It is not just the title race in Germany that has attracted plenty of attention, the scrap for sixth – and the final Europa League qualification spot – is another intriguing heat.
Hosts Hoffenheim are currently ninth, two points behind Schalke in sixth, but they are in need of a morale-boosting victory after enduring a five-game winless spell.
Hoffenheim have largely stuttered at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena, collecting just 16 points from 13 home outings, so playing behind closed doors won’t hinder their chances.
However, with seven-goal top scorer Andrej Kramaric and fellow attacker Sargis Adamyan (five goals) expected to miss out through injury, they may be weakened in attack.
Ihlas Bebou, who has scored just four times across 24 games in all competitions, could be entrusted with leading the line and that points to be a bet on Hertha Berlin or the draw in the double-chance market.
Another concern for those taking short prices about hosts Hoffenheim would be their suspect rearguard.
Alfred Schreuder’s side have conceded 31 goals in 13 home games this term and they were hit for six by Bayern in the latest of them.
Hoffenheim’s home upsets have also included a 5-1 battering by Mainz and a 4-2 reverse against Augsburg – two teams who sit 14th and 15th respectively and have far from yet secured their top-flight survival.
Hoffenheim also failed to utilise home advantage against third-bottom Fortuna Dusseldorf, which should fill a Hertha Berlin side unbeaten in five away league games with plenty of confidence.
Hertha Berlin are seven points worse off than Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga but they headed into lockdown in far better form and can continue where they left off.
The visitors lost only three of their final 12 league games, one of which can be excused against giants Bayern, and they were proving extremely competitive on their travels.
Hertha’s five-game unbeaten spell on the road was headlined by victories at highfliers Leverkusen and Wolfsburg, while they also picked up a good point at Eintracht Frankfurt.
Bruno Labbadia’s switch to a 4-3-3 formation is beginning to get the best from January arrival Matheus Cunha, who has scored in consecutive games, and the Brazilian winger could help his side gain another positive result.
However, with only five clean sheets from 25 games (20 per cent) and just two from 12 on the road, even accounting for Kramaric’s absence, Hoffenheim should carve out enough chances to make their breakthrough.
A 2-1 away win could represent value – Hertha’s last two road successes were both by that margin at Wolfsburg and Paderborn.
Leave a comment