Schalke v Hoffenheim – Veltins Arena 19:30 live on BT Sport Europe
Can the real Schalke please stand up?
With Europa League progression secured on the back of a W3-D1-L0 run, tails in Gelsenkirchen were up ahead of last Sunday’s visit to improving Augsburg. But old habits are dying hard in the northern part of the Ruhr.
The Royal Blues fell behind in Bavaria but levelled up proceedings in the second-half with a well-deserved Sead Kolasinac equaliser on 70 minutes. However, a stoppage-time winner left Andre Breitenreiter’s men pointless as Benedikt Howedes poor headed clearance was pounced upon. It was textbook Schalke.
The Royal Blues looked to be getting back on track after a difficult spell that coincided with influential midfielder Johannes Geis’ five-match suspension – Breitenreiter’s boys failed to win any of their games without him.
But their weekend reverse leaves Schalke hanging on to the coattails of the top-half ahead of Friday’s showdown with improving Hoffenheim.
At their Veltins Arena base, the hosts boast a strong record so it’s perhaps no major surprise to see one of Germany’s biggest clubs chalked up at short prices. Since the start of last season they’ve managed W14-D7-L4 in front of their adoring home supporters and they’ve dispatched 15 of their previous 18 bottom-six visitors.
But I can’t help but feel they’re too inconsistent to trust on Friday. Six sides have fired in more on-target attempts in the Bundesliga but only six teams have conceded as many as the hosts. It’s a slightly concerning trend when Huub Stevens’ Hoff pitch up…
The guests moved off the bottom of the Bundesliga thanks to a 1-0 win over fellow strugglers Hannover last time out. Hoffenheim rode their luck before taking the lead when Tarik Elyounoussi’s cross was met by Jonathan Schmid and moments later Fabian Schar had a second ruled out for offside.
Stevens understandably celebrated the three points – his first since taking charge – like a cup final success. Performances have picked up following Markus Gisdol’s harsh sacking but results have been slow (W1-D4-L1).
The Dutchman has focussed his energies on keeping things tight and plugging the numerous defensive gaps but only three weeks ago they raced into a 3-1 lead at in-form Gladbach, only to be held 3-3. There is attacking quality in the squad but their downfall has been at the back.
Stevens has talked about getting points as quickly as possible but Hoffe’s road record doesn’t fill underdog backers with too much confidence. They’ve been beaten in eight of their last nine at top-half teams as well as 13/25 (52%) of away days since the start of last season.
But I do feel there’s merit in supporting the travellers with a +1 Asian Handicap start at 1.76. Hoffenheim have only twice lost by a two-goal margin or bigger this term and Stevens has certainly made the side more resolute and defensively savvy.
Despite their excellent Veltins Arena record, Schalke have won just five of their last 25 at home by two goals or more and although Breitenreiter’s been working tirelessly to rid his troops of Schalke-itus, it still exists. Hoffe can keep this competitive.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Hoffenheim +1 at 1.78
Prices correct at the time of writing.
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