Kevin Hatchard hopes to wrap up a profitable season of Bundesliga tipping in style, and he's backing Werder Bremen to make life tougher for Borussia Dortmund than the market expects...
"Werder haven't lost a game by more than two goals since Alexander Nouri took charge, and a touch of tiredness has crept into Dortmund's play in recent weeks."
Borussia Dortmund v Werder Bremen
Saturday May 20, 14:30
Live on BT Sport Extra
Borussia Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel says he's excited, because his side still have two clear goals to aim at. Only a win against Werder will guarantee third spot and automatic qualification for the group stages of the Champions League, and then the DFB Cup final against Eintracht Frankfurt could bring BVB their first major trophy since 2012.
It's been a rollercoaster of a campaign for Dortmund. Losing three key players in the summer was difficult for Tuchel to stomach, and we'll never know if the horrendous attack on the Dortmund team bus ahead of their Champions League quarter-final against Monaco truly cost them a place in the semi-finals. BVB have never really found the consistency they needed to challenge Bayern at the top of the Bundesliga, and reported rows between Tuchel and CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke have led to speculation that this might be the coach's final league game with Die Schwarzgelben.
But there have been rays of light in the gloom. Striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has had his best ever season in Germany's top flight, smashing in 29 goals. Teenage wingers Ousmane Dembele and Christian Pulisic have been sensational this term, and when fit, Marco Reus has given us glimpses of what he's truly capable of.
Werder Bremen have undergone one of the most amazing transformations the league has seen. 16 games into the campaign they looked doomed to another relegation battle, but coach Alexander Nouri's attack-minded approach and deep personal connection to the club has won over players and fans alike.
Werder have collected 29 points from the last 13 games, and although 4-3 and 5-3 defeats to Koln and Hoffenheim respectively may have destroyed their Europa League dream, a top-10 finish could be on the cards even if they lose at Signal Iduna Park.
The market expects goals and a hefty Dortmund win, but I'm not so sure BVB will cruise home in this one. Werder haven't lost by more than two goals since Nouri took charge, they have scored at least twice in each of their last nine games, and they gave BVB a real run for their money in their reverse fixture. That day, Werder only lost 2-1, despite playing most of the match with ten men. Dortmund look a bit tired to me, and struggled for fluency in last weekend's 1-1 draw at Augsburg.
Back Werder Bremen +2.0 on the Asian Handicap at [2.08]
Hamburg v Wolfsburg
Saturday May 20, 14:30
Live on BT Sport 3
The Bundesliga has become the place to be when it comes to crazy relegation battles. Last season, Werder Bremen scored at the end of their final match to send Eintracht Frankfurt tumbling into a relegation playoff (which they survived). The campaign before that, Stuttgart's final-day win over Paderborn kept them up, and sent Paderborn down (Paderborn are now battling to avoid a third consecutive relegation).
Here we are again. Hamburg's last-gasp equaliser at Schalke last weekend means they will stay up if they beat Wolfsburg this weekend, with the Wolves then dropping into the playoff spot unless Augsburg are absolutely smashed at Hoffenheim.
Wolfsburg seemed to be heading towards safety a few weeks ago, with the decision to bring in Arsenal academy boss Andries Jonker as coach paying initial dividends. However, the Wolves have won just two of their last seven games, and the recent 6-0 hammering they suffered at the hands of Bayern Munich could prove very costly in terms of goal difference.
Hamburg have contested the relegation playoff in two of the last three seasons, and this is their last chance to avoid another. Their situation is straightforward - win or bust. Regular readers will know I've been a burned a couple of times recently, because I expected HSV to beat both Darmstadt and Mainz. They took just a point from those games, which is why they are in deep trouble again.
However, the fighting spirit they showed in Gelsenkirchen counts for something. Many of Hamburg's players have experience of this type of nerve-shredding game, as does their coach Markus Gisdol. A few seasons ago, Gisdol's Hoffenheim looked dead and buried, but an incredible 2-1 win at Borussia Dortmund secured a playoff spot, and ultimately survival.
That knowhow could make a big difference, and Hamburg's passionate crowd will play their part. HSV have won seven of their last ten home games, and against a Wolfsburg team full of talented players who haven't shown they can battle, I'm backing them to make it eight out of 11.
Back Hamburg Draw No Bet at [2.02]
FC Koln v Mainz
Saturday May 20, 14:30
Since winning promotion back to the top flight in 2014, FC Koln have progressed slowly and steadily, and now they are within striking distance of a Europa League berth. The equation is simple for the Billy Goats - victory guarantees them seventh spot at least, and it would get them sixth if Freiburg fail to win at Bayern Munich.
A top-six finish would represent just rewards for coach Peter Stoger and sporting director Jorg Schmadtke, who have kept the club clear of relegation danger, and built success upon a platform of teamwork, hard graft and a sound tactical approach.
I know what the atmosphere will be like in Cologne on Saturday, and the team certainly won't want for support at the RheinEnergie Stadion. Saturday's opponents Mainz have achieved their primary target, because last weekend's stunning comeback against Eintracht Frankfurt ensured survival. Die Nullfunfer's decision to stick with coach Martin Schmidt when the going got tough has been proved correct.
Mainz might've poured all of their energy into last week's win and the celebrations that followed, and away from home they have picked up just five points from the last five matches. I'm backing the hosts to get that European spot, and delight the carnival city of Cologne.
Back FC Koln -0.5 & -1.0 on the Asian Handicap at [1.82]
Kevin will be commentating on Borussia Dortmund v Werder Bremen for the Bundesliga's world TV feed. You can follow him on Twitter @kevinhatchard
Kevin Hatchard 2016-17 Bundesliga P/L
Points Staked: 105
Points Returned: 116.16
P/L: +11.16 points