Koln v Bayer Leverkusen – RheinEnergieStadion at 14:30 Live at BT Sport
Koln was one of the success stories of last season’s Bundesliga as the Billy Goats finished fifth to qualify for European competition for the first time in 20 years, continuing their year-on-year progress since 2013 under head coach Peter Stoger.
However, 25-goal top scorer Antony Modeste left in the summer and Koln suffered badly without their leading light in attacking areas. But arguably more alarming was their drop-off in defensive resilience this term.
With the Billy Goats shipping goals regularly, and toothless going forward, it was no surprise to see the side struggle. However, to see the team rock-bottom with no wins and only three points in early December, survival was always going to be difficult.
Koln’s brief rally
No team in Bundesliga history has stayed up with such a low tally at the same stage but the club opted to roll the dice. Stoger made an emotional departure and Stefan Ruthenbeck was promoted from the under-19s until the winter break, in the hope of rallying the troops at the Rhein-Energie Stadion.
Koln produced two performances full of character and intent but was beaten by one-goal margins against Bayern Munich and Freiburg before picking up 10 points from their following four fixtures to raise hopes. But the Billy Goats have since fallen to four defeats in six and remain eight points from safety.
On Monday night, Ruthenbeck’s men were beaten 3-1 at fellow relegation battlers Werder Bremen. After a slow start, Koln deservedly leveled before falling away and conceding a 19th goal from a set-piece situation. Relegation now looks like a very real prospect.
Hosts to be outclassed
With spirits dampened, the hosts must now attempt to raise their game for Sunday afternoon’s derby date with Bayer Leverkusen. It’s difficult to find positives for Koln, mind, with the home side has returned a dire W1-D1-L7 when welcoming top-six sides this season.
The Billy Goats have leaked at least twice in six of those eight matches and with the Bundesliga’s worst defensive record at their disposal, Leverkusen will be licking their lips. What’s more, Koln will still be without their second top scorer Sehrou Guirassy, making them even less of a threat going forward.
In contrast, Leverkusen has pocketed W6-D3-L0 on their travels this term and Die Werkself have bagged maximum points in seven of their most recent nine trips to the bottom-six– including their last two road trips to bottom-four sides Hamburg and Wolfsburg.
With that in mind, the visitors hold plenty of appeal at 1.88 to overcome their -0.50 Asian Handicap hurdle on Sunday.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Bayer Leverkusen -0.50 at 1.810