Back Schalke to pile on the misery for hopeless Hoffenheim


Kevin Hatchard concentrates on the relegation battle and the race for the top four this week, and he expects Hoffenheim to suffer another damaging defeat.


Schalke vs Hoffenheim, Sat 14:30 BST, Live on Betfair Live Video

Match Odds: Schalke 1.62, Hoffe 6.2, the draw 4.4


Schalke and Hoffenheim are operating at opposite ends of the Bundesliga table, but the future remains uncertain for both clubs. Schalke are battling for Champions  League qualification with a coach who is far from secure in his job, while Hoffenheim are plunging towards relegation amidst rumours of dressing-room unrest.

Schalke sporting director Horst Heldt was keen to bring coach Armin Veh to the Veltins Arena (the two won the title together at Stuttgart), but instead Veh has signed  a contract extension at Eintracht Frankfurt, a direct rival for a top-four finish. Heldt insists current coach Jens Keller could stay on beyond the summer, but the  blatant pursuit of Veh was hardly a vote of confidence.


The Royal Blues are fifth in the Bundesliga, and only trail fourth-placed Eintracht on goal difference. Schalke have been licking their wounds during the international  break, after they crashed out of the Champions League to Galatasaray and lost 3-0 at Nurnberg. Despite those defeats, Schalke can take solace from their fine form in  front of their own fans. Schalke have won eight of their 13 home games in the league. Only Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen have collected more points at home. In  Schalke's last Bundesliga home game they beat Ruhr rivals Borussia Dortmund 2-1, and they average nearly two goals scored per game.


The team news for Schalke is largely encouraging. Midfield enforcer Jermaine Jones will miss out with a foot injury he picked up on international duty, but Benedikt  Howedes, Michel Bastos and Julian Draxler are all expected to be fit after injury or illness. The availability of Draxler is particularly significant - the 19-year-old  has been excellent since Christmas, scoring four goals and creating another in his last eight league games.


Hoffenheim are four points adrift of escaping the bottom two, and despite an improvement in performances Marco Kurz's men must start winning regularly to have any  chance of avoiding the drop. Hoffe have won just twice since Christmas, and one of those victories was at the bottom side Greuther Furth. TSG have an awful away  record, losing nine out of 12 matches.


Since his arrival in mid-December Kurz has improved Hoffe's defending, bringing the goals conceded per game average down from 2.41 to 0.89. One reason for that  improvement has been the steady play of keeper Heurelho Gomes, who was brought in as a replacement for the disastrous Tim Wiese. While Wiese deserved to be dropped,  Kurz's treatment of him has revealed some cracks in the squad. Wiese has been accused of indiscipline, and has been made to train alone, and that decision has been  openly criticised by influential players like Sejad Salihovic and Tobias Weis. Such dressing-room divisions did for Kurz's predecessor Markus Babbel, and they could  derail Hoffe's survival bid.


Schalke have won three of their last four Bundesliga home games (in all three they led at both half-time and full-time), and with Draxler and Bastos fit I think  they'll be too good for a Hoffenheim team that is defending well but has failed to score in four of their last six games.


Recommended Bet

Back Schalke -1.0 on the Asian Handicap at 2.02

Back Schalke/Schalke in the HT/FT market at 2.44



Augsburg vs Hannover, Sat 14:30 BST

Match Odds: Augsburg 2.14, Hannover 3.95, the draw 3.5


Augsburg are four points clear of the bottom two thanks to a run of three wins in four games, and since Christmas the Bavarians have picked up 15 points and lost just  twice. Coach Markus Weinzierl has made significant tactical adjustments to make his team more attacking, and the recent 1-0 win at Hamburg shows FCA have learnt to dig  in under pressure.


Hannover are still in the hunt for the top four, but their away form is truly terrible. The Opta stats show that since the start of last season, the 96ers have  collected a feeble average of 0.6 points per game on the road. Hannover have the division's worst away record, conceding an average of 2.4 goals per game, and they  have lost 16 of their last 19 road games. To make matters worse, top scorer Mame Diouf and midfield dynamo Sergio Pinto are both suspended.


Recommended Bet

Back Augsburg to win at 2.14



Greuther Furth vs Eintracht Frankfurt, Sun 16:30 BST, Live on ESPN

Match Odds: Greuther 3.3, Eintracht 2.44, the draw 3.4


These teams were Bundesliga Zwei's top two last season, but their paths have diverged significantly this term. Eintracht made some excellent summer signings, and  despite a six match winless run they are still in the top four. Although the Eagles have been struggling, their recent away displays haven't been too bad. They ground  out creditable draws at Freiburg and Hannover, and won 2-0 at Hamburg. Armin Veh's men have kept clean sheets in four of their last six away games.


Greuther played well in the recent 2-2 draw at Werder Bremen as new coach Frank Kramer took charge, but the bottom side's home record beggars belief. The Clover Leaves  haven't scored at home this year, and they haven't secured a home win all season.


Recommended Bets

Back Eintracht to win at 2.44

Back Eintracht to keep a clean sheet at 2.96


(Source: Betfair)




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