The Bundesliga made a welcome return last week and with all games televised it made a nice change to witness top-fight football, albeit in the strange surroundings of empty stadiums.
Five of the top six clubs were victorious and obviously didnt let the unforced extended break affect their performance too much. There are still many outcomes to be decided in Germany and we look set for an exciting finish to the campaign.
Hertha to win
Hertha Berlin v Union Berlin
The action begins with the Berlin derby on Friday night in a fixture that brings together football, politics, and history in a once-divided city.
The hosts will be looking to avenge a narrow 1-0 reverse in the first fixture earlier this season. Both teams look comfortable in mid-table and should be playing top-flight football together again next year.
Hertha ran out cosy 3-0 winners in Hoffenheim last week with Brazilian Matheus Cunha netting in an impressive performance. Not surprisingly, Union were beaten 2-0 at home against champions Bayern and I fear they may well be suffering a third straight loss here.
There have in fact been five teams from the nation’s capital to play football in the country’s top section but as Union are the first club from the old East side of the city, this clash is therefore the first derby between East and West.
Over 3.5 goals
Borussia Monchengladbach v Bayer Leverkusen
Arguably the match of the round with both clubs challenging for a top-four finish. The hosts hold a slight two-point advantage and three points now would give them a useful cushion.
Two early goals last weekend at Frankfurt allowed Monchengladbach to cruise to a comfortable 3-1 success, but they will need to raise the tempo to cope with a Leverkusen outfit who were also easy winners on the road; this time an impressive 4-1 win at Werder Bremen where exciting prospect Kai Havertz bagged a brace.
Only Munich and Dortmund have now collected more points than Leverkusen in 2020. This should be a thriller with plenty of goals so sit back and enjoy the entertainment.
Werder Bremen to win
Freiburg v Werder Bremen
A late disallowed goal from VAR denied Freiburg a shock 2-1 win at Leipzig but a draw gave them a useful point that keeps them within striking distance of a top-six finish.
However, despite a 3-1 success over Union Berlin in their last home game before the break, Freiburg surprisingly lost to Fortuna Dusseldorf and Paderborn, who both currently sit in the bottom three, so a visit from second-bottom Werder may not be as straight forward as the league table suggests.
There is no denying that time is very much against Bremen who were completely outplayed last Monday. Relegation is looming large and they must win here to give themselves hope. Six defeats in seven confirms them as the current worst form team and it’s difficult to find any positives.
One bonus is away from home they have secured more points, with three wins and four draws, and with the trapdoor starting to close we finally expect some urgency.
Kosovo international Milot Rashica has struggled to regain his fine early season form but is the club’s top scorer with seven. Likewise, Josh Sargent has found himself on the bench, but this pair could hold the key to survival if recapturing their best.
Match to end in a draw
Paderborn v Hoffenheim
The hosts appear doomed to the drop despite battling to earn a point away last weekend. They are still six points adrift in automatic relegation so may have to start throwing caution to the wind. You have to go back eight games to find their last win however and the team may just be too low on confidence to save themselves.
Hoffenheim arrive after a 3-0 home spanking and with no wins in their last six and fifteen goals conceded are hardly in the best of form either. Club legend Sebastian Rudy is still crucial in midfield despite his aging years whilst young gun Christoph Baumgartner has been a ray of light, going from strength to strength playing in the centre of the park. However, a lack of striker options means a likely mid-table finish.
Both teams are capable of victory but perhaps not consistent or potent enough to secure the prize.
Wolfsburg +1 handicap
Wolfsburg v Borussia Dortmund
This is another mouth-watering clash between teams in the top six. The hosts are in a battle to stay in sixth position and earn a European place next year, and a late winner in injury time at Augsburg brought them delight.
Attacking defender Kevin Mbabu caught the eye with some excellent work down the flank and it was his late run, trickery and cross that set up striker Daniel Ginczek for the decisive goal.
Dortmund maintained their excellent home record with a tenth success of the season as they strode to an impressive and comprehensive 4-0 derby win over outclassed Schalke. They are the only team unbeaten on home soil and key striker Erling Haaland was the star of the show.
Dortmund had the luxury of leaving England international Jadon Sancho on the bench last week. I would expect him to return now as they face tougher opponents, and their road form has been slightly disappointing; in seven games they have failed to secure maximum points.
They are still breathing down Bayern’s neck at the summit and trail by four points, but the pressure is on to win most weeks.
Wolfsburg held Leipzig on their own turf recently and can prove a tough nut to crack again.
Bayern to win to nil
Bayern Munich v Eintracht Frankfurt
The champions are involved in the tea-time game and start the shortest odds of any club in Germany this weekend. A 2-0 success at Union Berlin was fairly routine and maintained their lead at the top. They created enough chances to have increased the winning margin and will look to fine-tune their engine back in Munich.
Frankfurt never recovered from going 2-0 down within seven minutes last week and offered very little in attack. Ironically, Frankfurt’s best result of the season was a 5-1 thrashing of Bayern back in early November but they are huge odds to win this time. They have the worst away record in the Bundesliga after suffering nine defeats.
Bayern will be the cornerstone of many accumulators for punters and should have little difficulty exacting revenge.
Schalke to win
Schalke v Augsburg
Schalke are involved in the first of three Sunday games and will be desperate to erase last week’s disappointing result in Dortmund. Despite drawing a blank in a 4-0 reverse, they still managed ten shots but will need more calm in front of goal to convert those chances.
They are only two points adrift of Wolfsburg in sixth and still have hopes of booking a European place. It’s slightly worrying their form has dipped so badly in 2020 and their last success was nine matches ago.
Augsburg may have felt they did enough to take a share of the spoils with Wolfsburg but in truth, they never looked confident and lacked the killer instinct of their opponents. They are also on a dreadful run of form with four straight defeats and their last maximum was seven games ago.
Still not safe from relegation they will be glad to see the back of this season and secure survival but I expect them to face more pressure after another nil return here.
Leipzig to win and both teams to score
Mainz v RB Leipzig
Leipzig were the scourge of backers last week when failing to land short odds at home and will need a win to stay in the title hunt and top-four race. They dominated possession and had an incredible 22 shots, with eight on target, so one goal was poor reward for those efforts.
They are once again highly fancied to win at lowly Mainz who fought back well to rescue a vital point at Koln after trailing 2-0. The hosts remain perilously close to the trapdoor and will be expecting a backlash from their frustrated opponents.
If they do need motivation, it will be to avenge an incredible 8-0 thrashing they took in Leipzig back in November when Timo Werner helped himself to a hat trick. The German international forward had a rare blank last time out and will hope to help his charges to success here. There is ever the likelihood both teams can score and that offers a better route to backing an away victory.
Dusseldorf +1 handicap
Koln v Fortuna Dusseldorf
With a full midweek program, there is no Monday night affair so this fixture concludes the action. Koln will be kicking themselves for losing a 2-0 lead and having to settle for a draw with Mainz.
Mark Uth won and converted an early penalty which extended his impressive record to five goals and four assists during his last eight games since joining on loan from Schalke. He will once again be important if the hosts are to take three points.
On paper, they will expect to as opponents Dusseldorf remain in a relegation playoff spot and missed a great chance last week to beat bottom side Paderborn. They hit the woodwork four times which proved costly during a stalemate that made it a hat trick of draws.
However, they will need to find wins to save themselves, especially as they still have to face both the top two clubs. Erik Thommy could make the difference in staying up and the on-loan Stuttgart forward has looked lively. The visitors are starting to drink in the last chance saloon but can keep the fight going by avoiding defeat here.