Hertha Berlin have endured a shambolic campaign, and Kevin Hatchard believes a former ally will return to haunt them as the Bundesliga season concludes.
Hertha Berlin vs Hoffenheim, Sat 14:30 BST
Hertha Berlin's Bundesliga campaign has been a comedy of errors, but no-one is laughing at the German capital's biggest club. A series of catastrophic mistakes by sporting director Michael Preetz has hampered a limited squad of players, and as a result the best Hertha can now hope for is a relegation playoff. To avoid automatic demotion Hertha must beat Hoffenheim, and hope Cologne fail to beat Bayern Munich.
Hertha started the season well under coach Markus Babbel, who had masterminded the club's return to the top flight. In September Hertha raised eyebrows with a stunning 2-1 win at champions Borussia Dortmund, and Babbel's men finished the first half of the season in mid-table comfort.
Cue the disasters. On December 17, Babbel announced he would not be renewing his contract at the end of the season, but hoped to stay in charge until May. Preetz sacked him the following day, insisting he had no choice. To compound that error, Preetz inexplicably hired Michael Skibbe, whose ineptitude saw Eintracht Frankfurt relegated last season. I was heavily critical of the decision, and was proved right, as Skibbe lost all five games he took charge of.
Veteran coach Otto Rehhagel was then drafted in, but has had little impact, with Hertha losing eight of his 12 matches at the helm. Alarmingly, the man who based Greece's Euro 2004 victory on dogged defence has overseen the concession of 27 goals, an average of 2.25 per game. Last week's pitiful 4-0 surrender at Schalke was typical of Hertha's post-Christmas displays.
It's ironic that it could be Babbel who sends his former club back down to Bundesliga Zwei. Since taking charge of Hoffenheim, Babbel has hardly pulled up any trees, but the team's wretched away form has significantly improved. TSG have picked up wins at Wolfsburg, Kaiserslautern and Borussia Monchengladbach, and their only away defeat under Babbel was an understandable reverse at Bayern Munich.
There is absolutely no justification for making Hertha 2.0421/20 favourites. They have won just twice since Christmas, and have managed just three victories at the Olympiastadion all season. Only rock-bottom Kaiserslautern have a worse home record.
Recommended Bets: Find a way to oppose Hertha. If you want a conservative approach back Hoffenheim +0.5 on the Asian Handicap at 1.9110/11, but you'd be well within your rights to be more aggressive and back a Hoffenheim win at 3.814/5
FC Cologne vs Bayern Munich, Sat 14:30 BST
Cologne know they may need a victory against Bayern to avoid automatic relegation, but if Hertha fail to win, the Billy Goats' result becomes an irrelevance. In their last home game, Cologne performed manfully in a 1-1 draw with in-form Stuttgart, but their general home form since Christmas is poor. Cologne have won just one of their seven games at the RheinEnergieStadion since the winter break, and they haven't scored more than once in a home game since late October.
It's tempting to say Bayern will take it easy with German Cup and Champions League finals on the horizon, but there will be plenty of players desperate to cement their places in the starting eleven. Mario Gomez is keen to retain his top-scorer crown (he is one goal behind Schalke's Klaas-Jan Huntelaar), and Bayern have been boosted by the agreement of new contracts with Arjen Robben and Daniel Van Buyten.
The value here may well be in the under 2.5 goals market. Four of Bayern's last six league games have featured fewer than 2.5 goals, which is true of five of Cologne's last six home games. As such, under 2.5 goals is overpriced at 2.747/4.
Recommended Bet: Back under 2.5 goals at 2.747/4
Hannover vs Kaiserslautern, Sat 14:30 BST
Hannover need to beat the league's worst side to guarantee Europa League qualification for a second straight season. To do that they must rediscover their scoring touch - Mirko Slomka's men have failed to hit the net in four of their last five games. Lautern have scored the fewest goals (23) in the league, drawing a blank 17 times.
In each of Hannover's last five games only one of the sides has scored, and as both teams are hardly prolific, I fancy that to be the case again.
Recommended Bets: Back No in the Both Teams to Score market at 2.0811/10, and back under 2.5 goals at 2.486/4