MD 31 Preview – The five remaining Saturday games!

This the third part of a last-minute preview of MD 31, you can read our thoughts on where the league is after 30 games and the Leverkusen – Schalke game (chalk one up for Abel!) here. There’s also a preview of the RBL – Ingolstadt match here.

Since there are only four  matchdays left in the Bundesliga and since I’ve found some time to write, here is a preview of MD 31, discussing the matches in order. We’ll be using some familiar XG charts and shot models (Challengerspod, Paul Riley and Alex Rathke) and a few new predictions from Goalimpact, 538’s match predictions and Euroclubindex as well.

Special thanks to Peter McKeever for adding his picks to the matches and the Dortmund-Cologne data.

1.Bremen host Hertha in what is suddenly a key Europa League playoff match of sorts. The visitors are almost locked into making to Europe despite just 16 pts in 14 spring matches, thanks to the Bundesliga being really congested in the middle and Frankfurt locking up the 7th spot’s European chances by making the Cup Final. There will also be eight players missing for Hertha

who are still winless in their last eight away matches.


Werder, on a ten game unbeaten run, are the hottest team in the league, so why are ECI, McKeever and 538 only giving them 45% to win? Who’s gonna stop Max Kruse who has nine goals in his last seven games, just one fewer than Hertha (8) in the same span? I don’t see it, I’d go with a 3-1 Werder win.

2. Darmstadt host Freiburg in what could be the penultimate Bundesligam match at Jonathan Heimes Stadium. I’m recycling a little of what I wrote yesterday on SV 98:

On the other end of the table, the poor Lilies have already lost 21 times, that’s despite two heroic wins in the last two weeks leaving them eleven points shy of 16th place and the playoff spot. 

Despite those two wins, it’s perhaps not an exaggeration to say that since they fired Dirk Schuster and appointed Norbert Meier in the offseason things went about as well as Ja Rule’s Fyre Festival for Sv 98.

To recap: Darmstadt have had an eight game losing streak followed by a draw, after which they lost five of six until recently winning three of the last eight! Per Goalimpact they are expected to finish with 26 points and go down easily and knowing their situation it would surprise a lot of people if they made it back up anytime soon.

For this match SV 98 are given just a 27% chance of winning by ECI and McKeever, but 538 are actually thinking 34%. My line of thinking is much more in agreement with the latter, especially considering that Freiburg will be without Vincenzo Grifo (knee) and Max Philipp, two of their main attacking players. Though Nils Petersen – now scoring Messi goals as a starter – and Florian Niederlechner have picked up the scoring slack with nine goals apiece and Janik Haberer has looked very good in a creative role. They will definitely need to score in this one. If Freiburg do score, it will likely be in the second half, as Darmstadt have conceded 43 of their 58 goals after the break, eight more than second-worst HSV (Bayern somehow have shipped FOUR in the second half!!!) Back to why Niederlechner and Petersen need to score.

Let me explain:Freiburg have been pretty decent away from home with a 4\4\7 record and 16 points albeit on a -11 goal difference. Leaking in multiple goals has been a problem for die Breisgau, as the table shows, but Darmstadt – who have scored 15 of their 23 goals at home – might not have the firepower to score more than once.

I would not feel great about Freiburg winning on the road, and go with a 1:1 draw as the most likeliest outcome, Darmstadt have scored 15 goals in 15 home matches, while Freiburg will probably score one (as discussed above). If I were to guess the type of goal, I’d wager on a set-piece goal, as Freiburg have conceded 16 of those, with the Lilies shipping 18 the silver and bronze medalists to the runaway winners that are Leverkusen (20 after last nite’s match).

3.Mainz against Gladbach would’ve been a great derby for the European spots at the end of last season and many where thinking that these to teams from the Rhine region would compete for those same spoils in 16\17. In contrast, they are 11th and 13th respectively and have had disastrous seasons with coaches getting almost fired (Schmidt) and actually fired (Schubert). There are too many reasons why they’ve endured such hardships, but for Mainz a league worst 7.63 shots needed for opponents to score is certainly one of them. BMG have gotten better results under Hecking, 1.64 points per game or 23 in 14 to be exact,

a mark that if projected for a 34 game season would yield 56 pts – one more than Borussia got last year as the fourth place team.

In terms of the likely outcome, there’s a giant problem for Hecking: injuries.

Mainz have a few of their own with Jhon Cordoba and Levin Öztunali doubtful for the game (Jairo would count if he actually mattered this season).  Here are’s predicted lineups.

In terms of the odds offered by our three preview experts the consensus seems that this game is really tough to pick: 538 has Mainz at 41%, while McKeever is at 38% and ECI at just 34% liking Gladbach for a road win at 38%. All three experts have a draw at 27 or 28% and that seems like the most likely scenario, though I would not exactly be shocked if Mainz pulled one out, given their situation. In fact, Mainz scoring 25 goals and conceding 22 at home, good for 22 pts in 15 matches coupled with the Gladbach injuries, I’ll go and pick 2-1 for the 05ers.

4. Dortmund host Cologne and it’s not been pretty for BVB in the last 5 matches vs Effzeh. Wipe that grin off your face, Randall!

Both teams have long-term injuries, and Dortmund of course played midweek, advancing to the DFB Pokal. That could impact the game quite severely as BVB have often struggled after midweek fixtures. Of course it’s also a huge Aubameyang vs Modeste matchup of two sharpshooters who have combined to score 49 goals this season.

Interestingly, though in light of Dortmund’s huge home unbeaten streak, ECI and 538 are all really heavy on Borussia to win at 72 and 81% respectively. Peter McKeever was kind enough to send us some additional info on the game, giving Dortmund a 76% chance to win, with 1-0 or 2-0 as the likeliest outcome.

In the face of overwhelming evidence, I will go and pick BVB, but with a scoreline of 2-1, because of the Ginter tax (he is starting).

5. Bayern travel to Wolfsburg in the TopSpiel and in the last few head to head matches, that has not been a problem for the Bavarians, as the lone VfL win came in a simpler time, when Dieter Hecking was coaching, Bas Dost was banging in goals that Kevin de Bruyne was providing. That game back in early 2015 was a sort of coming out party for one Maxi Arnold who had 2 assists. Unfortunately, he has three all of this season in 2150 minutes, and is behind Julian Draxler on the expected goals charts, which would be fine if Draxler had not left after the Hinrunde….

The Bavarians who extended Thiago and finalized the Kinglsey Coman deal after arguably their toughest week (getting bounced out of the UCL and DFB Pokal) might just take out their revenge on the poor Wolves, in the triple reunion.

That looks pretty scary, especially when you consider that Wolfsburg have collected just 17 pts in 15 matches (one fewer than Darmstadt!!!) at home while Bayern have gathered 33 in their 15 away matches.

All three predictors give Bayern between 63 and 68% chance of winning, with Wolfsburg getting between 12.5 and 16%.

Also, Robert Lewandowski has not scored in two straight games and I heard he likes Wolfsburg.

Let’s go with a 3-0 away win for Bayern.

Back later tonite with the two Sunday matches.

Let us know if you enjoyed these previews and if you’d like them to continue.


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Abel started out watching and playing soccer in Hungary, before falling in love with the Bundesliga in the mid -90s (thanks to Kicker and Sat1's Ran). Now, he's in the USA -- and still loving it all many years later. Abel is faithful to BVB, but also endlessly fascinated by the emergence of new teams and talents from Germany, to the point that he even started a website about it, at Otherwise, you can find him working in publishing, teaching ESL, and/or drinking craft beer - not necessarily at the same time, or in that order. Abel tweets at @VanbastenESL and @BundesPL

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