At least I’m consistent?
Again, just three matches picked correctly. Two matches pushed, though, so I got just four wrong. That’s close to .500!
As I recover from a Thanksgiving full of food, beer, fun, family, and friends, please allow me to be publicly thankful to the Bundesliga Fanatic, its fantastic team of writers and editors, and all you readers who keep coming back to our humble little site to read what we post. We are all fanatical enough that we would probably just write even without an audience, but we are very glad to have each and every one of you!
Besides, you couldn’t be kinder. No matter how bad I am at picking games, I’ve yet to have anyone make fun of me for it. We simply have a higher class of readers here at the Fanatic. Gotta love Bundesliga fans!
Okay, enough sucking up to you all. Let me get back to just sucking!
Friday, November 27
SV Darmstadt (PK) over 1. FC Köln
The talk around this match, at least from the Köln side, has been about Darmstadt’s relative strength in set pieces.
There is also a fondness for Darmstadt among Effzeh fans that is not extended to this year’s other promoted side, FC Ingolstadt. Despite it being a Friday night, expect a lively atmosphere at the Böllenfalltor.
The mood around Köln is again in a valley, just one match removed from upsetting Bayer Leverkusen to go to 2-for-2 in local derbies. Being unable to convert on chances at home has been a problem that has frustrated the fans at Müngersdorf repeatedly. The peaks following big wins seem to get shorter, quickly plunging things downward at the slightest bit of adversity (as far as taking just one point at home against a fellow mid-table side like Mainz can be considered “adverse”), which is why there is a slightly negative mood toward the club heading into the weekend.
It may seem like I’m going with the negativity flow here, but I’m actually falling victim to my tendency to start to underestimate my own club in moments like these, which has then caused me to pick incorrectly against them.
Otherwise, it makes absolutely no sense to pick Darmstadt here. They’ve won just once (Werder Bremen) in seven matches at home and lost three. Köln, on the other foot, have been decent away from Müngersdorf, splitting their six road matches evenly between wins and losses, taking down a pair of European sides (Schalke and Leverkusen) in the process. They would seem to be in position to take at least a point here, but . . .
Am I leveraging a reverse-jinx here? Maybe a little. Even though I don’t actually believe in such superstitious hogwash? Yes.
I’m so ashamed.
FC Ingolstadt (pk) over Hannover 96
Once again, I got burned by the Schanzer last week. I was loving having picked Darmstadt in an upset while die Lilien were riding an early goal into the second half. The dramatic second-half turn seemed only like just desserts for continuing to stubbornly ignore that Ingolstadt are simply getting things done this season.
So, while I hate to cave in to something resisted for so long, when the option is to pick Hannover . . . Even if they played respectably at Mönchengladbach, I . . . just . . . can’t.
Borussia Mönchengladbach (pk) over 1899 Hoffenheim
Because the only goal for Hertha BSC last week was scored by Eugen Polanski, 1899 Hoffenheim have yet to be scored on by an opponent in Huub Stevens’ reign at the club.
Polanski’s own-goal, though, also remains the only goal scored by a Hoffenheim player since Markus Gisdol was sent packing.
Mönchengladbach is also running a pretty hot streak since an in-season coaching change, of course. Andre Schubert has dropped just two points in his eight matches in charge of die Fohlen. Other than the draw at home to Ingolstadt, Borussia Mönchengladbach have gone with the tried-and-true recipe for winning of scoring more than they surrender. Schubert’s side do surrender, though; they’ve kept just two clean sheets in the hot streak. When you score 23 goals, though, who cares about giving up seven goals over the course of eight matches?
It seems like Gladbach should be favored here, but I can see why some might lean toward a (scoreless) draw. The foals are running, though, and might prove to be more attack than Stevens’ new-look defense is prepared to handle.
Werder Bremen (pk) over Hamburger SV
Even if you ignore the HSV home win over Borussia Dortmund last Friday, you’d look at this match-up and think that the Hamburgers are simply the better team right now.
Maybe we should ignore that 3:1 win over the BVB, though. For one thing, Dortmund struggle in Hamburg on a regular basis. More-importantly, how often can a team get absolutely bombshelled and still come out with a convincing scoreline? Hamburg were somewhat fortunate on the defensive end and incredibly efficient with their chances offensively. If they could bottle that, they’d be onto something.
Reaching into my bag of sports cliches . . . “When these two meet, you throw out the records.”
The derby status of this fixture does tend to make irrelevant the current form of the two participants. Wanting to win the Nordderby becomes a nice distraction from, say, getting pasted in Wolfsburg to the tune of 6:0. If Werder can return to the pre-international break vibe that got them two wins in four matches, this should end up at least being what you expect of a rivalry match.
But in 126 prior meetings, there have also been some clunkers, so we can’t rule anything out just because there will be the addition of derby emotion.
Werder has won six of the last eight from the HSV overall and haven’t lost the Nordderby at home in a league contest since 2007. I’m not sure Hamburg is so improved their ready to overturn that stretch. The problem may be, though, that Werder is simply no longer good enough to extend it.
Hertha BSC (-2½) over Bayern München
Two-and-a-half?! This ain’t Olympiakos! This is the great Pal Dardai-run Berliner show!
Hertha did lose 1:4 to red-hot Mönchengladbach, but otherwise hardly drop points, much less lose by multiple goals. It’s not easy to expect this team to lose by three or more.
But it’s also not crazy, and that’s because Bayern is so good that they could beat anyone by three goals and have it not be a shocking result. Other than maybe (MAYBE!) FC Barcelona, is anyone playing well enough to where you’d simply rule out the possibility of Bayern handing it to them? Leicester City, perhaps?
And here’s where you get your goal-spread: Bayern has won four consecutive home matches, each by four goals. Six of the seven teams who’ve travelled to Bavaria to fight the champs have come away with a goal-differential hit better than -3. Dortmund? Leverkusen?
No. Relegation-fodder FC Augsburg was the one that stayed closest to Bayern. Were it not for a highly questionable penalty call, the FCA might even have taken a point from their Bavarian neighbors that day.
Anything can happen? Perhaps not quite that, but there are only a handful of Bundesliga sides you feel will give you a decent chance of staying within two goals at Allianz Arena. The way Hertha has played so far means the BSC gets to be one of them.
Keep in mind that three other sides who you might have thought to belong to that group all have already taken their heavy losses in München.
Eintracht Frankfurt (+½) over 1. FSV Mainz
I’ve gone back and forth on this one and finally decided to just go with my gut rather than try to analyze this one, which means I’ve reverted to looking at Eintracht’s roster and thinking, “Eventually, these guys have to give someone problems, don’t they?”
Mainz has taken points in three consecutive matches, but it’s hard to get too enthused about a 3:3 draw with Augsburg or beating a ten-man side, even if that side was still wearing Wolves clothing. A scoreless draw in Köln? Please. Who hasn’t done that? That’s so 2014-15!
Probably Mainz is better than what I want to credit them. Probably Frankfurt is even worse than I suspect they might be, even if I think it’s a matter of them having caught the sporting equivalent of a debilitating virus rather than being legitimately poor.
Frankfurt’s gonna roll . . . or I’ll feel a bit sheepish next week trying to explain that I was simply just a week early in predicting their return to form.
Ignore me, either way.
Sunday, November 29
Borussia Dortmund (-2) over VfB Stuttgart
Hello, Jürgen Kramny. Welcome to the Bundesliga. As a welcoming gift, we give you a trip to Borussia Dortmund. There, you will use the league’s worst defense (by a decent margin) to try to slow the league’s second-best offense, which is coming off a frustrating loss in Hamburger SV despite an overwhelming advantage in shots taken.
The failed run of Alexander Zorniger has been brought to a close with Stuttgart again looking at the reality of a relegation fight being their season story. I don’t know much about his replacement other than that he’s averaged 1.2 points-per-match in his 169-match run with the second team. Over a 34-match season, that would be just over 40 points, which not only would hit the magical 40-point mark, but would also be a better pace at which the team has collected points the last few seasons.
But Borussia Dortmund is not Holstein Kiel, the team that won Kramny’s last match in the third division for VfB II by a 1:3 margin. Also, the new guy doesn’t get 34 matches to help save his club, rather just 21 (at most), which would let Stuttgart finish with 35 points. They’ve survived the last two seasons with point totals of 32 and 36 points, though it went down to the wire both years.
If a coaching change weren’t enough to make Stuttgart notably better, it wouldn’t be the first time in recent years, nor the second, nor the third . . .
The BVB have already won eight times by two goals or more. I would expect them to be highly motivated to make it nine.
VfL Wolfsburg (-½) over FC Augsburg
Augsburg is coming off just their second win of the season, having scored four goals and kept a clean sheet in Stuttgart. Otherwise, there’s little to recommend the FCA right now.
Wolfsburg should be favored by more than half-a-goal here. They’ve won four of their last five. It’s probably be five-of-five, were it not for that early red card against Mainz a few weeks back. The Wolves are coming into form quite nicely after stumbling a bit out of the block, and this will show to prove itself to be the case on the road, where they’ve taken just five points in six matches. Only Stuttgart has fewer points away from home this season.
Then again, Augsburg have just four points from seven home matches. Even if Dieter Hecking’s guys don’t click as well away as they do at home, they can still get it done, as evidenced in their 0:2 win at CSKA Moscow this week to get to the top of their Champions League group.
Maybe the FCA fight valiantly and keep it more respectable than did Bremen last weekend, but I like the Wolves to show their teeth yet again.
FC Schalke 04 (+½) over Bayer Leverkusen
We have here sixth-place Leverkusen against seventh-place Schalke. Both are on 20 points, but the Royal Blues have a -2 goal-differential, whereas Bayer have scored as many as they’ve conceded.
On paper, this seems like a very well-matched contest. Beyond the season results to-date, both teams have been unable to get their offensive firing consistently this season. Each has scored 17 goals, but both are familiar with the frustration of power outages in attack, even as they maintain possession and create chances.
It all sets up nicely for a scoreless draw, doesn’t it? And if not that, how about a wild 3:3 with all the goals coming in one half?
However it ends on the scoreboard, there might not be a more-watchable match this weekend. Besides, you have to want to watch for whether Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez can extend his goal-scoring streak to five matches.
Last Week: 3-4-2
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