Bayer Leverkusen v Mainz – BayArena at 14:30 live at BT Sport
Scour the top-flight standings in England, Spain and Italy, but you will not find a European rat race anywhere near as competitive or compelling as in the Bundesliga. A single point is all that separates second-placed Bayer Leverkusen and sixth-in-the-table Borussia Dortmund at present.
Even Hertha Berlin – five points adrift of the top six in 11th – cannot be ruled out of the continental running with 15 rounds of fixtures still to play. With pacesetters Bayern Munich’s sizeable 16-point advantage over the chasing pack, there’s over half of the division in the chase for a Champions League spot.
Leverkusen began last weekend in fifth, three points behind last season’s runners-up RB Leipzig (second) and only one clear of their seventh-placed hosts Hoffenheim. By the close of play, thanks in no small part to a Leon Bailey-inspired 4-1 rout, Die Werkself had assumed the role of Bayern’s nearest pursuers – on goal difference.
Highly-rated Jamaican Bailey produced an impudent finish in the 43rd minute to put the visitors in front. Julian Baumgartlinger doubled the lead six minutes – becoming the 14th Bayer player to score this season, no other team can boast as many different goalscorers – and Lucas Alario bagged two more goals.
Heiko Herrlich’s charges have now scored in their last 24 Bundesliga games, a sequence no other side can currently boast of and a club record for Die Werkself. And Leverkusen has lost one game in their last 14 league fixtures, against Bayern Munich.
The Asian Handicap angle
With a W4-D4-L0 record when excluding the German giants at the BayArena, the hosts will fully expect to extend their excellent recent run of form when Mainz pitch up on Sunday. Although Bayer boasts only three clean sheets in 13, they should be capable of putting the O-Fivers away with ease.
Leverkusen has scored three goals or more in six of their past 13 meetings with bottom-half clubs on home soil whilst five of their eight Bundesliga victories under Herrlich’s watch have been achieved by a margin of two goals or more.
With that in mind, backing Die Werkself to overcome a -1 Asian Handicap hurdle on Sunday holds appeal. With this selection, we’ll see our stake returned should Leverkusen only pocket maximum points by a margin of exactly one goal.
Hoping to halt a run of six Bundesliga games without a win, Mainz managed to squeeze out a 3-2 success over rotten travellers Stuttgart last time out. Yoshinori Muto bagged a brace as the O-Fivers picked up their fifth home win of the season.
However, the visitors remain in 15th and are yet to taste victory on their travels this term (W0-D4-L5). Mainz have only managed a solitary success in 23 games as guests in the Bundesliga and have lost 16/23 (62%) on their travels since the start of last season.
Asian Handicap Recommendation: Bayer Leverkusen -1 at 1.710