Mallorca v Getafe
Despite the relegation battle hotting up in LaLiga, Mallorca have sufficient distance with a 10-point lead over the bottom three to begin to ease off, but Javier Aguirre won’t allow his side to relax yet. That will particularly be the case as Quique Sánchez Flores’ Getafe arrive in town, knowing that results going against them could leave them only one point clear of the drop zone.
Mallorca have only been beaten at home once since October, the same month as the last time that Getafe last won an away game. And there is little reason to believe that either of those records could change in a game that is bound to have few goals.
Getafe have not scored in any of their last three games and Enes Ünal’s purple patch, which saw him score eight goals in seven games, is well and truly over after three games for Getafe and two for Turkey without registering a shot on target.
On the other hand, Mallorca picked up an impressive 1-0 victory at in-form Celta Vigo on Monday night to follow a 3-3 draw at Real Valladolid where they looked clinical in front of goal. That should give Mallorca the belief and confidence in front of goal to see them across the line in a game that is likely to be something of a stalemate.
Santa Clara v Chaves
It is shaping up to be an epic campaign for Chaves, who, in their first top-flight campaign in four years, have already beaten Sporting 2-0 and Braga 1-0 away from home. They were headed for a 0-0 draw at Benfica until the 94th minute, when Ghanaian striker Issah Abass pounced on a loose touch from Nicolás Otamendi and fired in the winner in the 94th minute. As a result, Chaves have moved to 10th in the table, 14 points clear of the relegation play-off spot. Since kicking off March with a 3-1 defeat to Porto, Vítor Campelos side have beaten Portimonense 2-0 and Estoril Praia 2-0, before losing 2-1 to Braga, drawing 0-0 to Gil Vicente and beating Benfica. Moreover, they have ‘eaten their vegetables’ and taken care of business against Portugal’s weakest sides, avoiding defeat against each of the bottom four sides in the Primeira. I’m expecting them to do the same as they take on a Santa Clara that is sinking rapidly.
Santa Clara would kick off the year with a 4-0 defeat to Braga, a match that would prompt the club hierarchy to sack Mário Silva and replaced him with Jorge Simão, who mustered just two draws and five losses before getting the sack. Club legend Danildo Accioly took the reins, but the Brazilian has been unable to turn the tide with the club falling to six consecutive defeats under his tenure so far. Santa Clara have not kept a clean sheet since January 13, and they looked set to extend their goalless streak to five matches until the 92nd minute when Kyosuke Tagawa pulled one back in their 2-1 defeat to Porto. Having finished in the top seven for each of the last two seasons, the Azoreans look set to return to the second division for the first time since 2017/18.
This is a Santa Clara side in free fall and that already looks relegated to spending the following season in the Segunda, and that has avoided defeat on just four occasions since the start of November – a 0-0 draw to Chaves on November 7, a 3-1 win against Estoril on November 14, a 0-0 draw against Portimonense on January 13 and a 2-2 draw to Boavista on February 4. They’re going to be going up against a Chaves side that is teeming in quality from left back Bruno Langa to goalkeeper Paulo Vítor to captain João Teixeira, and I don’t expect them to come away from a victory.
PAOK v Panathinaikos
Panathinaikos dealt rivals Olympiacos a major blow after recording a comfortable 2-0 home victory in the Greek derby in the previous round. Ivan Jovanovic’s team are still top of the table, level on points with AEK Athens with six games to go. The upcoming game against PAOK is one of the two tough away duels remaining and Panathinaikos are aware that a victory away at Toumba will be a huge step towards winning their first league title in more than a decade.
However, this is a tricky trip for the aspiring champions. No team have beaten Panathinaikos this season more times than PAOK, who have come out victorious from two of their four games against their upcoming rivals this season. Yet, circumstances this time are very different. This match is a must-win duel for the visitors, who have won more away games (9) than any other Greek side this term. In fact, Panathinaikos have recorded just two defeats in 13 games on the road, having picked up more points than any of the other title contender away from home.
PAOK may have lost just one game on home soil this season, but none of the Big-3 (Olympiacos, Panathinaikos, AEK Athens and PAOK) have been defeated more than twice at home in 2022/23 anyway. Moreover, PAOK have practically nothing to play for, as they sit fourth, nine points off Champions League spots (top-two secure a spot in the qualifiers). Their primary objective for the time being is to stay competitive ahead of the Greek Cup final against AEK.
Panathinaikos is not expected to cruise past PAOK, but it would be a huge surprise if they lose for the third time to the same team. Jovanovic’s side may not be considered the team who have produced the best spectacle on the pitch this season, but they are undoubtedly the most consistent in Greece and one that is extremely hard to beat.
Lillestrøm v Molde
The game of the season so far in Eliteserien took place on Wednesday night when Lillestrøm beat Strømsgodset 4-3! It looked like Lillestrøm were in cruise control at 2-0 up but they eventually came from 2-3 down to win. Both of their strikers Thomas Lehne Olsen and Akor Adams hit the back of the net and without doubt, those two are the key to their success this season. With Adams and Olsen on the field, LSK will always carry a major threat. This is now a tough spot for Geir Bakke’s men though because it’s their third game in the space of eight days. Facing the defending champions Molde who are currently winless and keen to prove a point, it’s going to be a really tough test.
Molde are even money favourites to win here which feels fair. Despite picking up just one point so far, they have the most loaded squad in the league with tons of depth and quality. They had an xG of over 3 vs Tromsø in the first round yet somehow lost 0-1. Things were even more disappointing last week when they couldn’t beat arch-rivals Rosenborg at home and were forced to settle with a 1-1 draw. Their overall metrics are pretty good though with an average xG of 1.51 (4th best) and at the other end they have the best xGA average of anyone (0.61). It is only a matter of time before they convert these numbers into victories.
That first win of the season might come here at Årasen Stadion but rather than backing the visitors at evens I think a better bet is to take over 2.5 goals. We saw in midweek that Lillestrøm have some vulnerabilities defensively. They also conceded two goals vs Viking away last week and Molde definitely have the offensive firepower to take advantage. Lillestrøm themselves carry plenty of attacking punch with Adams and Lehne Olsen in particular. Odds of 1.75 are high for over 2.5 goals involving a Molde game domestically. The price would normally be around 1.50 or lower. It feels like it could be a good time to strike now because they might find their scoring boots very soon.
Olympiacos v AEK Athens
Following their 2-0 defeat away at Panathinaikos, Olympiacos are aware that anything but a win on Sunday would probably put an end to their title hopes. The Piraeus-based side sit six points behind Greek Super League leaders AEK Athens, who are visiting the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium for the third time this season. The first duel between the two teams in Piraeus ended in an unlikely 0-0 draw, with both sides missing big chances to break the deadlock.
Their second match with Olympiacos as hosts took place a couple of weeks ago, when the reigning champions defeated AEK 2-1 in the Cup. AEK may have qualified for the final after securing a 3-0 victory in the first leg, but Olympiacos have now beaten them twice in a row after recording a 3-1 win away at the OPAP Arena back in March. Their last game in the Cup was the fourth match in a row where Olympiacos allow in at least one goal. In fact, four of the five goals they conceded in the aforementioned games either were own goals or came after costly errors in defence.
As many as 30 games into the season, Olympiacos have yet to deal with their defensive frailties and they have been punished by opponents lately. Had it not been for goalkeeper Alexandros Paschalakis, who has been exceptional in goal this season, they wouldn’t have been in the title race in April. Hence, to win AEK Athens they just simply need to outscore their upcoming rivals, who average 1.6 goals per game on the road this season. AEK have scored at least one goal in all but one of their last 26 games away from home and they should be expected to find the back of the net at least once on Sunday. It is doubtful whether they will win in Piraeus for the first time in 10 games, but they should score over 0.5 goals against a sloppy Olympiacos backline.
Juventus v Napoli
When Napoli hosted Juventus earlier this calendar year, a lot of people thought it might be the beginning of a slightly tough patch for Luciano Spalletti’s runaway Serie A leaders. Instead, the Partenopei slapped the Old Lady with a ruthless 5-1 win to see off the side who were then their most likely challengers for the title. Juventus have since been hit with a 15-point deduction that has just been temporarily suspended this week, seeing them move back into third place now.
A title challenge from anybody is unlikely at this stage of the season, but Juventus will be desperate to avenge that humiliation in Campania and also delay Napoli’s inevitable crowning as Italian champions for the first time since 1990 and without Diego Maradona.
Massimiliano Allegri would have been more hurt than anybody by the nature of that loss in Naples, and he’ll almost certainly be sending his side out with instructions to, at all costs, avoid a repeat result. So, Juventus will be keeping things tight in Turin and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Victor Osimhen may have a quiet evening – if the latter is deemed fit to play.
Napoli have themselves had a drop-off in form in attack. AC Milan so brilliantly showed – three times in two weeks – how to keep them out, so Juventus have a blueprint to follow. With even Hellas Verona able to frustrate the champions-elect recently, Allegri will back his players to get the job done in what should be a low-scoring affair.
Atlanta United v Chicago Fire
The final match in the MLS this weekend comes along on Sunday evening when two Eastern Conference challengers meet when Atlanta United take on Chicago Fire in what looks like an entertaining clash at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Last season was one to forget for Atlanta United and to be fair to the ‘Five Stripes’, they have done exactly that, having made a positive start with just one defeat from their opening eight matches, picking up four wins in that time.
They are going to have an issue to solve in the summer you would imagine because if Thiago Almada is still in Georgia when the European summer transfer window closes they would have had a real touch. He looks like the best player in MLS by far and could break all transfer records when he leaves.
He hasn’t left yet though and that will give Atlanta encouragement to keep on with their positive start to the season, but they meet a Chicago Fire team who themselves have left adversity behind to begin the campaign well.
They might have done the smartest piece of business of the lot when they brought Kei Kamara to Soldier Field, and he is already delivering the goals and the displays that allow the talented players on the roster to shine.
Chicago have only lost one of their seven matches so far this term, and would be much higher up the table were it not for the fact that they have let a few leads go late on. If matches finished on 75 minutes they would be rivalling St Louis City in the race for the Supporters’ Shield, but as it is they sit midway in the Eastern Conference.
Chicago’s games are going to be higher scoring this season than before because Kamara occupies both opposing centre-backs which creates space for a talented core of attacking midfielders to do their thing.
When the Fire meet perfect dance partners we could see some crazy games. We saw it last week against Philadelphia and earlier in the campaign in matches against FC Cincinnati and Inter Miami. Atlanta are more than happy to get involved in attacking shootouts so I expect over 2.5 goals to round off the weekend.
Bolivar v Wilstermann
This game promises much and will depend on what sort of team Bolivar are willing/able to put out following the high-octane clash with Barcelona in Guayaquil last Wednesday. Bolivar are top of the league, having won three of their last five. Wilstermann are a different story, still bottom and only recently having reached a positive points tally (they were deducted six for irregularities), they have only won one league game.
Although historically Bolivar lead the head to head overwhelmingly, recent history is not so clear cut, with each team having claimed victory twice and there being one draw in the last five encounters. Interestingly, in the 155 games between these two sides, there is a goal average of 2.93.
Expect Bolivar to win, they are too strong and seem to be sufficiently focused in the league. While Wilstermann are showing signs of recovery, I feel they still have a long way to go and Bolivar should do enough this time. Also expect a low goal count.
Tacuary v Olimpia
Olimpia look to rediscover some league form on their short trip to Villa Elisa having won midweek in the Copa Libertadores. Tacuary meanwhile arrived back to Paraguay on the back of a heavy defeat to Estudiantes de la Plata in the Sudamericana.
A surprise win in Villarrica last week is not just the only recent victory for Tacuary but also the only goal in the league in the last five matches. The club are on their third coach of the year with Iván Almeida leaving the TV studio to return to coaching and the club he managed to a win over Olimpia during the 2022 Clausura. Almedia made very few changes between the Guaireña and Estudiantes games but surely some of the squad will need rotating here. Veterans Victor Ayala and Óscar Ruiz may start from the bench to have an impact in the second half.
Diego Aguirre’s last three matches have been a 1-0 scoreline, he was finally on the right side of the result against Patronato of the Argentinian 2nd division after two defeats in the league. The Uruguayan coach remains limited with striking options due to injury, but Facundo Bruera got some minutes on the pitch in midweek and could lead the line on Sunday.
Olimpia were comfortable 4-0 winners in their earlier meeting this year, but it is hard to see that story playing out again with two of the scorers, Derlis González and Brian Montenegro, missing through injury. In recent league matches Olimpia have averaged 1 goal per game (5 scored in 5) while Tacuary have only found the net once in five and conceding four. Coupled with tired legs and squad rotation a high-scoring game is unlikely.
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