Schalke v Hannover – Veltins Arena at 19:30 live on BT Sport 2
Four months in to Andre Breitenreiter’s reign as Schalke head coach and you’d be forgiven for describing progress as unremarkable. The Royal Blues’ current eighth-place position is the Bundesliga is a good four places off where the club would expect to conclude 2015/16.
However, realists would say, results have been broadly in line with expectations. The Gelsenkirchen club are only two points adrift of the Champions League qualification places having already faced each club from 13th and above. They’ve also secured Europa League progression.
Sure, the recent return of W2-D4-L3 in Schalke’s last nine outings is below par but Breitenreiter’s boys have been through a rough patch of fixtures that included Bayern Munich, the derby at arch-rivals Dortmund, Gladbach and last weekend’s trip to Leverkusen, as well as three continental contests.
Bar a 1-1 draw at home to Ingolstadt, the Royal Blues have performed admirably without really looking close to world beaters. Last weekend they were too tame for large parts of a 1-1 draw at Leverkusen; Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting gave the visitors the lead against the run of play with practically their first serious attack after 50 minutes.
Choupo-Moting wasted Schalke’s best opportunity to put the game to bed with 10 minutes to play before Leverkusen forged an 85th minute equaliser. And that’s how it’s been for Breitenreiter – decent but not quite right, yet. For all of the Royal Blues’ commitment, work-rate and individual class of young players like Leroy Sane, they still seem to lack that killer instinct.
Based on the last seven Bundesliga games, Friday’s hosts are down in 16th (W1-D2-L4) and have failed to win even half of their home Bundesliga games (W3-D2-L2). So it’s well worth running a mile from skinny quotes on a home success.
Schalke do boast a strong record as standard at their Veltins Arena home (W13/24 since the start of last season) but only four of those 13 Bundesliga victories as hosts have been by a margin of two goals or more. So don’t expecting the Blues do blitz Hannover in Matchday 15’s opener.
Hannover sit fifth in that aforementioned form table over that seven-game spell (W4-D0-L3) and although I’m not yet ready to totally trust Michael Frontzeck’s men, they are capable of keeping this showdown competitive.
The 96ers have won in Koln and Hamburg, drawn in Wolfsburg and only narrowly lost in Gladbach across their last four road trips. Although results don’t always tell the full story, Hannover do deserve credit for the way in which they’ve climbed out of the bottom-three.
Last weekend’s morale-boosting 4-0 win over Ingolstadt saw the guests race into a 3-0 lead after 25 minutes with all three goals arriving from set-piece situations and although they’re facing more shots-on-target than any side in the German top-flight, Schalke are also being out-gunned in the same performance data tables.
The 96ers will look to play a counter-attacking game and utilise dead-ball situations whilst defending deep, leaving the onus on Schalke to breakdown their rigid backline. With Schalke scoring just seven of their 18 goals from open play, the hosts may be frustrated in their efforts to land a convincing home win.
With that in mind, I’m happy to invest my faith in Hannover +1 on the Asian Handicap line at 1.92. The guests have lost by two goals or more in 25% of their 24 road trips since the start of last season whilst Schalke’s success rate of beating the one-goal handicap home sits at just 17% across the same sample.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Hannover +1 at 1.94
Prices correct at time of writing.
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