Trelleborg v Gefle
In the 2022 Superettan season, Trelleborg narrowly missed out on the Allsvenskan/Superettan relegation/promotion playoff place. They finished fourth in the table, just three points behind Osters. Their opening day opponents, Gefle, gained promotion to the second-tier by finishing at the top of the 2022 Ettan Norra table.
Trelleborg will be irritated with how they finished the 2022 campaign. Under long-term manager Kristian Haynes, they suffered four defeats in their last six matches and will view it as a major missed opportunity to have not qualified for the playoffs.
Haynes will be expecting to lead the club in another promotion-challenging season this time around as they seek a return to the top flight for the first time since 2011.
Gefle played UEFA Europa League football as recently as the 2013/14 campaign when they won two ties and made it to the third qualifying round. However, they are beginning their return to the second tier in 2023 after a spell in Sweden’s third and regionalised division, under the management of Mikael Bengtsson. They gained promotion to the top flight with several games to go and won the league sitting five points above and clear of Sandvikens in the Ettan Norra table.
Trelleborg have lost some key players over the winter, such as Jesper Modig to AFC Eskilstuna and Simon Amin to Sandefjord. Following promotion, Gefle have been very active in the market with 11 new arrivals.
Last season, Trelleborg’s 30 Superettan matches consisted of 95 goals, whilst Gefle’s 30 third-tier games combined for 93. Given that, as well as the excitement for opening day, goals could well be on the way in this one.
Genk v OH Leuven
Ever since only managing to win only one of their last six games, KRC Genk saw their lead over Union shrink to just three points. Genk will be entering the playoffs as the league leaders, and therefore hope to break that poor run quickly after the international break. Fortunately, coach Wouter Vrancken may get an extra wildcard. Promising Luca Oyen, who fell foul on the first matchday to an ACL injury, is back in the Genk squad. He played 45 minutes last week in the practice match against Beerschot. It is premature to expect him against OHL, although we can’t rule out him getting minutes from coach Vrancken. Because up front, Genk have only Aly Samatta at their disposal. The departure of top marksman Onuachu and the injury of his replacement Arokdare make Samatta the only deep striker available for the home side for now. Despite his good statistics (3 goals and an assist in four matches), the Tanzanian sometimes slows down the game. Oyen could provide an additional option in that position in the short term.
For Genk, the international break was not inconvenient. After the lesser results, this break was welcome. There was a commotion though when it appeared that Trésor and Heynen were not called up for the Belgian national team, despite their excellent form and statistics. They took the chance to take extra rest and focus on the title race. During the international break, man-in-form Paintsil was important with an assist in Ghana’s 1-1 draw against Angola. El Khannouss also provided an assist in Morocco’s 2-1 win against Brazil.
OHL lost deservedly against Anderlecht last time out. They keep failing to beat top clubs, with the last time they succeeded being against Genk in February 2022. Then OHL was able to score the winning goal in extra time against a man down (2-1). The lesser results against the top clubs push OHL just outside the playoffs for now. This also has to do with the difficult return of striker Gonzalez. He still does not leave a fit impression and is far from his pre-winter break level. There is no alternative up front for Brys. In goal, Cojacaru makes an uncertain impression at times. So it will be a difficult story for OHL to stop Belgium’s best-scoring team. We, therefore, expect Genk to keep the three points at home this time.
Celta Vigo v Almeria
Heading into the international break, Celta Vigo were one of the teams to watch in LaLiga. Unbeaten in five and having scored 10 goals over that period, Carlos Carvalhal has got his team playing some incredible football which has seen them equal Real Madrid’s return of 11 points over their last six games, putting them fifth in the form table.
Key to that form has been young midfielder Gabri Veiga, who has been involved in four goals in his last four games. Having been injured for a spell over the international break, he returned to training on Thursday and will be fit to face Almería.
Almería, on the other hand, will have been very glad for the break over the international period given that they had picked up just four points from their last six games, the second-lowest amount of any team in LaLiga over that period. What will not be such good news is that their next match is an away game, as they have the worst record of any side in LaLiga on the road, with no wins and only three draws from 12 games.
Celta Vigo have been beaten at Balaídos only once since the World Cup, with Atlético Madrid only able to secure their 1-0 win with a goal at the death of their visit to Galicia. Celta Vigo will be confident of extending that run and their good form against Almería.
Lyngby v Silkeborg
It is a true six-pointer in Lyngby Sunday afternoon. The home side need to win to keep their hopes of survival afloat, while Silkeborg need three points to keep up with Midtjylland in the fight for the 7th place and the hope for European football yet again.
Lyngby have been one of the better teams in the Superliga this spring with eight points in their last five fixtures. They have beaten Midtjylland and Brøndby, but still have seven points between themselves and Horsens, but more importantly, survival. Last week, they were unlucky to lose to Randers despite being the best team on the pitch. Overall, the optimism is back in northern Zealand, and the home side are playing without pressure. While most people have deemed them certain of relegation, the players seem to believe they can survive. Lyngby are playing with optimism and without restraints and it has been a pleasure to watch them this spring. They are creating more chances and former Eredivisie top scorer Alfred Finnbogason has started to convert them into goals.
At Silkeborg, things are looking a little less entertaining. The away side missed out on the championship round after only managing a draw against FC Midtjylland in the last round of the regular season. Unfortunately for Silkeborg, they are travelling to Lyngby without several key players. Oliver Sonne, Lukas Engel, Joel Felix, Gustav Dahl and possibly Stefan Thordarson are all injured. This means they should struggle defensively especially, which is concerning.
We expect Lyngby’s good form to continue. Silkeborg is one of Lyngby’s favourite opponents at home as they are undefeated in their last six home games head-to-head. Lyngby have lost just one of their last 12 games against Silkeborg in the Superliga. We are recommending you bet on 1X double chance at odds 1.62 at Betfair Sportsbook.
Austria Vienna v LASK
Points have now been halved, and the top six group opens up with a game between an Austria side who will be relieved to have hit form just in time to qualify, and a LASK team who are aiming to pull away and chase after the top two. After a controlled win in a high-pressure derby last time out, Austria can thank Haris Tabakovic for being 2023’s most reliable goal-scorer in the division, and the emergence of Olympiakos-loanee Doron Leidner and technical talent Matthias Braunöder in midfield is doing no harm either, as new coach Michael Wimmer continues to produce better-looking attacking football, especially at home where he’s unbeaten in 8 games (including winter friendlies) since taking the reigns at the capital club from Stuttgart.
LASK have scored 38 goals so far this season, one more than Austria Vienna, meaning that both teams are up near the top of the table in that regard. With Keito Nakamura maintaining his form as one of the Bundesliga’s standout stars in terms of both chance creation and goal scoring, Marin Ljubicic back in the goals, plus the new threat of the pacey Moses Usor, LASK should have plenty enough firepower to hold on to their record of having lost only once away from home during the campaign. Their issues stem more from the back of late, having conceded a couple of goals in each of their last three games. It might be too close to go for an outright winner here, both teams to score looks like the better option.
SK Austria Klagenfurt v Red Bull Salzburg
Red Bull Salzburg were on an outstanding run of away form heading into the international break, having won 10 consecutive games on the road for the first time ever. They will surely be relishing the prospect of the Championship Round too, where they are usually at their relentless best: the Red Bulls have taken 25 out of a possible 30 points in the season run-in in the previous two campaigns. Matthias Jaissle will have most of his first-choice players available, with forward Fernando and attacking midfielder Luka Sucic the two notable absentees.
Opponents Austria Klagenfurt are the weakest team in the top six on paper but should not be underestimated, having snuck into the Championship Round for the second successive season since gaining promotion in the summer of 2021. The Carinthians did struggle when they were lining up against the best clubs in the league week-in, week-out, however, winning only one of their 10 games at this stage of last season. Boss Peter Pacult is missing three important players through suspension: centre-back Thorsten Mahrer, left-winger Florian Rieder and central midfielder Andy Irving will all be serving a one-game ban.
Salzburg have taken 10 points out of a possible 12 from their last four league meetings with Austria Klagenfurt (W3 D1), with the only draw during that run a dead rubber on the final day of last season when they already had the title in the bag. And we expect this imperious, swashbuckling Salzburg side to continue that unbeaten streak and take all three points against the team at the opposite end of the Championship Round table this weekend.
Sparta Rotterdam v Feyenoord
I foresee this game being a fairly entertaining one. Sparta have been enjoying a tremendous season and they compete very well with the top sides (especially at home).
Sparta manager Maurice Steijn commented this week that though Feyenoord were spectacular when beating Ajax in Amsterdam two weeks ago, he thinks his side have their own weapons that can trouble their Rotterdam counterparts.
Whilst Feyenoord have the goals to quite often dig themselves out of trouble, I think that they will face mini setbacks in the match, and they could even lose this one. This fixture is possibly the most difficult left on paper for Feyenoord in what appears the most straightforward schedule of the teams at the top chasing the title.
Sparta seem to have it all at the moment: plenty of goals and an experienced, tight defence. I have a feeling they will take points off Feyenoord, but ultimately it won’t stop them on their title march. Goals are to be expected in this match — neither are the type to sit back.
Nantes v Reims
Nantes are underpriced for their home encounter against Reims on Sunday and at 1.53 should be backed to win or draw. Supporting under 2.5 goals, however, looks an even healthier option.
Looking at the form of Antoine Kombouare’s side, they look in a pretty mediocre state. Only one win has come from their last eight matches, yet the run of games they have played has been ferociously difficult. As well as two matches against in-form Italian giants Juventus, they have played opposition in Ligue 1’s top six on four occasions, as well as matches against a Nice side undefeated under Didier Digard and Lyon. All this came in a packed calendar and the international break will have done the squad well.
It is also worth bearing in mind that Nantes are hard to beat at home, losing only three times at Stade de la Beaujoire in the league this season.
Reims, meanwhile, have been in the headlines thanks to their exploits under Will Still. A 19-match undefeated record in the league was only ended by Marseille immediately before the international break. Yet they are not particularly strong on the road, with only three wins coming from 14 matches. More often than not, they have drawn.
Look for this to be a low-scoring game, with the last two between these clubs finishing 1-0 to the team playing at home. Reims’ nine away fixtures under Still have produced just eight goals, so backing under 2.5 at 1.73 looks a strong bet given that five of Nantes’ six home matches this season have also seen below three strikes.
West Ham v Southampton
Both of these sides are fighting against the looming threat of relegation. Southampton currently sit bottom but the tightly congested table means they are just two points from safety. They could leapfrog West Ham with a win on Sunday. It promises to be a tantalising affair with the stakes so high.
West Ham are unbeaten at home in all competitions this year. They have won three of their five matches at the London Stadium in 2023 and earned draws against Chelsea and Aston Villa. Over the course of those five matches they are conceding just 0.4 goals per game. The Hammers will view this as the perfect opportunity to climb out of the bottom three. The pressure on David Moyes could reach new heights if his side are unable to secure all three points here. The experienced manager knows his successful second spell at West Ham depends on this result.
Southampton have lost nine of their 14 league matches on the road this season. Not only that, but they have also lost four of their last five visits to this ground. The Hammers have scored three goals in all four of those wins. The Saints have failed to score in three of those visits, making this encounter at the London Stadium even more daunting with relegation looking even more certain as the weeks progress.
Monza v Lazio
There is the potential for this to be a fun game to watch given both sides have got goals in them. Monza, despite a dip in form recently, are a very confident-seeming side who will approach this game thinking that they can beat Lazio.
It is that confidence and the fact that they will be at home in an almost full stadium that suggests Raffaele Palladino’s side could grab a goal at some point against a Lazio side that is prone to lapses in concentration and unusual results just as they are building up a head of steam.
Lazio actually come into this game as the team second in Serie A so if there was any time for them to build up a run of form and really secure their place in the top four, it would be now. Generally speaking, that is not their style but Maurizio Sarri does seem to be changing some of the cliches about Lazio.
Ciro Immobile is expected to be back in the starting lineup for the Biancocelesti and when you factor in the form of Felipe Anderson and Mattia Zaccagni, Lazio should be at least scoring and ought to be getting all three points.
As said though, don’t bet against Lazio losing focus at some stage and Monza grabbing a goal for themselves.
Ostersund v GAIS
For much of last season, it seemed as though it was just a formality for Ostersund to suffer back-to-back relegations. They ended up surviving thanks to an impressive run of form before the end of the season and then a victory in the Superettan relegation playoffs over Falkenberg, winning 3-1 on aggregate. GAIS were automatically promoted to Sweden’s second-tier after winning the 2022 Ettan Sodra.
Financial mismanagement has blighted Ostersund’s last half a decade or so since they managed to win the Svenska Cupen in the 2016/17 campaign, under the management of Graham Potter.
Their desperate 2021 relegation from the Allsvenskan was followed up by a generally dire campaign last season before a dramatic late spurt towards the end of the season. In fact, they lost just four of their last 17 matches in the Superettan. That was after losing nine of their opening 13 games.
Under the management of Fredrik Holmberg, GAIS won the Ettan Sodra by six points last season, finishing six clear of Falkenberg in second place. They suffered just two defeats throughout their 30-game campaign.
Between 1998 and 2002, GAIS rose from the third-tier to the top tier and fell all the way back down again. The four-time Allsvenskan champions will be heading into the 2023 Superettan season in buoyant mood with the hope they can replicate that 1998-2000 period.
Magnus Powell led an impressive run with Ostersunds and remains in charge for 2023 with the club adding four free transfers, four players for undisclosed fees and two loan signings to boost their squad. They have lost Ludvig Fritzson to Brommapojkarna, who were champions of the second-tier last season.
GAIS finished six points above the aforementioned Falkenberg, who were defeated by Ostersunds in the playoffs last season. They will be hopeful of survival but are expecting a battle against the drop and it appears a tough opening day test away at a team that finished the 2022 campaign so well.
Brøndby v Viborg
While Brøndby still have plenty of chaos off the pitch due to the ultras protesting the club’s new owners, things are looking better and better on the pitch. Sunday, they take on Viborg in a pivotal battle for European football.
The home side still have to do without organized support from their most dedicated fans, as they are refusing to attend games due to the new American owners. However, this doesn’t seem to affect the players who have played good football recently. Brøndby lost to league leaders, FC Nordsjælland, away last week, but managed to enter the top six nevertheless. Star players Daniel Wass, Nicolai Vallys and Ohi Omoijuanfo are in great shape, and the team are creating more chances than in the autumn. Defensively, Brøndby are looking stronger as well, and new coach Jesper Sørensen is truly starting to leave his mark.
Viborg are still in the championship fight, although only the most loyal supporters believe they have a horse in that race. In reality, Viborg will be more than happy just to win medals and qualify for Europe. They have the smallest budget in the top six, and are in for ten difficult matches to finish the season. Unfortunately for Viborg, their form isn’t the best. They have won just one of their last six games, and are thus entering the championship round with a negative form.
We are being a bit cautious here due to the recent national team break, and recommend Brøndby to win draw no bet at odds 1.36 at Betfair Sportsbook. National team break often negates the momentum, which is why we are selecting the DNB model here.
Chaves v Braga
Sunday’s action gets underway with a double-header as Boavista travel to Marítimo, whilst Chaves will host Braga. Artur Jorge’s side had their fair share of struggles in February including a 7-2 aggregate defeat to Fiorentina in the Europa Conference League, a 5-0 loss to Sporting, and a 2-1 loss to Vitória, but they began March with a 2-0 win over Rio Ave and a 4-0 win against Vizela before drawing 0-0 to Porto. Braga sit third in the table, six points above Sporting who have a game in hand and two behind Porto as well as 12 behind Benfica, and they will be looking to kick off April with an impressive result against a Chaves side that sits 11th after picking up back-to-back 2-0 wins against Portimonense and Estoril.
Despite the sale of Vitinha to Marseille in January, Braga boast a wealth of options in the final third from attacking midfielder Iuri Medeiros, captain and all-time leading goal scorer for Braga Ricardo Horta, center forwards Simon Banza and Abel Ruiz as well as nifty, quick wingers like Bruma and Alvaro Djalo. Apart from the draw to Porto, they have found the back of the net in eight of their last nine matches, and they possess more than enough firepower to exploit a Chaves defense that conceded three goals in both of their league meetings with Porto as well as five goals against Benfica and three against Sporting. Vitor Campelos’ side should not be underestimated, however; they have impressed in their first top-flight season in four years and pulled off a 2-0 win at Sporting and a 1-0 win at Braga, the latter seeing Hector Hernandez open the scoring within two minutes.
Braga should be able to dominate the possession with Al Musrati and Andre Horta – whether they can cut out the defensive mistakes and not get picked apart on the counter is another question, but the signs are promising. The Arsenalistas have picked up four clean sheets in their last five league matches and will be looking to increase that tally before hosting Estoril and Gil Vicente, traveling to Casa Pia before taking on second-tier Nacional in the first leg of the Taça de Portugal semifinals. They are chasing a top-three finish and qualification to the Champions League for the first time in 11 years, and they will be looking to make a big step towards achieving that goal as they take on Chaves. Braga have already won at Santa Clara, Paços de Ferreira, Marítimo and Vizela this year, and I’m expecting them to continue their impressive away form at the Estádio Municipal Eng. Manuel Branco Teixeira.
Luzern v Sion
Luzern’s improved form in recent months has propelled them up the table and right into contention for a European spot of some description as a reward at the end of the season. They currently occupy fifth in the table, just one point behind the final spot that St. Gallen holds and three behind Servette in the final Champions League space. A disappointing spell in September and the beginning of October aside, FCL have been pretty consistent all season and have a real opportunity at bringing European football back to the swissporarena. While they lost their final game before the break away to Zurich, they posted victories at Servette and at home to Grasshoppers. Luzern know that if they wish to be taken as serious contenders then they must pick up another three points against bottom-of-the-table Sion.
It is hard to see where Sion picks themselves up and begins to save their season. Tenth place isn’t automatic relegation this time around, they would have a relegation play-off as a last resort, but more was expected of a side that made plenty of headlines in the summer with the introduction of Mario Balotelli to the Swiss game. The international break did bring some respite at least as the Valais club entered into it having not picked up a victory in fourteen matches. Since October they have also scored only eleven and conceded a whopping twenty-nine goals, seven of which were dropped in the same match against St. Gallen as they lost 7-2.
I think Luzern can add to Sion’s misery and grab the three points. FCL’s away form is actually better than at home but they shouldn’t have much problem against a Sion side that is so bereft of confidence. Luzern have also won the last two in a row against Sion at the swissporarena without conceding and the creative play and goals from former German international Max Meyer should get them over the line here.
Fortuna Sittard v FC Groningen
Which Groningen will show up this time? One that will provide us with a damp squib of a performance, or one that is desperate to stay in the Eredivisie?
Lately, we’ve seen Groningen thrash Excelsior 3-0 and battle both AZ and Feyenoord to fall to narrow defeats. This was followed by a tense game with rivals Heerenveen, in which they lost 0-2. The players definitely care; Jetro Willems was in the stands talking with angry supporters. Expect a passionate performance this Sunday.
Fortuna have also been a little inconsistent. They have won a couple of games rather impressively recently, but they fell to two defeats in their last two.
Groningen’s quality is still lacking in attack, but they have certainly been improving on the whole since the turn of the year, when they did look like relegation fodder. They will go for a defensive approach here with the intention of keeping a clean sheet. Back a handicap as they aim to get some points in their fight for survival.
SK Sturm Graz v SK Rapid Vienna
Sturm face Rapid on Sunday in what many people believe could be a forerunner to this season’s Austrian Cup final. Sturm have done brilliantly to just about hang on to Salzburg’s tails at the top of the table, and although they’re still the underdogs, they are in a real title fight. The Grazers are unbeaten in eight games against old rivals Rapid (won 5, drawn 3) having already edged past them 1-0 earlier in 2023, and as well as possessing arguably Austria’s most exciting young midfield talent in assist-provider Alexander Prass, they now finally have an in-form forward in Emanuel Emegha, a player with great movement and vision, who no longer lacks the finishing touch to go with it. Albian Ajeti and Otar Kiteishvili could return from injury too, to strengthen Sturm’s attacking options.
A flat performance in their last game has left Rapid in need of a response, but although they are two places behind Sturm in the table, their overall chance creation this season has been very high. Denso Kasius and Jonas Auer are both capable of delivering dangerous crosses from either flank, and do so at any opportunity, and whilst Guido Burgstaller tends to take a few chances to find the net, he’s still the league’s second-top scorer with 13 goals. With younger forwards adding a useful goal contribution, and the return of the pass-master Thorsten Schick, Rapid still have a lot of weaponry, and having already run Sturm close at this ground in February, they’ll have a better idea of what to do this time. Sturm certainly retain the upper-hand in this fixture, but we think both teams will be on the scoreboard by the end.
Panathinaikos v NFC Volos
Panathinaikos may have not kicked off the playoffs with a win, but a 0-0 draw away at AEK Athens helped them remain top of the table. They are currently two points ahead of second-placed AEK and three points above third-placed Olympiacos, with the home game against Volos being theoretically the easiest fixture they will have until the end of the season.
Panathinaikos have won all their last four games against Volos and this is exactly what they are expected to do again on Sunday. Only AEK (11) have managed more home wins than Panathinaikos (10) this season, but Matias Almeyda’s side went on a 15-game winning streak on home soil across all competitions after inaugurating their new ground. Meanwhile, no team have conceded fewer goals (6) and only AEK have dropped fewer points than Panathinaikos (7) at home thus far.
Panathinaikos have been hailed for being solid at the back this season, but they don’t impress in the final third. In fact, they have scored more than two goals in just one of their last 12 games and all their home games this season have ended with under 3.5 goals scored.
As for Volos, they may have conceded more home goals (25) than any other team in the league thus far, but they have the fifth-best defence with just 13 goals conceded in 13 games when it comes to games played away from home.
The last duel between the two sides ended in a 2-0 victory for Panathinaikos, who only managed to break the deadlock just before the hour mark and after Volos went down to 10 players. Despite having the numerical advantage for more than 40 minutes, PAOK struggled to break down Volos and netted the second from the penalty spot. Panathinaikos should not struggle to beat Volos, but they are not expected to thrash their upcoming rivals.
Monaco v Strasbourg
Monaco’s 2-1 win against Strasbourg on the opening day of the season broke a run of three matches between the clubs in which there had been under three goals, yet that is out of character from this fixture and a continuation of the attractive matches between these sides that was previously commonplace should continue.
Monaco were one of the sides that the international break should have done some good to. They were toiling to find their best form prior to the pause, and even if they beat Auxerre before the recess it was done in an unconvincing manner. Striker Breel Embolo did get injured on international duty, but they still have ample firepower, most notably via Wissam Ben Yedder.
Indeed, the home side’s matches at Stade Louis II this season have brought 52 goals at a rate of above 3.5 per game on average.
Strasbourg, meanwhile, are a side better going forward than defending, although they have tightened up at the back a little in recent weeks. This is unlikely to be sufficient to stop a Monaco team that has scored more Ligue 1 goals than any other club with the exception of PSG this season.
Racing, do though, have the second best offensive record of any team below 12th in the standings. This is largely thanks to the good form of Habib Diallo, who will be their dangerman once more in this match. With Monaco having failed to keep a cleansheet in five at home, Frederic Antonetti’s side may well get on the scoresheet.
Backing over 2.5 goals at 1.73 is a straightforward bet here, but for better value, look to Monaco to win and over 2.5 goals at 2.25 or even Monaco to win and both teams to score at 3.1.
Werder Bremen v Hoffenheim
Werder Bremen host Hoffenheim on Sunday afternoon with just 1 win in their last 6 Bundesliga games. With 9 games remaining, Bremen could find themselves roped into a needless relegation battle and they face a Hoffenheim side that beat relegation rivals Hertha Berlin last weekend, their first win after eight successive defeats.
When Bremen are involved, typically so are goals. Their last 4 Bundesliga games have resulted in Over 2.5 Goals whilst they’ve only kept 2 clean sheets in their 10 league games in 2023. Whilst it’s a similar story for Hoffenheim, they have a stronger defence that narrowly lost 1-0 against Augsburg, Borussia Dortmund and Mainz. It’s in attack where Hoffenheim’s problems lay but against a Bremen defence that is seemingly happy to concede, I would expect to see TSG find the net.
It’s not like Hoffenheim aren’t creating chances, they’re just struggling to convert them. An xG of 2.6 vs Hertha Berlin, 1.7 vs Freiburg and 1.35 vs Borussia Dortmund showcases that they are getting into the right positions and against a Bremen side that has just 2 clean sheets in 2023, Hoffenheim should at least trouble Jiri Pavlenka and the Bremen defence – it’s also worth noting that only Bochum (56) have conceded more than Bremen (48) in the Bundesliga this season.
Bremen’s philosophy at this stage of the season certainly appears to be a ‘score more than you’ approach. With Niclas Fullkrug and Marvin Ducksch, they have a strike partnership that Bundesliga teams chasing European football can be envious of. Between Fullkrug and Ducksch, Bremen have scored 23 and assisted 10. I would certainly fancy one of them to score against Hoffenheim, with the visitors on Saturday also finding the net with a return to winning ways.
IFK Göteborg v IFK Värnamo
The classic club from Gothenburg have struggled mightily in the last few years, far removed from the top of the league, with glory days in European competitions a distant memory. Sacking the manager after a disastrous cup run says everything about how badly the club is run currently, without a replacement installed by the start of the league season.
A home opener at Ullevi should be a celebration, however, the grey clouds around the organisation suggest otherwise. There is fan unrest regarding the lack of direction and an imbalanced squad, not properly addressed in the transfer window. There is a mix of old veterans who have returned from foreign adventures and young academy prospects, inexperienced and not fully developed, with few players in their peak years. Carneil and Bångsbo are certainly prospects and will be starters, but inconsistency in their game shines through too often. Hopefully for IFK, the likes of Marcus Berg, Gustav Svensson and Oscar Wendt can maintain their performance levels and pull the team forward to a top-half finish.
The away side enjoyed a successful season in 2022, finishing in 10th place, but conceded too many goals and were reliant on the lethal Marcus Antonsson in attack. He has cashed in with a move to Saudi Arabia, and instead Värnamo will be looking to spread the goals around the squad. Bringing in Gustav Engvall from the Belgian top divison is a shrewd move and he should prove capable of filing Antonsson’s boots.
Värnamo didn’t qualify for the Swedish Cup meaning this is their competitive debut this season but have looked solid and settled in their friendlies. Defensively more solid with a real threat going forward, they should prove more difficult to beat this year. As such, we can expect IFK Göteborg to struggle to overcome their opponents here.
Halmstad v AIK
Halmstad are back where they belong after finishing second behind Brommapojkarna in Superettan last season. A nice mix of experience and youthful exuberance runs through this squad, with old foxes Andreas Johansson and Marcus Olsson complemented by talents such as Kazper Karlsson.
Pre-season and the Swedish Cup group stage were productive except for a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Elfsborg in a friendly. Halmstad look solid and ready for another relegation battle, with hopes of faring better this time around. They should prove hard to beat, but there are doubts about the firepower at the other end – Alexander Johansson and Viktor Granath have both done it in the second tier, but are they good enough to deliver at a higher level?
AIK had an unspectacular 2022 despite a strong squad, partly due to a failed European campaign which distracted them from delivering domestically. Even then, they were often too cautious and didn’t control matches as they should. With new manager Andreas Brännström at the helm, however, things are looking brighter. His 3-5-2 system is promising and suits the strengths of the squad, with the wing-backs given license to provide a real attacking threat. The duo up front of John Guidetti and Viktor Fischer is of a very high calibre – arguably the two best attackers in the divison. If the Stockholm giants can get everything to click this year they should be able to mount a title challenge, with a balanced and exciting squad and a competent manager.
AIK should have too much for newcomers Halmstad in the first round, the odds of over evens for the visitors are simply too good to refuse.
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Sign up to Betfair and get £30 in free football bet builders when you place a £10 football bet on the Betfair Sportsbook. Here are the two possible outcomes: