FC Cologne vs MainzGerman Bundesliga, KO: 14:30 May 17, 2020, RheinEnergieSTADION
COLOGNE will come under added scrutiny when they return to Bundesliga action with a clash against struggling Mainz.
The Billy Goats caused more than a few people to be gruff when they pressed ahead with preparations for the big comeback despite three people at the club testing positive for coronavirus.
So it will be interesting to see how the players react against Mainz after their club came under the global media spotlight
Markus Gisdol's men returned to the Bundesliga this season after winning the second tier and have acquitted themselves well, sitting comfortably in mid-table when action was halted.
They were in fine form before lockdown, winning eight of their last 11 games with the only defeats coming against big guns Bayern Munich, Dortmund and Monchengladbach.
That stunning run of form lifted them clear of danger and left them 10 points clear of third-bottom Fortuna Dusseldorf, who occupy the relegation play-off spot, so their top-flight status seems pretty secure.
The same can't be said of Mainz, who sit fourth bottom just four points ahead of Fortuna. They have never won in Cologne in nine previous attempts but may never have a better chance with no fans in attendance.
How the bookies view it
Mainz are outsiders, available at a best 27/10 with Ladbrokes, while a Cologne win is shorter at 21/20 with Betway. The draw might tempt a few punters at 27/10 with William Hill but if Gisdol's side can rediscover their form before the shutdown it should be a home win.
Recent head to head
Mainz are unbeaten in their last three games against Cologne, winning two of those matches. It ended 3-1 to Achim Beierlorzer's men earlier this campaign despite the Billy Goats taking an early lead.
Their record in Cologne is poor but four of their last nine matches here have ended in stalemates, with a header from Pablo De Blassis sealing a 1-1 draw on their last trip (below).
Two of those nine games were 0-0 borefests so betting on a repeat might be worth a speculative punt 16/1 with Coral here.
Players to watch
Jhon Cordoba was dazzling for Cologne before lockdown, netting 10 goals in 13 games, so he looks their best bet for a goal in the first game back. The Colombian is 8/5 with 888Sport for anytime scorer and that looks good value.
Mainz had French striker Jean-Philippe Mateta, a former Newcastle signing target, sent off in their last game, a 1-1 draw with Dusseldorf, so he will be suspended. Nobody has been a regular scorer up front, with midfielder Robin Quaison their top gun.
The Swede has an impressive 14 for the season and might be worth a punt at 9/4 with Unibet for another strike here.
Anything else catch the eye?
Goals have been flowing in Cologne games this season, with 13 matches boasting four strikes or over, so this could be another thriller. They also played out an entertaining 3-1 defeat to Arsenal in the Europa League back in 2017, with Mr Fixit cashing in by tipping both teams to score.
Over 2.5 goals is pretty short at 4/6 with Bet365 here while the odds jump to 17/10 with 888Sport for over 3.5 strikes. However, I'm more tempted by the odds on Cologne goals alone, with over 2.5 strikes for the home side priced at 13/5 with BetVictor.
Cologne: Horn – Ehizibue, Bornauw, Leistner, Katterbach – Skhiri, Hector (c) – Kainz, Uth, Drexler – Cordoba
Out: Czichos (match fitness), Hauptmann (match fitness), Jakobs (match fitness)
Coach: Markus Gisdol
Mainz: Müller – St. Juste, Bruma, Niakhate – Baku, Barreiro, Latza (c), Mwene – Onisiwo, Quaison – Szalai
Out: Mateta (suspended), Zentner (knee)
Coach: Achim Beierlorzer
This German Bundesliga match between FC Cologne and Mainz will be played on May 17, 2020 and kick off at 14:30. Check below for our tipsters best FC Cologne vs Mainz prediction.