Home advantage without any fans in Germany has certainly been reduced and we saw five teams win on the road in the nine weekend encounters.
Often clubs at home can rely on the crowd to lift them at various points during a game, but without that factor it seems matches revert to a neutral venue feel. There is a quick turnaround now with a full midweek programme and plenty of eye-catching matches to preview.
Dortmund +1 handicap
Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Munich
The undoubted match of the round with the big two clubs doing battle, which may go a long way to deciding the title.
Despite the apparent lack of home advantage at present, the hosts boast the best record on home soil with no defeats and ten wins from their thirteen matches played this term. Bayern have tasted defeat four times on the road and it’s perhaps surprising the champions are odds on here.
Both clubs have opened up with successive victories after the restart with Dortmund yet to concede. They did look on the ropes away at Wolfsburg on Saturday and were thankful for a quality breakaway goal to run out 2-0 winners eventually.
A draw would suit the leaders who are four points clear at the summit and with a vastly superior goal difference almost worth another point, avoiding defeat would put one hand on retaining the title.
Dortmund will therefore have to go out all guns blazing and realistically only victory will keep them in the hunt. They will look to exploit any defensive weakness and use their lightning pace. With the visitors perhaps happy to take a draw, I am inclined to fancy the hosts, especially on the handicap.
Leverkusen to win and both teams to score
Bayer Leverkusen v Wolfsburg
Leverkusen jumped above Monchengladbach with an impressive 3-1 win over that rival at the weekend when, once again, star man Kai Havertz put himself in the shop window for potential suiters by bagging another brace. The twenty-year-old is currently setting the Bundesliga alight and hopes to lead Leverkusen to a top-four finish. They will look for a fourth consecutive Bundesliga win when Wolfsburg arrive in town.
The visitors were a shade unfortunate not to take something against Dortmund but lacked a killer instinct in front of goal. With the pack closing in, they will hope to retain a top-six berth but may find themselves dropping out after this tough test.
Bayer are an exciting team to watch but find it hard keeping clean sheets so we should see goals at both ends once more.
Match to end in a draw
Eintracht Frankfurt v Freiburg
Frankfurt have conceded eight goals in their two games since the resumption although they did face high flying opposition. However, that alarming run of form has dragged them into relegation trouble with four straight losses giving them just a four-point cushion from safety.
Centre half Martin Hinteregger scored twice from set pieces at Bayern and the Austrian international is a useful player at both ends of the field. Sebastian Rode provided both assists and needs to start controlling the midfield if Frankfurt are to survive. They face an intriguing clash with Freiburg, who despite their relatively lofty position of seventh, are hardly pulling up trees presently.
They missed a great opportunity against lowly Bremen but a 1-0 reverse did little to increase their hopes of sneaking into the top six. With both knowing they can’t afford to lose, it would be no surprise to see a stalemate.
Draw half time / Borussia M'gladbach full time
Werder Bremen v Borussia Monchengladbach
A battle between teams at opposite ends of the table but who both are desperate for maximum points. Bremen gave themselves a huge lift with a narrow 1-0 win at Freiburg and have closed the gap to just three points in the quest to avoid direct relegation. They had to survive a late scare with VAR disallowing a Freiburg equaliser but did enough to warrant the success.
Borussia suffered a surprise loss against Leverkusen who proved far too clinical against their wasteful hosts. With four of the top five winning, they were the odd ones out and need to bounce back quickly.
Werder’s dreadful home form is a massive concern with only one victory a truly awful return. Gladbach have the greater weaponry and should be celebrating an eighth away win at full time. However, they may need to be patient and perhaps show their class late on.
Leipzig to win and both teams to score
RB Leipzig v Hertha Berlin
Leipzig open Wednesday’s action in the early game and will be in high spirits after putting Mainz to the sword 5-0 on Sunday. Forward Timo Werner continues to be linked with a summer move abroad and did his hopes no harm with a hat trick, confirming himself as Germany’s top striker at international level. He will be looking to add to his tally of 24 top-flight strikes this season against mid-table Hertha next.
The visitors produced one of their best performances of the season to defeat Berlin rivals Union but may suffer a hangover here. Despite seven goals in two games without conceding, Leipzig represents a big rise in class and I expect their mini-revival to end.
The hosts are still targeting a runner up spot and should continue to press to boost their goal difference which may be vital later in the campaign.
Match to end in a draw
Union Berlin v Mainz
Two teams who were on the end of hidings at the weekend meet in the nation’s capital. Union will want to forget their 4-0 derby drubbing against Hertha where they failed to register a shot on target, although Mainz actually conceded one more against Leipzig.
The hosts will know victory here would put serious daylight between themselves and the drop whilst the visitors have seen their safety advantage whittled down to just three points. Union now find themselves on a four-game losing run and despite six home victorie,s their last was in late January.
Mainz forward Robin Quaison has been linked with Tottenham but has not captured his early-season form and it’s vital he does if Mainz are to start firing once more.
This is a very difficult game to call and it may be both teams have to settle for a share of the spoils which would keep their season points total ticking over at least.
Koln +1 handicap
Hoffenheim v Koln
A midtable clash between two very well matched outfits. Hoffenheim have seen their season taper off after threatening to make a top-six assault and it’s now eight games since they last tasted success.
Koln were delighted to salvage a point with two late strikes in a 2-2 draw with Dusseldorf. I expect both teams to score but that’s a fairly short price and with the visitors in better form, it looks safer to have them onside.
Both could keep top-six hopes alive with victory but realistically another year in the Bundesliga with no relegations issues will keep them content.
Paderborn +1 handicap
Augsburg v Paderborn
Augsburg ended a baron run when running out 3-0 winners at Schalke although they were defending the majority of the time, having less than thirty percent of possession. That incredible stat demonstrates how woeful Schalke are at present and the scoreline was still a rather flattering one.
However, Augsburg were delighted to end a run of four consecutive defeats and the crucial three points gives them breaking space in the relegation battle. They will feel victory over the bottom club now will finally secure their place in the top flight for another year.
Paderborn have opened with two draws since the return but unfortunately that won’t be good enough with games running out. They face an almost impossible task to avoid the bottom three and their target will be to finish in the relegation playoff position to give themselves a chance of survival. The encouraging aspect for the visitors is they have defended well recently and been far more competitive, but finding a way to win remains the big issue.
Under 2.5 match goals
Fortuna Dusseldorf v Schalke
Dusseldorf looked set for a crucial win at Augsburg but were denied in injury time and the loss of two points could well be damaging at the season’s end. They would have been just the solitary point behind Mainz if they had held that 2-0 advantage but take on free-falling Schalke confident of closing that gap on Wednesday evening.
Former Huddersfield manager David Wagner must be wondering what has happened to his team and is now under serious pressure himself. Schalke are winless in nine games with just two goals scored. It’s hard to believe they were fourth and challenging for Europe when the season resumed after the Winter break in January.
This may be a cagey affair with goals at a premium although a win for Fortuna would certainly make the relegation skirmish a particularly interesting one going into the finale.