Real Madrid v Espanyol
Real Madrid vs Espanyol has historically been one of Los Blancos’ favourite fixtures, as Espanyol haven’t won away at the capital city side this century. Real Madrid can make it 10 Bernabéu wins vs RCD Espanyol in a row by taking three points this Saturday, and they’ll aim to put on a show, having scored 24 goals and conceded just one across those previous nine wins.
Karim Benzema is expected to be left out of this one as he has a minor knock and the return leg against Liverpool is coming up, but that should allow Real Madrid to field a more energetic attack with either Rodrygo or the impressive youth teamer Álvaro Rodríguez starting at No.9.
The fans will want goals after a few disappointing performances in a row and Espanyol are the perfect opponent for Real Madrid to have some shooting practice, as they have conceded the fifth-most goals in the division with 36. Given that Espanyol striker Joselu is the second-top goalscorer in LaLiga, with 11 goals, the visitors are certainly capable of scoring one or two of their own as well, so this could be a high-scoring game, probably with most goals falling the home team’s way.
If looking at their stats so far this season, Real Madrid and Espanyol are two of the five clubs to have had over 2.5 goals in more than half of their games, as this has happened in 54% of each of their fixtures. Real Madrid matches this league season are producing 2.71 goals on average, while Espanyol games are producing 2.75 goals on average, so this could be a goal fest to start off Saturday.
Aberystwyth v Haverfordwest
Aberystwyth recorded a resounding 7-1 win over Airbus in their last match but Saturday’s game should prove to be a much sterner test. Anthony William’s men were comprehensive in the way they dispatched of the league’s bottom side but they remain in the bottom two. A win on Saturday would likely see them climb to safety so the players should be up for this one.
The bookmakers are struggling to split these sides but Aberystwyth’s home form has been strong for a side battling relegation. They have won six of their 12 league matches at Park Avenue. They also beat Caernarfon (the leaders of the bottom half of the table after the league split) back in January. They have drawn their only home league game since. A Win for the home side would see them move just one point behind their opponents in a tightly packed bottom half.
We are just three games into the play-off conference (bottom half) phase of the season and Mark Cadwaller has already managed to score four goals for Aberystwyth; two of which came in the win over Airbus.
Haverfordwest have been poor away from home. They have won just two of their 13 matches on the road and are on a run of six straight defeats. They are averaging 0.67 goals and conceding 2.33 goals per game on that run.
This match should be hotly-contested but the price available for the Aberystwyth or draw is appealing given their home form.
Pontypridd v Caernarfon
Caernarfon have been in good form and have picked up seven points from their opening three games since the Welsh Premier League split into a Championship and Play-Off Conference.
Pontypridd are also unbeaten in the Play-Off Conference. They have beaten Haverfordwest and Airbus at home and managed a 3-3 draw when they travelled to Aberystwyth. They fought back from two goals behind to earn the draw.
They have won their last four matches on home turf and a win here would see them make a huge stride away from the drop. In that four home match winning run, Pontypridd are averaging 2.75 goals per game and conceding one. Despite the wins, Airbus were the only team they were able to shut out completely. The rest got on the scoresheet. Over the course of the season, they have won seven of their 14 matches at home. Expect that to improve now they are taking on sides who are at their level within the division. They also possess a significant goal threat. The last five goals scored by Pontypridd have been scored by different players.
Pontypridd beat Caernarfon 3-1 at home earlier in the season. Caernarfon’s away form has been poor throughout the season. They have recorded just three wins in their 12 away matches; two of those wins came against an Airbus side that currently have -65 goal difference. They are conceding an average of two goals per game on the road and scoring 0.67 less goals per game than their opponents.
Edinburgh City v Alloa
Edinburgh and Alloa’s three previous fixtures this season have served up a feast of goals, and expect the same at Meadowbank on Saturday when the teams face off in an important battle for a playoff spot.
The home side are positioned third in the table, well above pre-season expectations and have an excellent record against the part-time teams in the league. Indeed, with the exception of a 2-1 loss to Alloa on January 14, they have only been beaten by full-time outfits Dunfermline, Falkirk and Queen of the South.
Alan Maybury’s side have also been entertaining to watch, with their games providing plenty of goals. Only Airdrie’s games this term have wrought more strikes. Playing Alloa has proven to be a particularly attractive blend, with the three games between the clubs so far this season producing 16 goals. Last time the teams met in the capital, Edinburgh fell 3-0 down by recovered to win 4-3 in a memorable match. While the likelihood is that trend continues, Alloa have been involved in a string of tighter matches, with none of their last four producing more than two goals. In part, this is because Alloa have been wasteful. Chances have been created but not taken. Additionally, they have also faced the three toughest defences in the league during that run, so it would be wrong to read too much into this.
These sides have met five times in the past and on each occasion there have been more than 2.5 goals scored. Look for that run to continue here.
Airdrie v Kelty Hearts
Airdrie’s playoff hopes have surprisingly diminished in recent weeks, with the Diamonds striking a bad run of form. With quarter of a season remaining, though, the situation is amply salvageable – but likely hinges on their ability to beat a Kelty side that can already cruise towards the summer with little to play for.
Airdrie have built their season around being strong at home, yet they have lost three of their last five games at New Broomfield. These defeats, however, have come against the top three teams in the league. Indeed, they have won picked off lesser teams impressively in front of their home supporters, dropping only two points against clubs fourth and below at home this season.
Kelty, meanwhile, are not a team that travels well. They have picked up only three wins away from home this season, suffering seven defeats along the way. Furthermore, the Fife side have won only two of their last 10. Nevertheless, there is no cause for concern. They are 19 points clear of relegation trouble. Some concern should be exercised about backing Airdrie outright here due to their recent wobble. They have gone four without a win but have played strong opponents over that period. They also drew 1-1 with Kelty on January 14.
Nevertheless, their price of 1.4 on the draw-no-bet market is a nice way to boost an accumulator while 1.95 on the nose also represents decent value given the Diamonds’ recent problems have come against clubs far superior to their Saturday opponents.
Dumbarton v Forfar
It’s coming to crunch time in League Two, with Dumbarton and Stirling in a two-way race for the title and, therefore, automatic promotion. The sides were meant to meet on Tuesday but the game was postponed at late notice, so the Sons now face a challenging home match against a Forfar team eager to break into the playoff spots.
The Sons may boast a strong home record this season (W9 D2 L1), but they have wobbled a little in their form of late. Indeed, only three of their eight matches in all competitions in 2023 have ended in victory, while they also suffered a very surprising home defeat against Elgin last time out.
Forfar, meanwhile, have been one of League Two’s form sides in recent weeks. Admittedly, a defeat away to East Fife last weekend was a setback, but the Fifers are strong at home and it was just the Loons’ second loss since November 5. They have also faced a series of trying matches in recent weeks. Since a 2-0 win over Annan on January 7, they have played eight matches, half of which have been against the league’s top four. They have won two of these and drawn the other two.
Interestingly, Forfar also boast a strong record against Dumbarton in a head-to-head respect. They have lost only one of their last six against the Sons, while the teams have played each other three times already this season without the league leaders coming out on top. Back against them reversing that trend at the Rock.
Stirling v Bonnyrigg
Stirling are aiming to keep up the pressure on Dumbarton at the top of League Two with a win over bottom side Bonnyrigg, but Darren Young’s team know that it will be a battle against the team promoted from the Lowland League last season.
The Binos may have scored more goals than any other team in League Two this season – despite playing three games fewer than many of their rivals because of postponements – but goals have been harder to come by lately. Indeed, they have scored only nine in their five matches in 2023 to date.
Last weekend’s win against Albion Rovers was hard fought. Although it finished 3-2, it was a game of relatively few chances and the scoreline suggested it was more exciting than it was. While Young’s men took their chances, Rovers scored twice through Charlie Reilly, a player well above anything Bonnyrigg boast.
The visiting side are more about a grinding style and will look to keep this game as tight as possible. It has caused Stirling problems in the past, and each of the last two fixtures between the clubs has seen a narrow win for the promotion chasers. A similar type of game should ensue here. The quality of Stirling should ensure they take the points but the battling attributes of their guests will mean it is a challenge.
Elche v Real Valladolid
Elche may still be rock bottom of the table with just 12 points from 24 matches, but there is an air of optimism around the club this week. Pablo Machín’s side have improved a lot over recent weeks and their only two wins of the season have come in the past five matches, including last weekend away at Mallorca. Even in their recent losses, they’ve also competed better.
It’s surely far too late for Elche to mount a great escape from the relegation zone, but they could pick up a few more wins between now and the end of the season and they have an excellent opportunity to do so this Saturday when Real Valladolid come to town.
The Pucela have won just one of their past eight away fixtures in LaLiga, scoring just two goals across those eight road games while conceding 15. They were especially terrible in their last away game, a 3-0 hammering on the road at Celta Vigo which could easily have been 5-0 or 6-0.
It doesn’t help Real Valladolid that they have a number of injuries right now, including to starting goalkeeper Jordi Masip. There won’t be many better opportunities than this for Elche to add to their limited points tally.
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