Schalke can win battle of the strugglers

Augsburg v Schalke
Saturday 15 December, 14:30
Live on Betfair Live Video
It's turned into a very strange season for Schalke. The Royal Blues are still in the DFB Cup, and they'll be part of the Champions League round-of-16 draw in Switzerland on Monday, but their Bundesliga form continues to bemuse. A team that finished second last term under the inspired leadership of coach Domenico Tedesco is scrabbling for points at the wrong end of the table. Last weekend's painful Revierderby defeat to old foes Borussia Dortmund has left Schalke just three points above the dropzone.
There could however be a ray of light amidst the domestic gloom. This weekend Schalke visit an Augsburg team that has gone into a tailspin, a run of four straight defeats. FCA haven't even scored in their last two games, and while coach Manuel Baum is still undoubtedly the right man for the job, he's facing one of the stickiest spells of his coaching career. He has called for a return to doing the basics well, but the squad has been squeezed by injury problems, and the Swabians have missed big chances at key times.
Schalke were beaten fair and square by Dortmund but they weren't embarrassed, and they bounced back to some extent with a midweek win over Lokomotiv Moscow. In the Bundesliga, they have recently managed creditable draws at Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig, and I think they can get maximum points here against a demoralised Augsburg.

Hoffenheim's frustrating week to continue

Hoffenheim v Borussia Monchengladbach
Saturday 15 December, 14:30
Live on Betfair Live Video
It's seems fitting that Julian Nagelsmann's Hoffenheim should go down swinging in their first ever Champions League group-stage campaign. They fully contributed to a highly entertaining 2-1 defeat at Manchester City, a game they had led at the Etihad. However, the same thing that has consistently undermined their hopes at that level undid them again, bad defending. Hoffe leaked 14 goals in six group games, as they drew three and lost three of their Champions League outings.
This defensive frailty has been evident in the Bundesliga too. Hoffe have managed just one clean sheet in the league this term, and have shipped eight goals in their last five BL outings. Of course, it helps if you're scoring freely at the other end - TSG have scored 30 league goals, and are still within striking distance in the race for the top four.
However, I can't help feeling that Hoffenheim shouldn't be trading at just above evens to beat Borussia Monchengladbach. The Foals are second in the table and have rattled in 33 goals.Yes, they rely a bit too much on their extraordinarily good home form, but I believe the depth and variety of their attack means they can pick up results on the road too. They won at Hoffenheim last season, and have had a full week to prepare for this game. Alassane Plea and Jonas Hofmann are both expected to feature after shaking off knocks, so I'll lay the hosts.

Wounded Leipzig to bite back

RB Leipzig v Mainz
Sunday 16 December, 14:30
Live on BT Sport and Betfair Live Video
Since RB Leipzig tumbled out of the Europa League on Thursday night thanks to the concession of a late equaliser against rock-bottom Rosenborg, there has been plenty of conjecture about how much Die Roten Bullen actually wanted to be involved in the competition post-Christmas. When the official Twitter feed is glibly making jokes about the exit, and coach Ralf Rangnick is suggesting pre-match that it might be better to concentrate on the Bundesliga, you have to wonder. Certainly the end of Leipzig's European entanglements won't do their bid to reach the top four any harm, but I can't help feeling that if they want to be a big club (and they do, they really do), they have to be prepared to fight on several fronts.
The Opta stats show that Leipzig are unbeaten in their last eight Bundesliga home games, and they have won five of those matches. This weekend they face a Mainz side that has taken ten points from its last five Bundesliga games, but the road form of Sandro Schwarz's team against talented sides is still a cause for concern. Die Nullfunfer have lost at Leverkusen, Schalke and Borussia Monchengladbach this season, and I'm not quite swayed by their recent victories at Freiburg and Fortuna Dusseldorf. Mainz are a perfectly good team, but they are limited, and I think they'll struggle to contain Leipzig speedster Timo Werner, who has scored seven goals in his last nine games for club and country.
Leipzig will have been stung by Thursday's debacle and last weekend's 3-0 defeat at Freiburg, and I think a backlash is coming. RBL have won four of their last five Bundesliga home matches, and all four of those victories were by a margin of two goals or greater.
RECOMMENDED BETS
Back Schalke Draw No Bet v Augsburg at 2.12
Lay Hoffenheim v Borussia Monchengladbach at 2.02
Back RB Leipzig -1.5 on the Asian Handicap v Mainz at 2.06

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