Published on by Darren8196 13 Comments
Last week's easy fixtures seemed almost too good to be true, but a late Celta Vigo equaliser spoiled an almost perfect week last time round. Let's hope we can match 3/4 in what is a far tougher week to predict.
The Bundesliga is back in action after its winter break, and it's got some excellent matches which feature in our four games to prediction this week.
Bayer Leverkusen v Bayern Munich
Fourth host first in the game that kicks off the Rückrunde on Friday.
Hosts Leverkusen will be hoping to pick up a win to let them keep near the top of the teams chasing the second two automatic Champions League qualification spots, with 10 teams separated by just seven points. They come into the game having not lost since round 5 of the Hinrunde in September - a 16 run streak in all competitions.
Bayern are in even better form than their opponents, winning 16 of their previous 17 matches in all competitions - a 2-1 loss to Monchengladbach. They are still without key players such as Neuer, Thiago and possibly Hummels as well, but that hasn't proven to be any form of obstacle before the winter break so I doubt it will be now.
Leverkusen away has proven a very tough match for Bayern in recent years, with their last win in normal time coming back in March 2013. Since then, Bayern have won on penalties in the Pokal after a 0-0 draw in extra time, drawn 4 and lost 1, with 3 of the last 4 games being 0-0 draws. I can see this game being very close, with very little between the sides but Bayern edging the win by a single goal.
Game time: Friday 12th, 7:30 p.m. (GMT) / 2:30 p.m. (EST)
My prediction: Bayern Munich win
Sheffield United v Sheffield Wednesday
The Sheffield derby means that we will know half of the results on Friday night, and have the chance to see the team lineups before we even predict the result. United are pretty clear favourites, currently sitting one point off the playoff spots compared to their rivals who are sitting in the lower-mid table.
In recent games, they are very even, with two wins each and three draws in the past seven matches, so there is very little to separate the sides. Neither side is in great form, with United having won twice, compared to Wednesday’s once, with both sides losing five games in their previous 10. I feel like United are most likely to win this game with home advantage along with Wednesday suffering a lot of injuries to key players.
Game time: Friday 12th, 7:45 p.m. (GMT) / 2:45 p.m. (EST)
My prediction: Sheffield United win
RB Leipzig v Schalke
Another close match in the Bundesliga is second place Schalke against fifth place Leipzig. Schalke had an excellent run of form which saw them go unbeaten from September, drawing six and winning seven in that time.
Leipzig were keeping Bayern on their toes for a large part of the season, but a poor run just before the winter break where they only gained 2 points from 12 has seen them drop down to fifth in the table. They are just two points behind Schalke, and five ahead of 11th in the table so a win is essential for both teams to get off on the right foot for the start of the Rückrunde.
Schalke are hoping to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in four seasons, and have got themselves into a good position to be able to do that. With playmaker Goretzka out injured, they may have lost a lot of their midfield creativity, so they may struggle a bit more than usual.
Schalke have a slight head to head advantage with two wins compared to Leipzig’s one, but Leipzig with home advantage and Schalke without Goretzka makes me think that a draw is the most likely result
Game time: Saturday 13th, 5:30 p.m. (GMT) / 12:30 p.m. (EST)
My prediction: Draw
Liverpool v Manchester City
This game will be a very interesting one for a few reasons. Firstly, Liverpool are adapting to life without Coutinho, and life with a proper centre back in Virgil Van Dijk. It also provides what could possibly be Manchester City’s biggest challenge of the season so far, as they face a team in excellent form who are just as dangerous going forward as City are.
Liverpool seem to have sorted out their defensive problems with the addition of Van Dijk, who became an instant hero for scoring a late winner over Everton in the Cup last weekend. Having hoefully sorted out their defensive problems, the hosts will be hoping that Salah, Mane and Firmino can continue their recent form to minimise the impact of losing Coutinho.
Manchester City rested several of their regular starting XI for their midweek cup semifinal against Bristol City, but with De Bruyne, Sterling, Sane and Stones all playing the full 90 minutes, and Aguero having to be brought on and then score a late winner, they may not be fully rested and ready for what will surely be a very high tempo match.
City won the first game between these sides this season 5-0, but Liverpool have got a definite advantage in recent years against City - winning five of the last 10 matches compared to City’s two. Salah has only just returned from injury, so his fitness will no doubt play a big part in the match along with how well City’s key players have recuperated, but it will be a close game.
Game time: Sunday 14th, 4:00 p.m. (GMT) / 11:00 a.m. (EST)
My prediction: Draw
Four very close and tough games to predict this week, but that’s what I think will happen. Let us know how you are predicting in the comments below or on Twitter. Good luck!