Manchester United v Everton
A strong fancy of mine comes in the Saturday lunchtime kick off at Old Trafford, where I’m expecting a big home performance. United have been in excellent form throughout the season at home and they picked up another three points on Wednesday.
The Red Devils dominated the majority of the game against Brentford just a few days ago with Marcus Rashford scoring the winning goal in the first half of that one. In opposition are Everton who’ve picked up under Sean Dyche, however, possess a poor away record.
The Toffees battled to a 1-1 draw with Spurs on MNF, thanks to a spectacular long range effort from centre back Michael Keane of all people! Midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure was sent off after an altercation with Harry Kane so will be missing through suspension.
United will be aiming to kick on in their top four pursuit in this favourable fixture and their solid home is a good reason to get this bet onside. They’ve lost on just one occasion in the league all season on home soil and have been victorious in 8 of their previous 10 at the Theatre of Dreams. What’s also quite interesting here is that their opponents remain winless on the road since October, a statistic that bears well in relation to our pick.
I have to again mention the unstoppable Marcus Rashford who is a man tough to stop right now! He’s now up to 15 goals for the campaign and this United side look a different beast when he’s in the eleven. The electric pace, skill and ability to find the back of the net is something they’ve lacked in recent years. Whether Ten Hag employs him out on the wing or as the central striker, he’s bound to cause all sorts of problems to the Everton defence.
Another reason I fancy a home win here is due to the strong defensive record of United. Clean sheets have been achieved in 8 of their last 11 games in the league at home, so, if this can be replicated once more, then we’re giving ourselves a really strong chance of attaining a winning pick! Christian Eriksen is nearing a return after his injury break and could feature, however, Casemiro remains suspended after his recent red card against Southampton.
Everton arrive for one having avoided defeat in their last four games. Nevertheless, it’s their dismal away form that gives me the impression they’ll struggle here. As I touched on earlier, the Toffees haven’t won on the road since October and what’s even worse is the fact they’ve failed to score in 7 of their last 10 games away too!
The lack of goals has clearly contributed to why they yet again have a relegation battle on their hands. Currently their top scorer in the league is Demarai Gray who has 4 goals to his name. I do feel this says a lot, as only 3 players in their entire squad have bagged 2 or more goals in the entirety of the season.
Now facing a side in United who have been so strong defensively, I find it hard to envisage they’ll pose much of a threat in attack. With Dyche set to attempt to frustrate United by making this a dour affair, I simply cannot see them stopping the likes of Rashford, Fernandes and co.
All the stats point to a home victory in this matchup, therefore I’m more than happy to back a United win to get our weekend off to a winning start!
Fiorentina v Spezia
Nobody in Europe is enjoying form like Fiorentina are under Vincenzo Italiano of late, and he’ll want his Viola to continue their impressive run as they welcome his former employers Spezia at the Stadio Artemio Franchi on Saturday afternoon.
Italian press have been pointing out this week that Italiano’s Fiorentina are outperforming even Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City of late, and Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen have also been mentioned in favourable comparison for Italiano. In all competitions, they’ve won nine on the bounce now, have one foot in the Coppa Italia final, and are dreaming of European silverware in the Europa Conference League as well.
Spezia aren’t playing as badly as they had been earlier in the season, and they look as though they might just be fine due to their being three much worse sides than them in Cremonese, Sampdoria and Hellas Verona this season, which might just see Leonardo Semplici’s side ease off a little in the run-in.
Fiorentina, then, should have too much for their visitors and will be expecting their winning run to hit double figures in Tuscany on Saturday. Then, who knows what the limit of their success is this season after a poor first half to the campaign.
Brommapojkarna v Malmo
The newly promoted home team suffered defeat in their first game of the season, deservedly beaten 3-1 by Djurgården. Meanwhile, Malmö only beat a resilient Kalmar FF side by a 1-0 scoreline thanks to a generous penalty, but deserved their victory, having accumulated an xG figure of 2.23 from a total of 21 shots.
BP have an interesting squad and with the best academy in the country, they are always an exciting club to follow. Despite having lost some young starlets ahead of the season, they look settled and have varied threats from different positions.
Oscar Pettersson had a monster season in Superettan last year with 28 goal contributions and looked lively in the opener, while Cosic on the other flank got on the scoresheet and was a real threat too. With the towering Nikola Vasic leading the line in front of them, we can expect to see plenty of goals from the Stockholm side this season.
Based on the opener the issues lie at the other end of the pitch, with individual mistakes shining through as Djurgården piled on the pressure. It is questionable whether a back three of Sögaard, Abrahamsson and Agardius is solid enough to survive a relegation fight, while Oscar Linnér has proven to be shaky at AIK in the past.
Malmö’s new 3-4-3 system, with wingers Nanasi and Ali as offensive full-backs, is certainly innovative and forward-leaning. They created plenty in their first game against Kalmar, and while the automations may take some time, it seems to be working well already.
Vecchia and Christiansen are very suited to playing as free 10s behind lone striker Kiese Thelin, and the midfield base of Hugo Larsson and Sergio Peña has creativity, work rate and defensive discipline. It remains to be seen if manager Henrik Rydström sticks with the formation in the long term, but it would not be a surprise to see it continue and flourish considering his tactical nous.
Malmö should simply have too much quality for BP here, and their attacking firepower means they will be able to put a couple past Linnér.
Bayer Leverkusen v Frankfurt
Bayer Leverkusen host Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday with the possibility of qualifying for European football looking ever more likely. Prior to Xabi Alonso’s arrival, that looked near impossible. Leverkusen are unbeaten in their last eight games across all competitions, winning seven of them, and are in excellent goalscoring form – the last time they failed to score was on February 3.
As for Oliver Glasner’s Eintracht Frankfurt, they’ve struggled of late with just two wins in their last 10 games across all competitions, but do come into this game following an impressive performance against Union Berlin in the DFB Pokal, a win that puts them in the semi-final. In the Bundesliga, Eintracht Frankfurt have scored in five of their last six games.
Because of Eintracht’s German Cup game in midweek, Bayer Leverkusen have had a full week to prepare for this fixture.
Randal Kolo Muani scored a brace in Eintracht’s German Cup win and has three goals in his last two games. The Frenchman is in excellent form this season and it’s clear to see why he’s a €100m price tag.
With 24 goal contributions (12 goals, 12 assists) in 25 Bundesliga games this season, Kolo Muani is certainly a candidate for Player of the Season and has the attributes to cause Leverkusen problems.
After missing much of the season through an ACL injury picked up in March 2022, Florian Wirtz is also back to his best, averaging 0.83 goals and assists per 90 in 2023. He’s key for Alonso and anything that Leverkusen do in the final third is focussed around Wirtz.
Against a Frankfurt side that has kept just two clean sheets in their last 10 Bundesliga games, the combination of Moussa Diaby, Amine Adli and Wirtz will prove troublesome for Eintracht’s back three.
Whenever Bayer Leverkusen are involved, so are goals. Eight of Bayer Leverkusen’s last 11 games across all competitions has finished with Over 2.5 Goals.
With Kolo Muani and Mario Gotze in-form, Eintracht also have an excellent opportunity to get themselves on the scoresheet. At home, Bayer Leverkusen should be favourites, but this fixture will certainly provide goals.
Tottenham Hotspur v Brighton
One of the stand-out games of the weekend takes place at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday afternoon as Spurs host Brighton. This eagerly anticipated clash has all the ingredients to be a cracker with goals set to flow. The home side have been in indifferent form of late but on home soil have an excellent goal scoring record.
They were last seen at Goodison Park during the midweek set of fixtures, attaining just a solitary point. Harry Kane was yet again on the scene, dispatching a second half penalty in a card laden affair. The visitors, Brighton, well they were at it again, running out two-nil winners at the Vitality Stadium courtesy of goals from young starlet Evan Ferguson and Julio Encisco from the bench.
BTTS looks a real solid pick in this one and having crunched the numbers I fancy this one to land. Spurs have been unpredictable in general but something they’ve done regularly throughout the campaign is find the back of the net, especially at home. This has happened in 15 of their previous 17 Premier League home fixtures, equating to a 88% winning strike rate.
With this in mind, I’m keen to advise the BTTS angle here. Having found the onion bag with such regularity over a sustained period of time, this enables us to back this with confidence. The previously mentioned Harry Kane has consistently been the main man in attack. His goals have been of vital importance and there’s every chance he may notch once more. The England International is up to 22 goals for the season, reaching an excellent 0.76 goals per game average.
Another player to note is Heung Min Son, the South Korean hasn’t quite hit the heights of last season but can always pose a threat in the opponent’s box. In fact, he’s managed two goal contributions in his last three games with one goal and one assist.
One of the stories of the season has to be the success of Roberto De Zerbi’s side, Brighton. The Seagulls have hugely impressed and they now occupy sixth position in the table with a serious opportunity of achieving European Football next season. The visitors have been in excellent form and it’s their eye catching away run that’s extremely impressive.
In each of their last 8 games on the road, they’ve hit the back of the net and that particular record is more than enough to suggest they’ll make it 9. On top of this, they’ve only failed to score in an away match on just one occasion all season long, absolutely mind boggling numbers!
The influential pair of Moises Caicedo and Alexis Mac Allister are doubts for this one but reports suggest they’ll be ready come match day. One who is certainly set to go from the off though, is Karou Mitoma. The Japanese star has put in some seriously incredible performances of late and could be the key man in the Brighton ranks. With seven goal contributions in a row, 3 goals and 4 assists, these numbers alone suggest he can be the game changer in attack!
In summary I’m anticipating an entertaining game in the capital and BTTS looks the obvious pick with both sides in such strong goal scoring form!
Aberdeen v Kilmarnock
Outside the two big Glasgow clubs, there is little doubt that the form team in the Scottish Premiership is Aberdeen. At home against a Kilmarnock team that does not travel well, expect the Dons to send Killie on the long bus journey back to Ayrshire without anything to show for their trip.
Barry Robson has instigate a remarkable turnaround in Aberdeen’s fortunes, with the club now producing the type of results that was expected of them at the start of the season as they mount a serious push for third place. They have won five of their last six matches, with the exception in that sequence a defeat away to runaway leaders Celtic.
In the meantime, they have picked up home victories against in-form Motherwell, Livingston and third-placed Hearts. In their last four matches, they have conceded only a single goal.
Kilmarnock, managed by former Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes, are remarkably bad away from home. In 15 road trips in the league this season, they have managed to claim only a couple of points, scoring a meagre six goals in the process.
Killie have lost their last five league away matches, while often they have not even got close to their opponents. In their last seven away losses, they have been beaten by at least two goals.
Aberdeen might have lost the last meeting between these sides 2-1, but that was at Rugby Park. At Pittodrie, Aberdeen should be strongly favoured to get the win, having won the previous four between these clubs prior to that December loss.
Hearts v St. Mirren
Hearts are excellent value to get back to winning ways on Saturday when they play host to St Mirren.
On paper, the Jambos’ form is unimpressive. They have lost each of their last four matches, but this has been a difficult run of fixtures. Hearts have twice played Celtic in this run and also journeyed to in-form Aberdeen and a Kilmarnock side that are far better at home than their league position might suggest.
One concern is a long injury list, particularly in goal, where Hearts will miss their two first-choice keepers in the form of Craig Gordon and Zander Clark. Ross Stewart offers experienced cover but crucially St Mirren are relatively impotent in attack, averaging less than a goal per game when playing on the road this season.
Hearts should be able to mitigate this problem and have the scoring power to worry the Paisley side. Indeed, Robbie Neilson’s side are just one goal away from averaging 2.5 scored at home per game in the Premiership this season.
At Tynecastle, Hearts have won 10 of 14 matches, with their three defeats coming against Rangers (twice) and Celtic.
St Mirren are not a good side on the road. They post just two away wins this season – both of which have come against out-of-sorts opponents. Although they have recorded back-to-back draws on their travels, these have come against Dundee United and St Johnstone, two poor opponents.
Hearts have won the last four between these sides in the capital and the odds on that run continuing are very attractive.
Inverness v Raith
Inverness should be backed to keep their slim hopes of a promotion playoff alive against Raith Rovers at the Caledonian Stadium on Saturday.
ICT approach this match as one of the form teams in the Championship. In their last five matches in all competitions, they have picked up four victories. During this run, they have exclusively played teams above them in the league structure, including a Scottish Cup quarter-final encounter with Premiership Kilmarnock at home, in which they earned a famous 2-1 win.
Caley have built on that success impressively, overcoming both Partick and Morton in the last couple of matches.
Raith, meanwhile, have had a roller coaster of a period. They suffered a defeat in the Challenge Cup final against Hamilton and initially bounced back well with a home win over Queen’s Park. That was followed up by a poor midweek loss against Accies – who were bottom of the table.
Meanwhile, the Kirkcaldy side are not good travellers. They have lost exactly half of their 14 away trips and have won only four times, scoring 11 goals in the process.
Back Inverness on a draw-no-bet basis here. Their home record (W4 D6 L4) isn’t strong enough to support them outright, while five of the last seven between these clubs have ended drawn. Caley, though, have not lost in their last 19 against Raith through 90 minutes. That run is likely to continue but the DNB insurance is advisable especially since the odds remain attractive.
Airdrie v Montrose
Airdrie are outstanding value to continue their excellent run of form and overcome Montrose at home to extend their winning sequence to five matches.
There’s a whole lot to love about Airdrie before this match. Most obvious is their recent form. They have picked up four successive league victories, scoring 19 goals in these games. Although three of these matches came against League One’s bottom three clubs, scoring goals in such volumes deserves a great deal of respect and shows there will be confidence in the squad.
Last weekend, they were not quite so clinical but still created plenty of chances in a far more challenging match away against Alloa that they won 1-0.
Airdrie also fare well in the head-to-head record against Montrose. They have won three of the last four matches between these clubs. Incidentally, these matches have produced an astonishing 26 goals, so there is worth considering over goals in this encounter too.
From the Montrose perspective, there is little to suggest an upset. The Mo have seen their playoff hopes fade decisively in the second half of the season, and though they have lost only one of their last four, their record is skewed by narrow wins over Clyde and Kelty. They are clearly playing to a lesser level than their opponents.
Furthermore, the Mo have not travelled well this season. A total of 15 away games have produced four victories, all of which have come against teams in the bottom three. They did go to Edinburgh last weekend and get a draw, but Airdrie are a much more formidable opponent at present.
Stenhousemuir v Bonnyrigg
There is still something riding on each match in League Two with five weeks of the season and Stenhousemuir’s home match against Bonnyrigg is no exception. The Warriors are chasing a promotion playoff position while their guests are seeking to avoid bottom spot, which would see them plunged into a relegation playoff.
This is likely to be a cagey affair, with Stenhousemuir a far more conservative side since Gary Naysmith took charge. Just one of their last 10 games has seen over 3.5 goals.
Against Bonnyrigg, though, they will face an opponent that is a defensive specialist. Although struggling in the league, they have been solid defensively in recent weeks. All of their last nine matches have produced under 3.5 and the only opponents who have scored more than once against them in this run are league leaders Stirling Albion (who have done it twice).
Rose’s last six away matches have seen three goals only netted once while four of these encounters have finished with one goal or fewer. Impressively, the West Lothian side have won three of their last four away trip 1-0 and will be looking for a similar outcome here.
This pattern falls into the line of the last two matches between these clubs. When they faced off at Ochilview in November, the sides played out a 1-1 draw, while the match in Bonnyrigg around six weeks ago favoured Stenhousemuir by a 1-0 scorelines. This is a difficult game to call but odds of evens on under 2.5 goals are certainly worth taking.
Atalanta v Bologna
A game between two of Serie A’s funny sides sees an impressive Bologna on the road at a bizarre Atalanta on Saturday afternoon, and ex-Atalanta forward Musa Barrow has started to find a bit of form in the final third for Bologna of late, finally showing signs of his past brilliance in Emilia-Romagna.
Things didn’t end on sour terms for Barrow in Bergamo, but he would undeniably love to go back to his former home and score in front of the fans that appreciated him so much as he cut his teeth in Serie A for the first time, and where there is still a lot of affection for him.
Bologna can, with a win, cut the gap between themselves and La Dea to just five points and they are not to be written off in the European battle just yet, and they’ll probably have their fair share of chances. Atalanta tend to give up opportunities and have conceded 32 times in 28 this term, while Bologna themselves have a goal difference of zero with 36 goals for and against in their 28 Serie A outings so far.
With Jeremie Boga and Ademola Lookman scoring last time out, Gian Piero Gasperini will be hoping that his frontmen are rediscovering their touch in front of goal, and Bologna’s backline will have work to do to tame the impressive youngster Rasmus Hojlund, fresh from scoring five times in two games as he played for Denmark for the first time over the recent international break.
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