Hapless hosts in serious danger
Borussia Mönchengladbach v Union Berlin
Saturday 22 January, 14:30
Live on Betfair Live Video
While Union Berlin were celebrating a famous derby win over Hertha in the DFB Cup on Wednesday, Borussia Mönchengladbach were licking their wounds after an abominable 3-0 defeat at second-tier Hannover. In a season of disastrous results, this was the Foals' lowest ebb.
It was a result that we should really have seen coming. Gladbach had given up an xG figure of 5.59 (figure from Infogol) in the weekend's 2-1 derby defeat at home to Bayer Leverkusen, a game that saw BMG keeper Yann Sommer save two penalties, and yet still end up on the losing side.
Gladbach have now lost six of their last eight matches in league and cup, and they have leaked a mind-boggling 24 goals in the process.
The recruitment of centre-back Marvin Friedrich from Union might be a step in the right direction, but he hasn't made an immediate impact.
Coach Adi Hütter has been given staunch backing by sporting director Max Eberl, but he is under increasing pressure. Gladbach are closer to the dropzone than the European spots, and they have lost nine of their 19 matches in the Bundesliga. Only Hertha Berlin and rock-bottom Greuther Fürth have worse defensive records, and had it not been for Sommer, I think the Rhineland club might even have sunk into the bottom three.
Union Berlin don't have Gladbach's financial muscle or their history, but they do have a unity of purpose, an astute coach (Urs Fischer) who they trust and an incredible work ethic. Even without star striker Taiwo Awoniyi, who is away with Nigeria at AFCON, they have posed an attacking threat. Ex-Bielefeld forward Andreas Voglsammer has scored in back-to-back games, including a jaw-dropping volley to open the scoring on Wednesday. Union are fifth in the league, and have lost just four top-flight matches.
The Match Odds here simply aren't rooted in reality, and I'll happily back Union +0 & +0.5 on the Asian Handicap at 1.9620/21. A draw gives us a half-win, while an away success nets us a winner at close to evens.
Fragile Dortmund can't be trusted
Hoffenheim v Borussia Dortmund
Saturday 22 January, 14:30
Live on Betfair Live Video
If ever you wanted a week to sum up Borussia Dortmund, it has been this one. Last Friday they smashed Freiburg 5-1, delivering one of their best attacking displays of the season against a side that had the joint-best defensive record in the league. Four days later they crumbled to a feeble 2-1 DFB Cup defeat at second-tier table-toppers St. Pauli. BVB gave up two horrible first-half goals, and never recovered. Rotation can't be blamed, as coach Marco Rose selected an incredibly strong side that included Erling Haaland, Jude Bellingham, Manuel Akanji and Marco Reus.
Bad habits are proving tough to shake, and you get the sense that all too often the Ruhr giants are relying on individual quality to drag them through games. The recent 3-2 comeback win at Eintracht Frankfurt is a case in point - yes, they showed grit and determination to fight back from 2-0 down, but the goals they gave away were eminently preventable.
Hoffenheim also tumbled out of the cup, losing 4-1 at home to Freiburg, but there is evidence suggesting they can bounce back here. TSG have won six of their last seven home games in the Bundesliga, and haven't lost a league match in Sinsheim since September. Sebastian Hoeness's side only lost the reverse fixture thanks to a last-gasp Erling Haaland strike, and they have only lost two of the clubs' last eight top-flight meetings.
Dortmund have the talent to blow away any team on their day, but they have lost four times on their travels in the league, and against a side that has such a good home record, I simply can't support them to win here. I'll back Hoffenheim +0 & +0.5 on the Asian Handicap at 2.0421/20.
Bochum can avoid defeat
Bochum v Köln
Saturday 22 January, 17:30
Live on Sky Sports and Betfair Live Video
These sides had differing fortunes in midweek. Bochum booked a place in the DFB Cup quarter-finals with a 3-1 comeback win over Mainz, while Köln slipped out against Hamburg in dramatic fashion. The Billy Goats were defeated on penalties, as Florian Kainz's spot-kick saw the Austrian kick the ball against his standing foot before it ended up in the net. The goal was cruelly, if correctly, disallowed.
Bochum have done superbly since winning the Bundesliga 2. title last term. They have racked up 23 points, and have only suffered two defeats in nine home matches in the league. Hoffenheim, Freiburg, Mainz and Wolfsburg have all lost at the Ruhrstadion, while Borussia Dortmund narrowly escaped defeat in a 1-1 draw.
Köln are having a strong season under new coach Steffen Baumgart, but they were dismantled last week in a 4-0 home defeat to Bayern, and I have concerns about the heart of their defence. Rafael Czichos went to MLS, and Jorge Mere has followed him out of the door to Mexico, so there's a lot of pressure on Timo Hubers and Luca Kilian. The jury's out on whether Hubers in particular is good enough at this level.
Köln have only won twice on their travels in the league, and Bochum's home record has to be respected here. I'll back the hosts +0 & +0.5 on the Asian Handicap at 2.01/1.