in their previous outing against Hertha, they started well, trying to play out from the back before fizzling out somewhat.
“We worked a lot during the international break on build up play,” said midfielder Aaron Hunt. “It’s about finding solutions with the ball.”
Whether coach Christian Titz’s plans will come into place in time is doubtful but “if everyone believes in his idea 100%, we’re in the position to implement it” says Lewis Holtby, the closest member of the team to Titz.
Stepping any closer to safety will be difficult on Saturday evening. Schalke racked up a sixth win on the spin last weekend against Freiburg, putting them seven points clear of fifth place. A return to the Champions League beckons.
They’ve kept five clean sheets in a row but they’ve still given away chances. Hertha missed an open goal in their recent one nil defeat whilst Freiburg smashed the post when the game was goalless last weekend. The chances against Domenico Tedesco’s side though are rare, such is their compactness when the opposition has the ball. Only Bayern have conceded less chances than Schalke this season.
Schalke don’t always look the most convincing going forward but that impression is belied by the fact that they’ve scored in each of their last 22 league games.
They’ll face a former player of theirs in centre back Kyriakos Papadopoulos, back in the fold having criticised the new Hamburg regime just a few weeks ago. An apology and taking the team out to dinner did the trick for his reconciliation but his return probably won’t be enough for the points on Saturday.
- Hamburg 1, Schalke 2 (8-1, Unibet)
- Burgstaller to score first (4-1, Unibet)
- Schalke win (93-100, 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.