Andy Brassell on European Football: Bundesliga returns with plenty at stake

The Bundesliga is back at the weekend and, although health and safety is paramount, there are plenty of interesting subplots to float your boat once we get underway, writes Andy Brassell...

No easy restart for Dortmund against Schalke

Restarts don't get much bigger than the Revierderby on Saturday, one of the most keenly contested fixtures in the Bundesliga calendar.
Form - for what that's really worth when teams are picking up after an unexpected two-month hiatus - would suggest a Borussia Dortmund win, as they again pose the biggest threat to champions Bayern Munich, and Lucien Favre's side are accordingly heavily favoured to deliver at 1.59. Yet when that cliché about the form book going out the window for a derby was initially coined, it could have been with this particular rivalry in mind.
The two teams have managed to wreck things for each other even when at their weakest. Dortmund's 2-0 win at Westfalen in 2007 derailed Schalke's title charge, while Die Königsblauen pulled off a remarkable 4-2 win in this fixture last season which ultimately stymied BVB's bid to wrest the championship from Bayern. Schalke were in sorry shape before this hiatus and David Wagner may have been grateful to have the chance to breathe and reconsider the team's direction.

Dortmund's problem in Saturday's fixture is not ability; it's availability. Favre's preferred central midfielders, Axel Witsel and Emre Can, are both doubtful, with the former Liverpool man having been a real difference maker since his winter arrival. Skipper Marco Reus and young defensive star Dan-Axel Zagadou are definitely missing.
Schalke have plenty to prove but with the home side lacking a host of stars and the famous Yellow Wall, they couldn't ask for a much better opportunity.
Back Dortmund and Schalke to draw at 4.50

Leaders Bayern face intriguing trip to the capital

It was around the original scheduling of this fixture two months ago that we felt the straw breaking the camel's back, with Thiago Alcântara speaking up against the continuation of the Bundesliga on the day before Bayern Munich were due to travel to face Union. Now it finally does take place and like the Revierderby, the no-fan nature of the occasion will weigh heavily.
Union are a club in their first-ever top division season who were rebuilt from the ground up by their supporters. Quite literally, in fact, with several hundred of them coming together to manually modernise Stadion An der Alten Försterei a decade ago. The atmosphere in Berlin's premier football-specific venue is special and has been a big factor in Union steering clear of relegation trouble.
The resources of the two teams aren't really comparable, of course, and Bayern are strong favourites 1.24 for a reason. They are missing a few fringe players in Corentin Tolisso and Philippe Coutinho - and this is exactly the sort of match in which you would have imagined the latter especially to have an influence - but present a formidable challenge and if they can shake off the cobwebs quickly, there could be goals.
Back over 2.5 goals at 1.73

Is there any hope for Werder Bremen?

It feels like a million years ago but in the not-too-distant past, Bremen were the major irritant to Bayern. They won the double in fine style in 2004, clinching the Bundesliga title by sweeping aside Bayern on their own ground, and were in the Champions League as recently as 2010-11.
The club still cling to those glory years with Frank Baumann, who captained the 2004 vintage, the current sporting director of the club, but they have fallen a long way since then. As it stands Werder are four points behind even Fortuna Düsseldorf in the playoff spot - finishing third-bottom would give them a shot at redemption via a two-legged tie against the third-placed team in Bundesliga 2 - and a whopping eight away from safety.
Florian Kohfeldt's team last won a Bundesliga game in January (in Düsseldorf, which gives them the slenderest of lifelines) and have only won twice in the league since September - and the first day of that month was the last time they won at home, which doesn't bode well ahead of a strong Bayer Leverkusen visiting on Monday. Due to local authority restrictions Werder were one of the last teams to resume full training, which is why they wanted to delay the restart, and star turn Milot Rashica will need to be at his best from the get-go to offer them hope.
Back Leverkusen to win at 1.82

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