The 2. Bundesliga season kicks off with a huge game between Schalke and Hamburg on Friday. Tom Carnduff picks out his best bets.
2pts Schalke to win and over 2.5 goals at 11/4 (Sky Bet)
Schalke will be desperate to return to the Bundesliga at the first time of asking following a dismal campaign that saw them drop out of Germany's top-flight. Hamburg serve as a reminder of just how difficult it can be to get out of this division.
Hamburg's status is demonstrated by the fact this is the third time in four years they will kick off the 2. Bundesliga season - this one could at least see them return to a 57,000 capacity at the Volksparkstadion.
This is their fourth season in the second tier - it's something that Schalke will be desperate to avoid repeating. The difference with this one is that we wouldn't put Hamburg as favourites and it could perhaps benefit them because of that - although the pressure will always remain at one of Germany's biggest clubs.
Schalke have drastically overhauled a squad that failed spectacularly last season - and while questions persist - they look a very strong side on paper. That could mean they have enough to compete as a top-two side - that starts with victory on opening night.
Changes were required for Schalke and it's no surprise to see how busy this summer has been. They've focused on bringing in a good core of players who know this division - and maybe crucially - they know what is needed to get promoted from it.
Headlining the arrivals is striker Simon Terodde - who joins after departing Hamburg following the conclusion of his contract in the summer. He has proven to be a nightmare for opposition defences at this level.
His 2. Bundesliga record stands at a remarkable 142 goals in 253 games. That includes 24 for Die Rothosen last season and Terodde's form will be crucial to Schalke's chances of promotion. One against his former club will be the perfect start to life in Gelsenkirchen.
Marius Bülter's arrival from Union Berlin alongside the addition of Dominick Drexler from Koln gives Schalke a strong looking attack at this level. They'll likely make up the attacking trio with Danny Latza - the summer arrival from Mainz who will captain the side.
Scoring shouldn't be too much of an issue and Hamburg's showings last season means that we could see a high-scoring game here. No 2. Bundesliga side scored more than Hamburg in 2020/21 while only Fortuna Düsseldorf conceded more among those who finished in the top-six.
The odds on the home side are interesting, but a price of 11/4 is available on SCHALKE TO WIN AND OVER 2.5 GOALS IN THE MATCH and that is the best bet in this match. They will need to utilise the talent in attack if they are to have any success this season.
Hamburg's 2020/21 season saw 65% of their matches have three or more goals - and even after Terodde's departure - that trend can continue. If we judge new Cheftrainer Tim Walter from his time at Bayern II and Holstein Kiel, goals will not be in short supply.
It would be unfair to fully assess Dimitrios Grammozis from his spell at the end of Schalke's last season but his Darmstadt side went over 2.5 goals in 50% of their games in 2019/20. We should expect Die Königsblauen to be among the leading scorers throughout this campaign.
That includes a couple against a fellow promotion rival on opening night. Alongside the pressure of carrying the favourites tag, Schalke will know the importance of victory here given their miserable campaign of 2020/21.
Score prediction: Schalke 2-1 Hamburg (Sky Bet odds: 15/2)
Odds correct at 1935 BST (21/07/21)
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