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04 May 2023 / admin

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Bayer Leverkusen vs FC Koln - Match Preview

⚽ 5 May 2023 - 18:30 GMT +0

Bayer Leverkusen finished the last round in sixth and their hunt for a European place remains well on course following an impressive run of nine league games without defeat (W6, D3), which is now the longest ongoing unbeaten run in the league! That unbeaten stretch extends to 14 games across all competitions, which has raised the stock of boss Xabi Alonso, with big clubs around Europe beginning to take notice of his feats.

This game has been brought forward to Friday by the Bundesliga, which perhaps plays into Leverkusen’s hands as they look to notch another league win ahead of their crucial UEFA Europa League semi-final next week. Playing at the BayArena should help in that aim as the hosts have won five of their last six competitive games here, scoring at least twice in each victory.

Cologne isn’t quite mathematically safe following their 1-0 defeat to Freiburg in the previous round. However, they have already achieved a 35-point haul, which would have seen them safe in each season since 37 points were the threshold back in 2016/17. Surpassing that mark here against an in-form opposition side is perhaps a big ask, especially as manager Steffen Baumgart has won just once in his six touchline meetings with Leverkusen (W1, D1, L4).

The possibly inspiring hope of bucking that trend will be Cologne’s pair of travelling 3-1 victories ahead of this trip, with those wins over Hoffenheim and Augsburg serving to end a seven-game travelling winless run in style. Extending that winning run to three with a second straight win in Leverkusen would be impressive, not least because the Billy Goats haven’t won three straight top-flight away games since 1996!

📋 Key battle: Goalkeeper Lukáš Hrádecký has played no small part in helping Leverkusen put together a run of over six hours of play with just one goal conceded, making 14 saves across his last four appearances. Trying to get the better of him will be Cologne’s Florian Kainz; the influential midfielder both scored and assisted before half-time in their latest away game.

Hot stat: Leverkusen has scored during both halves in a Bundesliga-high nine home games this season (60%).

Mainz vs Schalke - Match Preview

⚽ 5 May 2023 - 18:30 GMT +0

Mainz’s solid run of ten Bundesliga games without defeat (W6, D4) ended emphatically last time out with a 3-0 loss at Wolfsburg. That was also the first time they’d failed to score at least once since they suffered a 1-0 defeat in the reverse fixture against Schalke back in November. But now, with a three-point gap from sixth place coming into the round, they’ll see this as a must-win game if they want to keep their European hopes alive.

Back in familiar surroundings, the hosts will no doubt take comfort from the fact they are unbeaten in six Bundesliga games in front of their own fans (W4, D2), most impressively beating Bayern Munich 3-1 during that run. Yet while they are favourites to extend that streak here, it is worth noting that Mainz has only managed three wins from 12 home H2Hs since their promotion in 2008/09 (D4, L5).

Relegation-threatened Schalke secured what could prove to be a crucial 2-1 comeback win against Werder Bremen last matchday, handing them consecutive home wins for the first time this season. They will now look to follow that up with successive league wins across all venues, which is something they’ve achieved only once so far this season. A good omen for a repeat, though, might be that in that first instance, they secured a 2-1 home win before a success on the road at Bochum, who, like Mainz, lost 3-0 in the game prior.

However, that was the only away league win for the visitors this season (D5, L8), and four of the six away games in which they collected points were against opponents who were in the bottom half of the table at that time (W1, D3). That’s not a good sign for this Schalke side who, despite improving recent results, come into the round in 17th, albeit now just one point from safety.

📋 Players to watch: Against Bayern, Mainz’s Ludovic Ajorque scored the equaliser to net the sixth goal of his last nine games, including four opening efforts for his team. Last weekend, Dominick Drexler scored the winner for Schalke in injury time against Bremen, and his team have now won three of the four league games in which he scored (W3, L1); each time his goal was decisive.

Hot stat: Both teams have scored in just two of the last eight H2Hs, while the last two meetings combined produced just one match goal.

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