Newport County vs Morecambe @2.69
First of all, these seem like crazy odds for a Morecambe side going along pretty well in 6th place in League 2 having won their last 2 games, against a Newport side who are bottom of the league and lost 5/6 matches so far. The home side lost 3-0 in front of the home fans to York last week and defended very poorly when the goals started going in. Morecambe, who have looked good in front of goal recently, will have a nice day if the home side repeat what happened last time out. A -1 handicap on the away side might not be a bad bet here, as we have seen the defensive frailties of Newport and the attacking capabilities of Morecambe, and at around 5/1 for Morecambe -1 this is very good value. For a bit more context – Morecambe are a better team that York, who smashed Newport 3-0 last week. Team news suggests that Newport have a couple of injuries and a defender suspended after getting sent off last week. Morecambe with no new injury worries or suspensions. I cannot see why Newport are slight favourites here. If they turn their form around and get a good result here then fair play, but I can see no reason for that to happen today.
Ingolstadt vs Wolfsburg @1.95
The newly promoted home side have started the season well, with two wins, and lie in mid-table. However, their approach seems to lend itself to playing well away from home – and both of their wins have been 1-0 away victories. The game they lost was against Dortmund at home, and that wasn’t pretty ending 4-0. You would say that it is harsh to criticise Ingolstadt for a heavy loss to a Dortmund team who have look very impressive, but Wolfsburg should be aiming at a similar level and will look to pose a similar threat. They come off the back of an exciting 3-0 win over Schalke, and despite the loss of Kevin de Bruyne, appear to have a talented squad to continue their good fortunes of last season. New additions Draxler and Dante could start. As we saw with Paderborn last season, a good start from a newly promoted team can be deceptive and reliant on a predictable style of play, or complacent opponents. Wolfsburg will be eager to keep up the pace with Dortmund and Bayern and look to get into good form. Dropped points here would be unacceptable for Dieter Hecking, and as long as his side don’t fall victim of counter-attacks, they should find space like Dortmund did and overcome Ingolstadt.
Arminia Bielefeld vs Hertha Berlin DNB @1.73
Two 0-0 draws in their opening two games of the Bundesliga 2 season isn’t the worst start in the world for the newly promoted Bielefeld side. However, they face Bundesliga opposition in the form of Hertha, who narrowly escaped a relegation playoff last season. The Berlin side, yet to start their campaign, are short of form, but will be looking to get their cup run off to a good start against the side who surprisingly knocked them out of the same competition on penalties last season in round 2. Strangely enough, Bielefeld also knocked out fellow Bundesliga opposition Monchengladbach in the quarter finals last year, on penalties. I’ve gone for Draw-no-bet to cover off the threat of extra-time again this year, but I don’t think Bielefeld have shown enough firepower this season to be capable of beating a Hertha team who will undoubtedly be more wary of their lower league opponents this time around.
St. Pauli vs Borussia Monchengladbach @1.65
Further Bundesliga 2 opposition, this time up against Monchengladbach. St. Pauli finished last season in 15th place in the second tier, and have drawn 1 and won 1 so far this season. Their opponents will be tough, having finished 3rd in the top tier in Germany last year and with an impressive squad. The odds look reasonably attractive, possibly because ‘Gladbach are the away side and are yet to get their season underway, however I would expect the their quality to come through and see off the power league opposition.
– West Ham gain additional Europa League qualifying spot through finishing top of the English fair play table
– Sampdoria currently take rivals’ Genoa’s Europa League qualifying spot due to financial regulations
– All-round lower scoring season compared to previous one across all 4 leagues
– More card shown compared to previous season, around 8.5% more yellows
– Dominance of Barcelona & Real Madrid, particularly in goalscoring. Also the superiority of the champions of the other 3 (Chelsea, Bayern & Juve) over their respective leagues
– Close relegation battles in 3 out of the 4 leagues, coming down to the last day. Reasonably unified figure across all 4 leagues of around 35-38 points to stay up.
– Augsburg making Europa League football finishing 5th, despite losing 15/34 games. Dortmund also making the Europa League qualifiers, despite being bottom at one stage around Christmas. The resurgence of Wolfsburg, and contrasting fortunes of Hamburg who managed to stay up through a dramatic late goal and extra-time winner against Karlsruher.
– Lazio’s second half of the season, challenging Roma for 2nd place, only to lose out in the Derby. The poor display from both Milan clubs, Inzaghi’s side in particular, both missing out on European places. The financial struggles and effective collapse of Parma, under the mismanagement and neglect of their owner.
– The form of Valencia and Sevilla, pushing Atletico for 3rd, with the former gaining the 4th Champions League spot.
– Chelsea’s dominance of the Premier League. Manchester United’s return to the top 4 at the expense of Liverpool. Newcastle’s incredible poor run of form, almost resulting in their relegation. Aston Villa’s inability to score goals for extended periods of time. Harry Kane hype.
Ipswich @2.00 vs Rotherham
Ipswich are on a good run of three wins on the bounce in the Championship, and will be looking to another home win here to push them further into the promotion places. Rotherham, on the other hand, have been struggling of late and look slightly beleaguered as they search for their first win in 5 this weekend. They were promoted last season from League One, and made a respectable start to this campaign, but have faded since and face some hard work to turn things back around. Evens seems like a generous price for an in-form Ipswich who should name an unchanged side from their victory at Wigan as they look to push for the opposite end of the table to their visitors.
Nottingham Forest @2.20 vs Brighton
Forest look like an accomplished Championship side this year, genuine contenders for promotion. They are unbeaten this season and have shown that they can score plenty of goals at home, with Assombolonga already on 8 for the season. Pearce’s side still remain top of the table, despite two draws in their last 3 games, but should be looking to get a decent win under their belt at home against a patchy Brighton side. Despite the home side’s 3-1 loss to Spurs in the Cup in midweek, they looked like they had the potential to play good football and threaten on the break even against a top tier side. Brighton are without a win in the last 4 games, and although they have shown quality at times, they look out of form and in no shape to be travelling to Forest this weekend hoping for a win. A good away win at Burton in the cup midweek will lift their spirits slightly, but going to the City Ground in search of a result is a different matter. This looks like a fantastic price for a Forest home win.
Paderborn vs Monchengladbach @2.10
Paderborn have got off to a flying start this season after gaining promotion in the summer. They went unbeaten in their first four games, finding themselves temporarily top of the league at one stage. Bayern rained on their parade in the last match, beating them 4-0, but Paderborn will still be upbeat about their start. Monchengladbach will also be happy with how their campaign has begun, remaining unbeaten. They have a stronger and fuller squad this year, and will be looking at challenging for the European places once again. They will offer a stern test for the newly promoted side, one in which they have only really encountered once so far, which ended in a heavy defeat. For as well as they have played so far, Paderborn will still be dicing with relegation come the end of the season, according to the bookies, and the visitors will be looking at games like this as three points for the taking against an inexperienced team.
Freiburg vs Leverkusen @1.80
Freiburg have had a poor start to the season, going 5 games without a win, with only 3 points on the board. They have proven they can score goals, netting 3 against Hoffenheim and 2 against Hertha, but they haven’t been able to secure three points in these games. They miss Mehmedi despite the goals, and will have to do without the suspended Darida for the visit of Leverkusen. Schmidt goes into the game with his side sitting in 4th in the table, their only real blip in the season coming at Wolfsburg recently. Aside from that, they have looked good, with a notable victory at Dortmund and players such as the returning Bellarabi and new addition Calhanoglu performing well. They will go into the game with confidence, looking for all three points to help them continue their quest up the table for another Champions League place. I think they will be too much for Freiburg and their individual talent will come out on top at the Mage Solar Stadion.
Malaga vs Barcelona : Barcelona -1 @1.85
Barca are yet to concede a goal after winning their opening 4 games, and come into this match off the back of a 5-0 win away from home. Malaga on the other hand have struggled somewhat, and will not see this as a good time to be playing the league leaders, 3 games without a win. It is difficult to see the home side conceding, especially not more than 1 goal, and you’d expect them to score at least 2 themselves with the likes of Messi and Neymar ready to start in attack.
Dortmund vs Stuttgart : Dortmund -1 @2.00
Stuttgart have been really poor this season so far, with only 1 point. They come to the Signal Iduna at a time when the home side will want to bounce back from their loss to Mainz and will probably field a slightly stronger team, with Immobile & Kagawa looking for starts. I think evens is a good price for a Dortmund team who is very capable of scoring goals against the side who are bottom of the table and lost the last 3 by 2 goals.
Parma vs Roma : Roma @2.05
Roma are yet to concede a goal in their opening three games, winning them all, although maybe not in supremely confident fashion. They will be slightly light at the back with a couple of injury doubts, however they have strength in depth now – more so than last season – and should cope. Parma have been hit and miss so far, gaining their first win against Chievo last time out, but conceding 5 against Milan and losing to newly promoted Cesena. Their main attacking threat is Cassano, and the pace of Biabiany (who is missing tonight). Paletta will also miss out, and the home side may struggle to contain Roma as Garcia’s men could dominate the ball. Parma always have the potential for an upset, but evens seems good value for Roma here.
Tottenham vs Nottingham Forest : Forest @6.00
Spurs have been poor recently, without a win in 4 games, and suffering an embarrassing 1-0 home defeat to West Brom on the weekend, with only 1 shot on target. They will likely field a weaker side tonight, and will not go into the game with any momentum. Forest, on the other hand, will probably put out a strong team and look to cause an upset here. Despite their 0-0 draw with fellow Championship high flyers Millwall on the weekend, the away side are unbeaten this season and have shown their goalscoring prowess. With forest @6.00 here, it seems like great value for a team who despite being a division below, are playing good football and will be more than up for the fight here this evening.
Werder Bremen vs Hoffenheim @2.15
This one isn’t straight forward, and is based predominantly on the performance of Hoffenheim last week and the strength of their attacking line compared to Bremen. Werder came back into their game against Hertha to draw 2-2, but they weren’t convincing and another slow start this weekend could again be punished. Hoffenheim, in general, will create more chances than Bremen and I expect Szalai, Volland and Firmino in particular to be more dangerous throughout. Over 2.5 goals is likely, but a predictably poor price.
Watford @1.80 vs Huddersfield
Huddersfield are improving after a chaotic start. They managed an impressive away win at Reading and a draw against Charlton. However, I’ve been impressed with Watford, and on their day can look very good going forward. They had a blip when they lost away to Norwich, but apart from that they’ve been in top form and scoring plenty of goals. Last week Watford smashed Leeds 4-1, having 21 shots and their opponents having none on target 4 in total. Forestieri looked very good, along with Deeney who has just committed his future to the club, plus they have the likes of Vydra to come in. If the home side win, it could easily be by 2 goals, thus I would strongly consider Watford -1 @2.90.
Colchester vs Peterborough @2.40
Peterborough, aside from a slip in a tough game against Sheffield United, have had a good start tot he season, winning their other 3 league games. Colchester’s games have been reasonably close, but they have only come away from their first 4 games with 1 point. Its possible for the home side to get a result here, but the price being offered on the away side, who sit second in the table, seems too good. I’m yet to see anyone backing Colchester in this game.
Cheltenham @2.10 vs Hartlepool
The home side are unbeaten on 10 points, with some good results under their belt so far, and are up against a Hartlepool team who have lost 3 and won 1. Their win last weekend was a good one against AFC Wimbledon, but I think they will struggle to come away with points away from home for the second consecutive game. The odds seem good on the home team here, and were most probably boosted by a surprise 2-1 win for their opponents last weekend, but the gap in quality still seemingly remains.
Bury @1.70 vs Accrington
Bury had a reasonably tough opening day fixture against Cheltenham, which they lost 1-0, but have since turned their fortunes around and sit on 7 points following wins against Hartlepool and Plymouth. Both teams have drawn against Luton, but Accrington have lost their other 3 games and lie second bottom in the table. The home side should have the quality to see them off here.
Portsmouth @2.10 vs Newport
The home side look in great form, winning their last 3. Newport, although having played reasonably tough fixtures so far, look pretty poor and understandably sit hovering around the bottom of the table despite a respectable draw against Burton last time out. Playing at home, I would expect Portsmouth to continue their good run of form here and take all 3 points, maybe not by a huge margin, but better than evens appears to be a good price here.
Bit late posting this, but here are my picks for this Saturday. Difficult weekend, lots of top teams playing each other throughout England, but there are a few good ones from what I can see.
Swindon @1.80 vs Crewe
Swindon have had a reasonable start to the season, but Crewe have been very poor and are notably bad at the County Ground losing convincingly in the last three seasons or so. Swindon has a win against Scunthorpe, a narrow loss to Crawley away from home and a draw against rivals Gillingham. Crewe are yet to get off the points mark and should struggle away from home here – @1.80 seems generous
Yeovil @2.15 vs Scunthorpe
Slightly more risky one, both teams haven’t been particularly good but Yeovil have a decent away win at Walsall on their books from midweek whereas Scunthorpe look very poor and are yet to get off the mark points-wise. With home advantage, I back Yeovil here against a lowly Scunthorpe side that really don’t seem up for a battle at the moment.
Nottingham Forest @1.95 vs Reading
Forest look strong, with a really good win against Bournemouth in their last game. They drew against Bolton away and won their opener against Blackpool and have been playing good football and Assombolonga looks very good and threatening in front of goal. Reading have been inconsistent, and lost in their last game to struggling Huddersfield at home which was surprising. I think they’ll struggle here against an in-form Forest side.
Hoffenheim @2.00 vs Augsburg
Hoffenheim actually have a really strong squad, I like the options they have going forward. Szalai is a very good signing, someone who I think can be excellent and powerful up front or out wide on his day. They’ve kept Volland and Firmino who should provide great threat going forward. Their defence is suspect after the carnage we saw last season, but i don’t think Augsburg have the incisive edge to outscore Hoffenheim here. Its hard with opening games of the season, but I really think evens offers great value on a talented Hoffenheim side against Augsburg who you could say have been slightly punching above their weight in recent times.
My picks are available via oddsportal as usual here.
Title Winners: Bayern Munich (90 points)
Top Scorer: Robert Lewandowski (20 goals)
Champions League qualification: Bayern, Dortmund, Schalke, Leverkusen
Europa League qualification: Wolfsberg, Monchengladbach, Mainz
Relegation: Braunschweig, Nurnberg
Pre-season odds in August 2013:
Title winners – Bayern Munich @9/2, Dortmund @11/2, Leverkusen @25/1
Top four finish – Wolfsburg @6/1, Stuttgart @6/1
Favourites for relegation – Braunschweig, Augsberg, Nurnberg
Top goalscorer – Lewandowski @5/2, Kiessling @4/1, Mandzukic @6/1, Huntelaar @8/1
For many, the main story of the Bundesliga this season will be the dominance of Bayern. Their solidarity and consistency in accumulating points was relentless, and they ultimately went on to clinch the title in March – becoming the first Bundesliga side to do so. Pep Guardiola’s side continued their run of unbeaten league games to 53, at which point it finally came to an end after a 1-0 defeat to Augsberg. The following week they also lost 3-0 at home to Dortmund, which was only slight retribution for Klopp, as his team finished the season 19 points adrift, and also lost the Pokal final to Bayern in extra-time.
Its hard to pick out a main reason for Bayern’s dominance. The depth of quality they had in the squad was evident throughout and they could cover suspensions and injuries much better through rotation than other sides. Their defence was solid, with Dante, Boateng both having a good season and Alaba showing his talent also. Their midfielders, as you would expect with a Guardiola side, kept possession to an incredible degree with the philosophy of Pep obviously suiting the German champions with the technical ability proven by the players. Ribery , although only starting 18 games, was fantastic with 10 goals and 10 assists, along with Robben who also had a standout season. Bayern ended up scoring 94 goals in their 34 games – a tremendous achievement.
Dortmund struggled to keep up their form of recent seasons, their campaign being repeatedly thrown into difficulty with injuries to key players. Injury to Nevan Subotic broke up his defensive pairing with Hummels, who in turn suffered problems of his own. Sokratis was a vital replacement and ended up playing 24 games in the league, performing very well. Their defensive ‘anchors’ Sven Bender and captain Kehl were kept out for periods, along with their deep-lying playmaker and key man Ilkay Gundogan who was out for the whole season. Sahin was one huge saving grace for Klopp in central midfield; he had an excellent season. Their two wing-backs Schmelzer and Piszczek also only played around half the matches and Blaszczykowski suffering cruciate ligament damage keeping him out long-term. Their stand-out player was Marco Reus, along with Bayern-bound Lewandowski who came up with 20 league goals and I thought that Aubameyang had an impressive first season in Germany with 13 goals. Despite their injury problems and patchy form, Dortmund still looked like the next best after Bayern most of the way through the campaign.
The final Champions League places went to Schalke and Leverkusen. Schalke had a relatively poor start to the season with early losses against Wolfsburg and Hannover, put picked up their form to have a good second half of the season, beyond which point they never really looked in much doubt for a Champions League place. Conversely, Leverkusen won 9 out of their first 12 games, having a fantastic start and then just completely dropping off around Christmas and after the winter break, with only 3 wins in 14 games in the middle of the season. They looked in real danger of missing out of the Champions League all together. Only a final push, with some relatively comfortable fixtures in the remaining 5 games lead them to 4th place – 1 point ahead of Wolfsburg.
Mochengladbach, although having an impressive season, suffered a similar dip in form in the middle of the season around the winter break, going 9 games without a win. They only managed to turn things around after a huge 2-1 win at Dortmund, with Raffael proving his importance to the side after having a fantastic game. The partnership of him and Kruse was key to their season – they started all 34 games together. Wolfsburg, after a sketchy start, had a great season which ended in 5th place. They secured key victories in the middle of the season against the likes of Dortmund, Leverkusen and Mainz as well as a final day win over Monchengladbach. Their stand-out performers were probably both defensive members of the team, being Ricardo Rodriguez and Naldo. Olic, Perisic and de Bruyne being attacking notables.
A team which really impressed me this season were Mainz. They were slightly inconsistent, and went through a tough in September, but ultimately finished the campaign just inside the Europa League places in 7th, which is a fantastic achievement for them. They never really beat any of the big sides in amazing performances, but they picked up points against team around them. Choupo-Moting and Okazaki were particularly impressive going forward, along with Nicolai Muller who had a tremendous start to the campaign. It’ll be interesting to see how heavily Choupo-Moting and Okazaki will feature on the World Cup and whether or not Mainz can continue their form into next season with European football to contend with.
The fight against relegation was particularly close in the end, with neither Nurnberg or Braunschweig looking like they had the ability to stay up, but only ending up 1 point and 2 points (respectively) beneath the drop. The team above them, who narrowly avoided relegation via a tough playoff win, was Hamburg. They had a shocking season by their standards, and wouldn’t have been major candidates for the drop until their form proved otherwise in the second half of the season. Whilst Lasogga and Calhanoglu impressed me, having a good season in front of goal, it was clearly their defence which was lacking – they conceded the most goals in the Bundesliga. A quick word on Hoffenheim who only conceded 5 fewer goals, but finished 9th because of their high scoring games. Both teams to score bets in Hoffenheim games were incredibly short odds and they went on an incredible run of games with goals. All-in-all an exciting season.
Total goals: 967
Penalties scored: 64
Clean sheets: 134
Minutes per goal: Claudio Pizarro (68mins), Mario Mandzukic (112mins), P-M Lasogga (114mins), K-J Huntelaar (112mins), Anthony Modeste (136mins)
Pass completion: Toni Kroos (91.9%), Philipp Lahm (91.7%), Dante (91.5%), Tony Jantschke (90.1%), Rafinha (89.9%)
Average passes per game: Bastian Schweinsteiger (85), Philipp Lahm (79.8), Jerome Boateng (78.9), Toni Kross (75.5), Dante (75.4)
Key passes per game: Marco Reus (3), Max Kruse (2.9), Gonzalo Castro (2.6), Rafael van der Vaart (2.6), Franck Ribery (2.5)
Clean sheets: Manuel Neuer (14), Ralf Fahrmann (10), Roman Weidenfeller (10), M-A ter Stegen (9), Kevin Trapp (8)