Schalke v Hertha Berlin – Veltins Arena at 17:30 live on BT Sport 2
Befuddled by mediocrity and six successive Bundesliga seasons finishing outside of the top-two, Schalke made sweeping changes last summer in the hope of resurrecting the Gelsenkirchen club.
Markus Weinzierl – pound-for-pound one of Germany’s best young coaches – arrived at the helm and the Royal Blues appointed Mainz’s miracle worker Christian Heidel as the club’s new sporting director.
Progress since August hasn’t been seamless – Schalke made their worst ever start to a Bundesliga campaign – and the road has been paved by inconsistent performances and frustrating results. But the new Royal Blues management duo deserve time to get things right at the Veltins Arena.
Schalke’s unconvincing start to 2017
Schalke started 2017 in unconvincing fashion; a mediocre display when requiring a Guido Burgstaller goal in stoppage-time to overcome struggling Ingolstadt was followed by a dire performance in defeat at home to Eintracht Frankfurt.
There was plenty of shrill whistling at the Veltins Arena following the Frankfurt reverse but the Royal Blues raised their game last weekend to earn a justified point at the home of the champions, Bayern Munich.
Loanee Holger Badstuber made a very solid debut against his parent club as Weinzierl’s troops picked up only a fifth point from a possible 21 (W1-D2-L4) since the end of November. Schalke remain rooted in the bottom-half but returning to Gelsenkirchen should at least bring home comforts.
Despite not finishing in the Bundesliga top-four since the 2013/14 campaign, the Royal Blues have still won 23/44 (52%) of their home league fixtures. With visitors Hertha Berlin also producing their best efforts in front of their home supporters, the expectation will be for a home success.
Hertha in Champions League hunt
Hertha remain in the hunt for a Champions League place but last weekend’s 1-0 victory over relegation-threatened Ingolstadt was only the capital club’s second success in six (W2-D0-L4). The second victory in that six-game sequence came against rock-bottom Darmstadt.
Pal Dardai’s visitors have W2-D3-L5 on their travels but only three of those fixtures came at bottom-half clubs – ala Schalke – and the Berlin boys avoided defeat in all three (W2-D1-L0). Still, their long-term away trends (W7-D6-L14) leave a lot to be desired and we’re best off swerving Hertha here on the main Asian Handicap line.
Asian Handicap angle
Instead, focus on the first-half Asian Handicap betting market where Hertha Berlin can be backed with a +0.25 start at 1.87. The guests may have shipped at least two goals in six of their 10 away trips but they remain one of the best teams in the division at staying compact and difficult to beat.
Considering Schalke have led at the interval only twice this term and scored only five first-half goals at home all season, counting on Hertha Berlin to keep the contest competitive for the first 45 minutes should be the best plan of attack in a tricky encounter.
Admittedly Hertha’s trends on their travels aren’t particularly strong but eight of their away trips have come against clubs in the top-10 and they’ve not yet trailed at the break by more than a one-goal margin in 2016/17.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Hertha Berlin +0.25 First Half at 1.87
Prices correct at time of writing.