Heavyweight clash to strike sparks
Bayer Leverkusen v Bayern Munich
Sunday 17 October, 14:30
Live on Sky Sports and Betfair Live Video
This is without doubt the most intriguing Bundesliga clash of the season so far. With Florian Wirtz, Moussa Diaby and Patrik Schick all playing superbly, Bayer are in excellent form, but Bayern were wounded by a somewhat unjust defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt a fortnight ago and have put together a very encouraging campaign so far.
18-year-old Wirtz has been the centre-piece of the Bayer attack, and he has recently made the senior breakthrough at international level. The former Köln youngster (the Billy Goats took too long to offer Wirtz a pro deal, and Bayer nipped in) is a creator and a scorer, and has four goals and five assists in the league this term across just six appearances. He is willing to work hard without the ball, and he’s tougher than he perhaps first appears. With the fleet-footed Diaby and the bustling and super-confident Schick also in the forward line, coach Gerardo Seoane certainly has plenty of quality at his disposal.
Bayer have won seven of their last eight competitive games, but this weekend they face the record champions, who have won the clubs’ last four meetings in all competitions. When the teams met in December 2020 at the BayArena, Leverkusen had been flying high, but a 2-1 defeat to Bayern (the Bavarians came from behind as Robert Lewandowski netted a late winner) seemed to completely derail their season. This time, Bayer face Julian Nagelsmann’s version of Die Roten, and it’s a pretty good one.
Bayern are top of the league, ahead of Bayer on goal difference, and they have already smashed in 24 goals in just seven league matches. If you look at all competitions, Bayern have scored 47 goals in just 11 games. Yes, there was a 12-0 cup win against Bremer in there, but without that, it’s still 35 goals in ten matches.
Leverkusen’s only game against top opposition this term ended in a 4-3 defeat at home to Borussia Dortmund, and I can see a similarly open game here. Leverkusen have already seen six of their games creep over the 3.5 goals line, and I think 1.855/6 for that eventuality is a fair price. Seven of the last ten competitive meetings between these two have featured at least four goals.
Struggling duo won’t put on a show
Greuther Fürth v Bochum
Saturday 16 October, 14:30
Live on Betfair Live Video
It’s fair to say that both of last season’s promotion winners in Bundesliga 2. have found life at a higher level hard to cope with. Fürth have lost six of their seven league games, and they have already leaked 19 goals, despite the protestations of coach Stefan Leitl that he is focusing on getting his side organised. Bochum lost their creative fulcrum Robert Zulj before the season even started, and now last season’s top scorer Simon Zoller is on the sidelines. The Ruhr club have collected just four points and scored just four goals in their first seven matches in the top flight.
It’s therefore pretty surprising to see Under 2.5 Goals trading as the favourite here at 2.0421/20. Neither team has a striker in form, and given how vital this game is already in the relegation scrap, I can’t imagine there’ll be many risks taken here. Bochum have only scored in one of their four away games, while Fürth have found the net just twice in three matches on home soil.
Köln can break Hoffenheim hoodoo
Hoffenheim v Köln
Friday 15 October, 19:30
Live on Sky Sports Mix and Betfair Live Video
Whenever I speak to ex-players about whether they care about a bad run of form against a certain opponent, they almost invariably say no. Of course, it can be instructive to an extent if a team historically struggles with a particular matchup, but it’s hard to see how Köln’s six-match losing streak against Friday night’s opponents Hoffenheim is overly relevant.
Köln are a completely different outfit this term under new coach Steffen Baumgart. They are playing thrilling and attacking football, and have far more confidence than they did throughout last season under the somewhat dour leadership of Markus Gisdol and then Friedhelm Funkel. Sales of Baumgart’s hat of choice (a flat cap) have gone through the roof in the Cologne area.
Köln have strikers in form, with Anthony Modeste and Sebastian Andersson both looking sharp, and the talented Mark Uth is a fine source of creativity. Although the loss of tireless midfielder Ellyes Skhiri to injury is a blow, Jonas Hector could be switched from left-back.
Hoffenheim haven’t made a convincing start to the campaign, and they have only won two of their first seven league games. Coach Sebastian Hoeness was retained in the summer despite an underwhelming debut campaign, but the pressure is rising once again. A limp 3-1 defeat at Stuttgart was a poor way to enter the international break, and Hoffe have already leaked 11 goals in the league this term.
I can’t accept that Hoffenheim are the favourites here at just above evens, so I’ll back the visitors in the Double Chance market at 1.910/11.