WITH Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig, Borussia Monchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen all back to winning ways last week, the battle between places two to six in the Bundesliga is going to be fascinating from here on in. With just two points between all four sides, every match day matters and no slip-ups can be accounted for. This week, I'm predicting two wins, one draw, and one defeat – by all means read on if you're curious.
Only Schalke (0) and Union Berlin (1) have collected fewer points than Freiburg (2) since the Bundesliga restarted. Worse still, Christian Streich's side have failed to score in consecutive home games in the league for the first time since 2017. Not the most ideal time then to host Champions League-chasing Monchengladbach who just hammered Union Berlin 4-1.
Borussia had to bounce back last week, and they did in style with Marcus Thuram's brace taking his post-restart total to four in four games. The youngster won Bundesliga Rookie of the Month in September, October, and November in 2019, and it seems he's all set to end the season as strongly as he started it. 29/20 for him to score any time represents great value.
Eintracht are yet to win three straight games all season, but on the back of compelling victories on the road at Wolfsburg (1-2) and then Werder Bremen (0-3), they have a real chance. Adi Hütter's side had gone six without a win before those crucial six points – they haven't fully turned the corner yet but just one goal conceded in the last two represents a significant defensive improvement.
Defeat at Hoffenheim last time out made it five Bundesliga games without a win for Mainz – the longest such run under Achim Beierlorzer – and their recent struggles at the Commerzbank-Arena offer little comfort. Mainz have taken just four points from the last 21 available away at Frankfurt. All things considered, that total is likely to become four points from 24 this weekend.
Similarly, Leverkusen can rack up their own three-win run here, but this time with much greater historic undertones. Leverkusen have never beaten Bayern three matches in a row, but following up February 2019's 3-1 win at BayArena with a 2-1 win at the Allianz Arena last November, gives them that opportunity. The only problem – and it's not inconsiderable – is that Bayern are in historically good form just now.
Since Hansi Flick took over in Bavaria, Bayern have won 22 out of 25 games in all competitions. For reference, Pep Guardiola won 21 of his first 25. In fact, 2012/13, the year before Guardiola arrived when Munich won the treble is the only time they've bettered this year's Rückrunde (post-winter break Bundesliga) total of 34 points from 36 available has been surpassed (36). Leverkusen's total of 28 is also their joint best return so Saturday's match is all set to be a thriller.
Signing Leverkusen's Kai Havertz is reportedly high on Bayern's priority list this summer, so this is an excellent opportunity for him to showcase his talents. With five goals in four matches, it's worth a punt on his goal-scoring form to continue. Ultimately though, Bayern – who may well be favourites for the Champions League when it eventually returns – should have enough.
In their short history, Leipzig have faced Paderborn four times and they're yet to drop a point, which is in contrast to their post-restart home games where winnable clashes with Freiburg and Hertha Berlin petered out into score draws. Leipzig's away form – two wins with a combined score of 2-9 – will offer some considerable comfort to Julian Nagelsmann.
Whatever the German compound word for 'utterly and completely doomed bar a ludicrous, unimaginable turnaround' is, that's the right word to describe Paderborn right now. Just 19 points from 29 games all season, nine points from safety, with only one win in 2020 and a measly five points out of 30 since then. Not forgetting of course last week's 6-1 home defeat to Borussia Dortmund, their biggest defeat of the season. This one has home win written all over it, and it could get messy.
Dortmund's 2-1 win in the reverse fixture back in November gives them the chance to complete a league double over Hertha for the first time since 2004/05. However, that's easier said than done. Bayern Munich aside, Hertha have arguably been the best team in the Bundesliga since returning with three wins to nil, and the only 'blot' on the copy book being a 2-2 draw away at Leipzig.
Six games without defeat means Bruno Labbadia's Hertha are in their best form for more than four years, since January 2016 in fact. Given the turmoil the club found itself in as recently as February when Jurgen Klinsmann left the club in mysterious circumstances, that's an incredible effort by the new man. Dortmund's 6-1 spanking of Paderborn last week brought their average to three goals per game since returning – there should be plenty of goals in this one, but all three results are entirely possible.
Top rated Bundesliga players since returning to action (3 apps)
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) May 29, 2020
After taking seven points from nine against Freiburg, Monchengladbach and Schalke, Werder's 3-0 home defeat to struggling Eintracht last week was somewhat of a surprise, but taking a more long-term view, it is indicative of a quite atrocious run of form at the Weser Stadium. Werder have now gone 12 games without a win on their own patch – a negative club record. It's actually worse than it sounds – Bremen have only drawn three of those games, and scored in four.
Wolfsburg on the other hand have had a mixed bag since returning, but suffice to say they've done their best work away from home, firstly by seeing off Augsburg 2-1 then most impressively trouncing in-form Leverkusen 4-1 on their own patch. While Oliver Glasner will want to rectify that Volkswagen Arena form as soon as possible, he'll be rightly confident of another road win here.
Second worst post-restart side in the Bundesliga versus worst post-restart side in the Bundesliga here as both teams go in search of their first win since returning, and in Schalke's case, their first point. But while Schalke's strong start to the campaign leaves them relatively free of relegation anxiety, at least for now, Union need points on the board to stave off concerns.
To that end, their dire defensive record is concerning. With 28 goals conceded in 2020, Union have the worst Bundesliga record in that time. But how tough big an issue is a dodgy defence against a team that can't score? In Schalke's last 10 Bundesliga matches, they've only managed to muster a frankly disgraceful three goals. Three!
David Wagner has a multitude of problems at the current time, but his side's attack malfunctioning is by far the most costly. Schalke are an infinitely better side on paper, but their lack of confidence has ravaged the squad, leaving them there for the taking week in week out. Back Union for a crucial pressure-easing victory.