Both teams have a number of missing players, but that’s nothing new. For the record Hamburg won’t have Arp, Walace, Müller, Ekdal and Theolke for sure, while Hunt and Holtby remain doubtful. FC Köln are expecting to offload Konstantin Rausch during the current transfer window, so he won’t be playing. Long term injured Horn, Queiros, Maroh, Bittencourt, Risse and Cordoba remain sidelined, while both Özcan and Lehmann are both doubtful. Nevertheless, none of those are newly missing, and the fact is Stefan Ruthenbeck’s side won back to back without the same players. We expected Hamburg to be fighting against relegation this season, but we didn’t expect the same of the visitors. And, while Köln are bottom of the league and in desperate need of points, they are playing much better under their new coach. Away win and hope returns!
Last weekend the Mainz players were simply stupid to let a 0-2 lead become a 3-2 loss in Hannover. While the 05’ers were a little fortunate with the second goal, they were bloody naive with a couple that went against them. However, that match was on the road and Sandro Schwarz’s side are much better with a fully packed house at the Opel arena. The hosts are still without goalkeeper Rene Adler, but that’s not an issue with Robin Zentner playing well. On a positive note, Bell, Muto and Hack are all nearing return, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a few of them back today. One player sure to be included is Danny Latza, because he is now ban free. In the last round Stuttgart won their first competitive match in six against Hertha Berlin (1-0). However, they didn’t play particularly well and the only goal of the game was an unfortunate own goal. The other thing to note is Mainz recently beat the visitors (3-1) in a cup match, and that scoreline could have been bigger. Hosts look good to get the three points!
The Minutemen saw their 3 game winning streak come to a crashing halt as they suffered a humbling 73-51 defeat to Rhode Island on Wednesday. Saint Louis hasn't had the ideal start to conference play at 2-4 against A-10 opponents but the Billikens have been competitive in every game save for their conference opener against La Salle. Rhode Island by and large shut down the Minutemen guard combo of Carl Pierre and Luwane Pipkins, limiting the duo to just 18 points on 6 of 22 shooting. The Billikens aren't on the level of the Rams but they do bring one of the better defenses in the A-10 to this game and have shown their ability to guard the periemeter. Even worse Billikens teams in the past have had a tendency to do well in this match up and this year's version is much improved! Visitors to bog the game down and keep it within a single possession!
Fran Dunphy and the Temple Owls face off against Dunphy's former school, Penn, that he coached at for 17 years prior to taking the job at Temple. Ironically, Dunphy's last season at Penn in 2006 was the last time Penn won this annual match up between these two Philadelphia schools. After a few promising early season wins against South Carolina and Wisconsin, the Owls have really struggled in conference play with a 2-5 record against AAC opponents and only narrowly got by Tulsa on Wednesday by a score of 59-58 as 8 pt favorites. Penn has cruised to a 12-5 record and is undefeated in Ivy League play at 3-0 though admittedly against a much weaker schedule and in a much weaker conference. Still, the early season success for Temple hasn't looked the same with each passing week as Wisconsin and South Carolina appear to be middling major conference teams at best. On the other side, this is the best team Penn has had in a while and the Quakers appear more confident than ever that they can break the streak today. Temple relies on solid 3 point shooting but this is an area the Quakers defend quite well and rebounding should also be at an advantage for the hosts. The Palestra will of course be electric as it usually is in this match up and as long as the hosts hold their nerve, this should be a winnable game for them. The Owls have the higher star recruits, the better athletes, the more household names, etc. but this is a Penn team that's high on confidence at the moment and we feel no worse than 50/50 on their home court here!
The Seminoles have had a tough go of it in conference play with just 2 wins in their first 6 games albeit against a tough slate of opponents in Duke, UNC and Miami (FL). Virginia Tech has not done much better at 2-3 but with the exception of a 26 point loss to Virginia, the Hokies have proven to be a dangerous team on their home court. The Hokies rank 2nd nationally in field goal percentage at 52% and are even better at Cassell Coliseum where they make 54.3% of their shots. However, some of these stats are inflated against an extremely weak non-conference schedule and the Hokies have been outrebounded at an alarming rate in their last 5 games. This plays into one of the major strengths of the Seminoles who are always active on the glass. The Seminoles have the athletes to match up well against the Hokies at every position and while this should be an electric atmosphere at a sold out arena not to mention a bit of a coaching mismatch in favor of the Hokies, we believe the hosts will have to have a perfect shooting night to come away with the win here.
Just 11 points separate places 2 to 14 following 18 Bundesliga games this season. That suggests it’s Bayern first and them much of a muchness. However, with that said their are still 16 games remaining and we can always expect the cream to come to the top. Traditionally speaking Dortmund are usually fighting it out for second place behind Bayern, and you can be sure Peter Stogger will fancy his teams chance of at least qualifying for the Champions league. However, if we are being analytical about the visitors, we have to point out they lack consistency and last weeks 0-0 draw against Wolfsburg was bordering on dire. BVB did end the first half of the season with a win against Hoffenheim (2-1) and Mainz (0-2), but overall they are struggling to convert goalscoring chances. Hertha went 6-6-6 from their first 18 matches, so eleventh place feels about right. The hosts are 4-2-3 at home, albeit three of those defeats came in the last five. Schalke (0-2), Monchegladbach (2-4) and Frankfurt (1-2) all left the Olympiastadion with wins, and earlier on in the season Dortmund won the reverse fixture 2-0. Nevertheless, a 2-3 over second placed Leipzig tell us the Berlin club have the stomach to face better teams. With regards to team news, the hosts are just without Rekik. That means Alexander Esswein and Jordan Torunarigha could return to first team action this evening. Dortmund on the other hand are without second top scorer Philipp, while all of Reus, Rode, Schmelzer, Guerreiro and Larsen remain sidelined. Hertha won this fixture last season (2-1), and they look in good physical shape ahead of tonight. We would make the hosts shorter in the betting, so that’s the bet!
A quick update of the Dutch Eredivisie season to date. Of the 161 league games played, 70 (43.48%) have been won by the home side, their have also been 35 (21.74%) draws and 56 (34.78%) away wins. Utrecht are currently sixth in the league table, three places and 10 points behind AZ Alkmaar. However, the hosts have played one game less than AZ, and just seven (4-2-1) of those matches were played at the Galgenwaard. During the recent winter break coach Erik Ten Hag left the club to take on a more lucrative role with Ajax, his replacement is former assistant Jean-Paul de Jong. The Cheeseheads (AZ) won the reverse fixture (3-0), so from that side of things the omens are positive for John Van de Brom’s team. Furthermore, we say that because AZ are even more affective when playing away (5-2-1), and last season they won this fixture (1-2). The other thing which leads us into believing the visitors are great value to win this match is team news. Rico Strieder is suspended for the host, while Christophe Bahebeck, Simon Makienok, Partick Joosten and Anouar Kali are still sideline. Their is also a question mark against Lukas Görtler’s participation. AZ have confirmed that both Vejinovic and Calvin Stengs are out, while Ron Vlaar and Myron Moadu are doubtful. No new injuries are reported for a team who have lost just one of their last 13 games, and who actually won 10 of those matches.
Henry Daly has his string in excellent form, and his BACK TO THE THATCH must have a great chance of landing this. Afterall, he’s still rated 5 pounds lower over fences, he ran well last time and conditions will suit. Add to that the champion jockey takes over in the saddle, and with the exception of the in form GREYED A the opposition doesn’t appear that great. The latter is one pound well in on official figures, but that doesn’t mean much in a three mile chase. Nevertheless, he’s the one to beat!
NARANJA’S novice win doesn’t add up to a mark of 112, and some of her jumping in that race was cause for concern. Giving weight away is another issue, so she will almost definitely need to improve. If i was Ron Hodges i would have kept my 5 pound claimer on DAYTIME AHEAD, and it’s not because we dislike todays jockey Nick Scholfield. In fact, we rate him highly but a 1 pound rise for his recent second and the extra 5 for the jockey makes the task more difficult. Richard Johnson taking over on LERICHI BELLE is a positive, but the ground is a worry. I really hope that Thomas Greatrex has the sense to make plenty of use of CARNSPINDLE, because she will stay further than this and it will be easier to draw the sting out of the others. Topweight is always a worry, albeit she has that because she’s the best in the race and this isn’t particularly competitive. Jockey taking off seven pounds should help and 6/1 is a working mans price.
If we take into consideration official figures the mare RONS DREAM is home an hosed. However, this is the 8 year olds chasing debut, and you don’t wait 26 races if she’s a natural jumper. It goes without saying that if she does warm to the task the others are in trouble. However, for now we prefer the 7/4 about IMPULSIVE STAR rather than the 5/4 about CD winner RAMSES DE TEILLEE. If this were a handicap the selection would be only receiving 3 pounds and not 6 from the Pipe runner, and we also like the idea of Waley-Cohen taking off another 3 pounds. At the end of the day 9 pounds on heavy ground is a lot, and in what amounts to a three horse race odds of 7/4 are good enough
How do you price a race like this novice hurdle. Second fav SCORPION SID seemed to run well when debuting in a point to point, albeit the winner was well beaten on his rules debut and the third is currently rated 103. Locally trained NORTH WEST WIND ran in a better race than this when making his racecourse debut, but he was beaten 27L and weakened from the second last. With that in mind the step up in trip has to be a slight question mark. At odds of 15/2 we want something on CUBAN PETE. While Venetia Williams runner was only seventh on his bumper debut that bare two miles was clearly too sharp. Breeding suggests stepping up in trip is going to help his cause, and heavy ground shouldn’t be a worry. It goes without saying whether he’s good enough remains to be seen, but he’s the percentage call.
One of the more heated rivalries in the MAAC, the Monmouth Hawks host the Iona Gaels in New Jersey. Monmouth experienced some roster turnover this year and as results have shown, they have taken a step back and are just 1-4 in conference play. Meanwhile, Iona has represented the MAAC in the NCAA Tournament the past 2 years and appear on track again at 5-1 against MAAC opponents. Hawks leading scorer Micah Seaborn has been dealing with a sprained ankle and has played just once in the last 3 games and is not expected to play tonight. While this is big rivalry, we can't see an already lackluster squad without a reliable scorer keeping up with the class of the MAAC.