Two of the Bundesliga's bottom three do battle on Saturday, and Kevin Hatchard expects improving Augsburg to come out on top.
Augsburg vs Hoffenheim, Sat 14:30 BST
The Bundesliga's bottom three have been cast adrift in a mini-league of mediocrity, and this could prove to be a crucial clash. Augsburg are second from bottom with 15 points, while Hoffenheim are just a point and a place above them in the relegation play-off slot.
I was hugely critical of Augsburg and their inexperienced coach Markus Weinzierl in the first half of the season, but the Bavarians have steadily improved since the winter break. Augsburg showed considerable loyalty as they stood by Weinzierl, and the coach made some vital tactical adjustments to make his team more attacking. The return of striker Sascha Molders from injury has helped, and Augsburg have scored six goals in five games since Christmas, not bad when you consider they managed just 12 goals in 17 matches in the first half of the season.
Augsburg's 2-1 defeat at Bayer Leverkusen last week was their first in six matches, and although they were outplayed, it's worth noting they were up against one of the division's top sides. Augsburg have tightened up at home recently, managing creditable draws with top-half teams Freiburg, Schalke and Mainz. The key now is for Augsburg to turn those draws into wins.
While most people expected Augsburg to be relegation candidates, Hoffenheim's plight has come as a surprise. High-profile summer signings like keeper Tim Wiese and striker Eren Derdiyok have spectacularly flopped, and it was no surprise when coach Markus Babbel was given the chop in December. His replacement Marco Kurz has worked hard on improving an abject defence, but worryingly Hoffe are now struggling at the other end, having failed to score in three of Kurz's five games in charge. Another concern is Hoffe's sloppy starts - Opta tell us they have conceded a goal in the first eight minutes of their last three matches.
Hoffenheim have the worst away record in the division, having lost eight of their ten road games. Augsburg have the second-worst home record in the Bundesliga, with just one win in 11, but I think they are showing greater signs of improvement than Hoffenheim. January signings Ji Dong-Won and Michael Parkhurst have settled in well, and I think Weinzierl's men can take advantage of opponents who are bereft of confidence.
Greuther Furth vs Bayer Leverkusen, Sun 16:30 BST
Match Odds: Greuther 4.94/1, Bayer 1.814/5, the draw 3.953/1
The inevitable came to pass this week, as Greuther Furth parted company with coach Mike Buskens. The 44-year-old attained hero status when he took the Clover Leaves into the top flight, but they have looked woefully short of quality, especially in attack. It didn't help Buskens that last season's top scorer Olivier Occean defected to Eintracht Frankfurt in the summer, and that the club then replaced him with Schalke reject Edu.
Furth are bottom, but they are just four points from escaping the automatic relegation zone. While I understand the decision to jettison Buskens, I can't see how his replacement can get much more out of a limited squad.
Greuther have the worst home record in the league (0W, 3D, 8L) and the last thing they need is the visit of Bayer Leverkusen. Bayer went out of the Europa League via a 2-1 loss at Benfica on Thursday, but they actually played really well. Benfica keeper Artur was on fine form, and Bayer hit the woodwork twice.
Bayer average more than two goals a game on the road, and although they have won just four away league games, they will have too much quality for Greuther. Back Bayer -1.0 on the Asian Handicap at 2.0421/20 to beef up the price for the away win, Greuther have scored just four goals in 11 home games, so it's worth backing Bayer to Win to Nil at 3.39/4.
Borussia Monchengladbach vs Borussia Dortmund, Sun 14:30 BST
This game sees Marco Reus return to Borussia Park for the first time since leaving Gladbach for Dortmund in the summer. Opta tell us that Reus has got even better as a player since the move - last term he had a hand in 18 Bundesliga goals, while this season he has already scored or created 19.
BVB won the reverse fixture 5-0, and I expect goals again. Gladbach's last two home games have ended 3-3, and they have conceded 12 goals in their last six games. BVB have banged in 26 goals in 11 away games, and I like the look of Over 3.5 Goals at 2.9215/8.