Hosts to kick off the year with a bang
Hoffenheim v Augsburg
Saturday 08 January, 14:30
Live in Betfair Live Video
It took over a year, but Sebastian Hoeness has finally found the magic touch at Hoffenheim. After rumours of player unrest and indiscipline, it appears that all is serene in Sinsheim. Hoffenheim ended 2021 in fifth place, only outside the Champions League spots on goal difference, and they have one of the best home records in the division.
Hoffenheim have won five of their eight league games at the PreZero Arena, and although we are sadly back to geisterspiele (ghost games) with no fans because of COVID-19, I still think Hoffe’s home record will hold up. The fans in Sinsheim aren’t exactly an intimidating bunch, and even if this game against Augsburg was on neutral ground, I’d still back Hoeness’s side to win.
Perhaps the most important development at Hoffenheim has been the move away from total reliance on Andrej Kramaric in attack. The Croatian has only scored twice in the league this term, while Ilhas Bebou (five goals) and Georginio Rutter (four goals) have also shone up front. A more varied attacking unit has helped the southern side rack up 35 goals in 17 league outings.
There’s been a lot on fanfare surrounding Augsburg’s acquisition of US international forward Ricardo Pepi, and rightly so, as his capture is a big departure from the Swabians’ usual transfer policy. The 18-year-old scored 13 goals for FC Dallas in the MLS last term, and FCA have edged out a host of other suitors to land his signature.
At time of writing, Hoffenheim weren’t without any of their key performers, while Augsburg centre-back Reece Oxford is suspended. Augsburg are just above the dropzone, and they have only won once on the road all season. I’ll happily back Hoffenheim -1.0 on the Asian Handicap at evens.
BVB to slip again
Eintracht Frankfurt v Borussia Dortmund
Saturday 08 January, 17:30
Live on Sky Sports and Betfair Live Video
With Bayern Munich having opened up a nine-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga going into 2022, it’s hard to conclude that a tenth straight meisterschale isn’t on its way to Bavaria. Therefore, Borussia Dortmund must now focus on cup competitions and trying to make sure they nail down second place in the table. Winning the Europa League and DFB Cup certainly isn’t beyond them, and in Erling Haaland they still have one of the world’s most exciting young players.
However, I don’t anticipate the year starting with a win for the Black and Yellows. Key defender Manuel Akanji is out injured, while Dan-Axel Zagadou and Marius Wolf both tested positive for COVID-19. On the road, Dortmund have consistently underwhelmed, losing four of their eight Bundesliga away games and winning just three.
On that basis alone, BVB look too short to win this at evens, but then you also consider how good Eintracht Frankfurt looked towards the end of 2021. The Eagles beat Borussia Mönchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen, and their faith and patience regarding coach Oliver Glasner has been rewarded. Frankfurt have only lost once at home, and they ended the year with three straight wins. They have also won their last three league matches at Deutsche Bank Park.
I’ll lay the visitors here at evens.
Misfiring Leipzig are too short
RB Leipzig v Mainz
Saturday 08 January, 14:30
Live on Betfair Live Video
It was a horrible hinrunde (first half of the season) for RB Leipzig. I thought they would be title contenders, but the players never bought into coach Jesse Marsch’s back-to-basics tactical approach, and a series of disjointed and inconsistent performances followed. Marsch was jettisoned in favour of former Schalke boss Domenico Tedesco, who must surely deliver a top-four finish if he is to keep the job in the long term.
Leipzig have been boosted by the presence of attacking stars Christopher Nkunku and Andre Silva, who both tested positive for COVID-19 on their respective holidays, but are now back in Leipzig and free to play. That said, both players started the abject 2-0 home defeat to Arminia Bielefeld last time out, a result that followed an underwhelming 1-1 draw at Augsburg. Tedesco started his tenure with a 4-1 win over Gladbach, but that perhaps owed more to the visitors’ struggles than the hosts’ qualities.
Mainz beat Leipzig in the reverse fixture, and coach Bo Svensson continues to work wonders. The Karneval club finished the first half of the season in the top half of the table, and although they have lost five of their last six on the road, they haven’t lost any of those games by more than a goal. That sequence of defeats included games at Bayern, Dortmund, Leverkusen and Frankfurt, so it’s not as bad as it looks.
If we back Mainz +0.5 & +1.0 on the Asian Handicap at 1.9210/11, we get a full payout if Leipzig fail to win, and we only lose our entire stake if Leipzig win by two clear goals. Mainz have only lost by more than one goal twice this season.