Friday Bundesliga Odds, Picks and Predictions: Union Berlin vs. Bayer Leverkusen (Jan. 15)
Christof Koepsel/Getty Images. Pictured: Moussa Diaby
- A few weeks ago, Bayer Leverkusen looked like a Bundesliga title contender.
- Now, Die Werkself are in a rough patch and things don't get easier with Saturday's trip to Union Berlin.
- After struggling in its return to the German top flight last season, Berlin looks like a formidable side and Anthony Dabbundo thinks the betting market has yet to catch up.
Bundesliga Odds: Union Berlin vs. Bayer Leverkusen
|Bayer Leverkusen Odds||+120 [BET NOW]|
|Union Berlin Odds||+240 [BET NOW]|
|Draw||+225 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||2.5 (-110/-110) [BET NOW]|
|Time||Friday, 2:30 p.m. ET|
|How to Watch||ESPN+|
While they were seen as title contenders a few weeks ago, Bayer Leverkusen have failed to win their last three Bundesliga matches and have slid down to third.
Union Berlin have been one of the biggest surprises of the 2020-21 season, and two of the Bundesliga’s top defenses will face off in Germany’s capital on Friday with the hosts being undervalued in this match.
Union Berlin were one of the Bundesliga’s bottom feeders in 2019-20, but they’ve been legitimately a top-six team in the German first division so far this season. Riding a much improved defense, Union managed a point with Bayern Munich, beat Borussia Dortmund, tied Wolfsburg and Stuttgart and hasn’t lost in the league since Dec. 4.
Expected goals (also known as xG) is an advanced statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as luck or outstanding goalkeeping.
There’s nothing fluky about the strength of the Union team: its defense. They’ve allowed just 15.3 xGA in the Bundesliga this year, which is third lowest in the league. They’ve been unfortunate to concede as many goals as they have in 2020-21, and might be even stingier defensively if they keep up their performances.
A deep dive into Union’s underlying numbers doesn’t bring forth any red flags. They are middle of the pack in progressive passes allowed and entries into their penalty area, but Berlin is very effective at preventing high quality chances.
They rank near the bottom of the league in xGA/shot and in the middle of the league in goals/shot, proving that opponents have found it difficult to break them down and create big scoring chances.
Leverkusen’s unconscious and unsustainable conversion rate to start the Bundesliga season turned them into faux title contenders. They sat atop the table, but their last three performances have been troubling. The results are starting to follow too.
They created almost nothing against Bayern Munich, a team that have been leaking goals to everyone. Against Frankfurt, Leverkusen scored early but again couldn’t produce much and was held to 0.7 xG. Their attack may be starting to show the absence of Kai Havertz and Kevin Volland from the summer departures.
Teams have been willing to cede Leverkusen more space, like Werder Bremen did. Against Bremen, Leverkusen managed a 1-1 draw but was not convincing. In three matches, Peter Bosz’s side have produced 1.8 xGF.
One area where they have excelled is defense, with the league’s best defense by xGA. But their middling attack — which is still producing at an absurd 30 goals from 19.6 xGF clip — is a troubling trend for them.
Leverkusen vs. Union Berlin Best Bet
There is still plenty of room for this Leverkusen team to fall, and I expect that to continue against a tough Union Berlin defense. Leverkusen is overrated and there’s no fluke about the strength of Union’s defense.
I only project Leverkusen as slight favorites in this match, and will back Union Berlin and take the quarter goal being offered at -115 or better. If there’s an early goal on either side in the first 15 minutes, I will look to live bet under given the strength of the defenses in this matchup.
The Bet: Union Berlin +0.25 (-115 or better)
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