Schalke v Werder Bremen – Veltins-Arena at 16:30 on BT Sport 1
Schalke made their worst ever start to a Bundesliga season this term, losing their first five matches, but they have steadily been building momentum under new coach Markus Weinzierl.
The Royal Blues have taken eight points from their following four matches and impressed during the first-half of the Ruhr derby against bitter rivals Borussia Dortmund on Saturday evening.
Schalke hitting top form
Schalke have won all four of their Europa League ties, too. Put the two runs of results together and the guys from Gelsenkirchen can boast a W6-D2-L0 return since late September, scoring 17 goals and keeping five clean sheets.
At the Veltins Arena, the Royal Blues have particularly impressed – winning each of their past four fixtures, shutting out three. In the Bundesliga the hosts have ousted both Borussia Monchengladbach (4-0) and Mainz (3-0) with consummate ease.
Schalke’s turnaround has been brought about by a switch to a more balanced and fluent 3-5-1-1/3-5-2 formation. Weinzierl’s troops have control at the back but crucially aren’t being overrun in midfield areas. With undoubted quality in attacking areas, the hosts have a team capable of pushing for a top-four finish.
Asian Handicap angle
The Royal Blues are available to support at 1.98 off a -1 Asian Handicap start this Sunday when Werder Bremen pitch up in Gelsenkirchen and it’s a price I’d be very willing to snap-up.
Schalke are regular flat-track bullies; their W8-D3-L1 record against Bremen over the past 12 meetings is a strong starting point for this selection but even more eye-catching is their return of 16 home wins from their past 20 encounters with clubs residing in the bottom-six positions.
I went further back, too. Go back to 2011/12 and Schalke have W31-D9-L5 in Veltins Arena clashes with sides in the bottom-half of the Bundesliga. The hosts scored at least twice in 28/45 (62%), notched three or more goals in 20/45 (44%) and kept 18/45 (40%) clean sheets.
Crucially for this selection, a huge 23/45 (51%) of those matches saw Schalke win by at least a two-goal margin with 9/45 (20%) of contests resulting in a home success by three or more goals. Very strong trends.
Bremen’s miserable season
Bremen made an awful start to the new season; dumped out of the DFB Pokal on the opening weekend to third-division Sportfreunde Lotte was been followed by a thumping 6-0 defeat at Bayern Munich and a tough-to-take home loss against Augsburg.
Two more league defeats followed and after a pointless start from four games, Victor Skrypnyk was sacked. The River Islanders moved to appoint U23 coach Alexander Nouri on a temporary basis and having inspired Werder seven points from a possible nine, the club made his position permanent.
However, Bremen have slipped back to their sorry ways of late. The visitors have suffered back-to-back 3-1 defeats and with centre-back Lamine Sane and star centre-forward Claudio Pizarro unavailable, the guests look short at the back and also in attack this weekend.
Werder’s rotten away record
Werder have yet to record a shutout in 2016/17, have W0-D1-L3 on their travels shipping 15 goals and leaked at least twice in seven of their past eight away days. The River Islanders’ longer-term road record is just as awful – 20/38 (53%) defeats, 12 (32%) by at least two goals – as is their return at top-six sides.
Since 2011/12, Bremen have lost 24/30 (80%) of their visits to the top-six as they’ve failed to record a clean sheet. A huge 15 (50%) of those losses were by that margin two-goal margin with a further 13 (43%) seeing the away side fall to a three-goal defeat or bigger.
Asian Handicap Recommendation: Schalke -1 at 1.98
Prices correct at time of writing.
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