What a week to be a fan of football and the Bundesliga! Wolfsburg visited Belgium in the Champions League on Wednesday, while Dortmund, Leverkusen and Augsburg all had Europe League matches on Thursday. And on Friday, the Bundesliga returns with 15th place Eintracht Frankfurt hosting the surprise winners of last round in 11th place Hamburger SV. A bit of a change as far as scheduling goes to accommodate the cup teams, fans will see 5 Saturday matches (including the intriguing matchup of Gladbach versus Cologne and Hertha hosting die Wölfe) and 3 Sunday games, with Leverkusen entertaining Dortmund followed by Schalke 04 against VfB Stuttgart. With that in mind, let’s make 10 predictions for a sure to be exciting Matchday 22 of the Bundesliga.
Friday match prediction
- Szabolcs Huszti and Alex Meier will both score for Eintracht against HSV. The veteran striker is of course a Bundesliga legend, and has already bagged 12 of his team’s 26 goals this season for a whopping 46 percent. The Hungarian has been impressive since his return from China, and has already created 12 chances in just 4 games, while taking 11 shots. Granted, four games is a small sample size, but Huszti’s 2.8 shots per game are exactly the same as Henrikh Mkhitaryan of Dortmund and would rank him 9th among all players if he were to have enough attempts. Frankfurt games have also been really entertaining, as there have been 23 goals in 5 matches, a goalless draw against Augsburg notwithstanding. HSV’s defence is boosted by the return of Johan Djorou from suspension, but their last clean sheet came against Hoffenheim in October!
Saturday games – 5 bits of prognostication
- Bayern Munich will not keep a clean sheet against Darmstadt. Picking against a team that has only given up 10 goals all year and has not allowed a goal in 5 consecutive home matches seems like madness, but there are 3 reason why Manuel Neuer will be taking the ball out of his own net at least on one occasion. 1. Injuries and looking ahead to the Champions League clash against Juventus will force Bayern to use a makeshift defence, with Mehdi Benatia and even Serdar Tasci liable to play against Darmstadt as the champions are missing Jerome Boateng, Holger Badstuber and Javi Martinez for extended spells. 2. That does not bode well versus the aerial dominance of Darmstadt, with 12 goals coming from set pieces and a 3rd place tie with Leverkusen with an average of 29 aerial challenges won (Bayern are last with 16). 3. Sandro Wagner is one of the two likeliest candidates to score in that regard with 6 headers won on average per match. The former Hertha striker is on 7 goals for the season after having scored 4 in his last 5 games. Turkish center back Aytac Sulu has been a monster on set pieces all season and has scored all five of his goals away from home. Sadly, SV 98 will be missing him due to suspension, so it will be on Slobodan Rajkovic who abused Hoffenheim on set pieces to pick up the slack. In related news, the odds of Lewandowski scoring a goal were reportedly taken off the board.
- Anthony Modeste will score against Gladbach in the Rhine derby. The Frenchman is a super streaky goal scorer. His 10 goals included 6 goals in his first 7 matches, followed by an 8 game dry spell and now 4 in the last 5 games. The Foals have allowed 38 goals, only Werder and Stuttgart have allowed more (37 of 41 of those came in the Hinrunde) and Gladbach might be without Martin Hinteregger (though perhaps that isn’t such a bad thing, given his recent performance of laying eggs – pardon the pun!) Havard “Howie” Nordtveidt and 19-year-old prodigy Andreas Christensen will have their hands full with Modeste, who also had the winner in the Hinrunde’s 1-0 victory. Granit Xhaka has already played a full game after his red card suspension, so he is probably due to get sent off again in a rivalry of such high intensity.
- Hertha and Wolfsburg will end in a draw. The Berliners have kept a clean sheet in 6 of their last 8 home games and will struggle for goals with Salomon Kalou and his 10 goals still doubtful for Saturday with muscular problems. The hosts have also drawn 3 out of their last 4 games. Wolfsburg are such an enigma. The Wolves appeared to have righted the ship with a 2-0 win over Ingolstadt followed by going up 3-0 thanks to some Julian Draxler magic, only to collapse down the stretch and nearly let Gent equalize in Wednesday’s Champions League match. Whether it was Andre Schürrle’s miserable display, taking their foot off the gas, or just fatigue, none of those are promising signs ahead of a Saturday afternoon game in Berlin.
- There will be a new goalscorer for Mainz against Hoffenheim. The miracle season of FSV Mainz should continue against a confused side in Hoffenheim. While Yunus Malli and Yoshinori Muto’s 15 combined goals carried die Nullfünfer in the first half of the season, the duo’s slack has been picked up by a rotating cast of characters led by Jairo Samperio and Christian Clemens. Last week Gaetan Bussmann and Julian Baumgartlinger both picked up their first career goals, so it’s probably high time for two excellent former Darstmadt players, midfield dynamo Danny Latza and center back Leon Balogun, to get in on the action. Or perhaps the Colombian striker Jhon Cordoba, filling in for the injured Muto, will open his account?
- Pascal Groß – FC Ingolstadt will create 4 or more chances against Werder Bremen He averages three per game and leads the league with 57 chances created — meanwhile Werder have given up the most goals in the league with 42. Their high pressing system has been really effective against much more organized teams than the Green-Whites. What Ingolstadt will do with those chances is probably miss them, as somehow they have only scored 14 goals in 21 games on a miserable 5.9% conversion rate. Even Lord Bendtner would help them up top….
Sunday fixtures – 4 prophecies
- Aubameyang will not score against Leverkusen This is no knock on the Gabonese striker, whom we have sung the praises of repeatedly, but there are pretty good reasons why he will not increase his 20 goal total. 1. Just getting back from injury (missing last week’s game) and a tough match on Thursday against Porto will not help. 2. Jonathan Tah and Omer Toprak have been a great defensive duo for die Werkself, allowing just 2 goals for strikers in their 10 matches together. Bundesliga.com has put together a great infographic on this matchup.3. Dortmund have been sputtering as of late. The machine that has scored 53 goals in the Bundesliga might have picked up some dust, with only 7 goals in the last 5 matches and three sub-par performances vs Ingolstadt, Hertha and Hannover that still resulted in 7 points.
- Stuttgart will continue their ascent against Schalke. The Bundesliga’s hottest team will visit Gelsenkirchen and come out just 3 points behind the Royal Blues if they are able to defeat the home side. While much has been said about the remarkable turnaround under Jürgen Kramny, averaging 2.1 points pert match since taking over from Alexander Zorniger, the fact is that since Leroy Sane’s goal gave Schalke a 1-0 win over VfB, in 15 matches Stuttgart have earned 24 points to Schalke’s 20. That is not meant to be an apology for Zorniger or a slight to Kramny, but more of an indictment on Andre Breitenreiter’s Jekyll and Hyde team.
- Filip Kostic will be man of the match. The 22-year-old Serbian attacking midfielder has been on fire after a miserable time in the Hinrunde. He has scored all 3 of his goals this season in the last 5 matches and leads his team with 2 MOTM awards already in the Rückrunde. While his passing percentage may not reach 65%, his pace and physicality will give a Schalke defense (without Höwedes and Joel Matip’s mind perhaps in Liverpool already) nightmares.
- Hannover will earn at least a point against Augsburg As noted contemporary philosopher and Rage Against the Machine frontman Zack de la Rocha once said “It has to start somewhere it has to start sometime, what better place than here, what better time than now”
Hannover are 7 points behind FCA and with the visitors playing Liverpool on Thursday, the 96ers will not have a better opportunity to close that gap than on Sunday.
So there you have it ten predictions for Matchday 22 of the Bundesliga, let’s see how many we will get right! Let us know in the comments what you think them, as well.