Aarau v Stade Laussane-Ouchy
Promotion from the Challenge League this season seems to be looking more unlikely with each game for Aarau and Stade Lausanne-Ouchy ahead of their Saturday afternoon clash at Brugglifeld this weekend. Aarau have been in decent but unspectacular form since November but remain nine points behind the play-off spot while Stade Lausanne-Ouchy were able to bounce back from a period of disappointing results to post their first win since November 19th.
The reason that Aarau find themselves in mid-table obscurity at this stage and not in the promotion race as hoped can be traced to two specific points of the season. Five winless games in October left them chasing the pack and that was only compounded by three defeats to the three sides occupying the promotion spots in Wil, Yverdon-Sport and Lausanne before and after the winter break. Otherwise, they have been steadily picking up points and are undefeated in their last three with a 2-0 home win over Bellinzona sandwiched between draws at Schaffhausen and Neuchatel Xamax. There is the feeling around Brugglifeld that Aarau must start winning more consistently if they are to make a late dash for the playoffs.
Stade Lausanne-Ouchy had a terrific first half of the season but their promotion credentials were heavily questioned after the winter break with three games against that top three. SLO lost all three before a draw at Thun was followed up with a surprising 4-0 home loss to Schaffhausen. A win over Bellinzona last time finally put a stop to that run and with only four points between them and the play-off spot, SLO still have much to play for. A visit to play an Aarau side that they beat at the Pontaise in October will provide an opportunity to put their season back on track.
These are two teams who have been pretty inconsistent over the last few weeks. Aarau have been fairly strong other than their matches against the top three but this will be a tough assignment against a team that held them to a 3-3 draw at this venue and won that aforementioned match at the Pontaise. SLO had a strong away record before the return from the break but are looking much more vulnerable overall. The two continue to score plenty of goals, Aarau have scored in all but one of their home matches while SLO have only failed to score against Wil, LS and Yverdon. I’d go for Both Teams to Score here to mirror the previous two entertaining meetings this season.
Young Boys v Sion
Five rounds ago, Young Boys were eleven points clear of second-placed Servette in the Super League and despite drawing three of their last five games, the points gap remains the same. Remarkably, Servette also drew on the three occasions that YB dropped points and also lost a game in that run. You could say it has been a let-off for YB but their lack of consistency when it comes to wins hasn’t really been an issue this season given that everyone else in the league has also struggled to put together a strong run of winning form and for a much longer period than YB too. Some would call it complacency, but YB have faced difficult away trips to Zurich and Luzern in that time and the latest draw away at Winterthur came after a midweek cup win against Thun.
There has finally been some clarity on the managerial situation at Sion over the past week. The mini-spell of president-turned-manager Christian Constantin, which brought a cup loss and a draw in two matches with Lugano while now ex-manager Fabio Celestini was placed on leave, came to an end with the appointment of Zinedine Zidane’s assistant at Real Madrid, David Bettoni. The problems in the Valais are still very apparent though, with the club winless in twelve games in the Super League. Bettoni’s first-ever managerial job is likely to be one of the hardest he will face in the entirety of his career. Sion are still above the water in terms of the relegation play-off on goal difference but they need to start winning with the recent improvement of Winterthur heaping the pressure on at the bottom.
YB haven’t been at their best lately, but they are very strong at home and had posted four straight wins in Bern before Lugano’s draw in the middle of February. Sion did take a draw here in October but their form has nosedived since and they had lost their previous fourteen trips to the capital. YB average over two goals per game and against the leakiest defence in the league they can return to winning ways.
Schalke v Dortmund
Schalke host Borussia Dortmund in the 100th Revierderby in the Bundesliga Topspiel on Saturday evening. Form goes out of the window when these two teams meet and both have a point to prove. Borussia Dortmund are level on points with leaders Bayern Munich but must find their response after Champions League elimination against Chelsea in midweek. Schalke meanwhile are unbeaten in their last six Bundesliga teams and have moved off the bottom of the Bundesliga.
Thomas Reis suffered a difficult start to his tenure with eight successive defeats but 2023 has seen an improvement. The addition of central-defender Christopher Jenz in January has certainly helped with the defensive issues whilst Tom Krauss has been excellent in defensive-midfield. That’s partly the reason why Schalke went four successive games without conceding.
Operating in a 4-2-3-1, they’ve often struggled for goals with Simon Terodde proving he’s not going to score goals at the highest level. Sebastian Polter is also out for the remainder of the season with an ACL injury. However, the return of Rodrigo Zalazar as the No. 10 has helped with their creative output. The Uruguayan has been influential in Schalke’s last two league games, wins against Stuttgart and Bochum. Emre Can will need to be at his best against Zalazar.
As for Borussia Dortmund, they must find their response and show that they’re still capable of challenging Bayern Munich following their European exit. Against Chelsea, they were poor. Sebastien Haller was isolated, Jude Bellingham struggled and BVB’s task was made far more difficult when Julian Brandt was forced off with a muscular problem in the early stages. He will miss this game. Don’t expect to see too much change against Schalke, but Gregor Kobel and Julian Ryerson should make their way back into the squad. One of Gio Reyna or Jamie Bynoe-Gittens will replace Brandt, and both of them have the quality to provide Schalke with several problems.
Borussia Dortmund are still unbeaten in the Bundesliga in 2023 and they have the better team here. But Schalke are also in good form, and won’t give up with a fight in front of a sold out VELTINS Arena. Expect this to be a closer game than expected, but Borussia Dortmund should be winning this one.
Fortuna Sittard v FC Twente
Since Julio Velazquez took charge in the Autumn, Fortuna have certainly become a stronger Eredivisie team. No longer are they worrying about a fight to stay up; instead, they are one of a bunch of hopefuls trying to break into the Europa Conference League play-off places.
I think the home side will create plenty of opportunities against Twente with their ever improving attacking midfielders, who are starting to bring another dimension to the side when Burak Yilmaz is having a quieter game. Burak is still the talismanic figure, scoring five and assisting three in his last nine games.
Twente have not been the same side away from home all season — writing themselves out of the title race completely now due to poor form on the road. Just recently, some frailties have crept in defensively too, which was their strong suit of their campaign so far. Twente’s wobbles have come ever since Ron Jans announced he would be stepping down as manager at the end of the season. The uncertainty it has created has just taken the shine off Twente’s season, and now it’s a battle to keep hold of fifth place.
I’m confident Fortuna could in fact win this game, but a handicap presents a comfortable buffer.
Vitoria SC v Arouca
There’s no other way to put it: Vitória de Guimarães are clicking on all cylinders right now. After closing out January with a 2-1 victory against Chaves, Vitória opened February with 1-0 wins against Estoril and Portimonense before drawing 0-0 to Casa Pia and beating Braga 2-1 in the Dérbi do Minho. They began the month with a trip to relegation battlers Santa Clara, with Alisson Safira opening the scoring within 22 minutes and doubling it within a half-hour and André Silva tripling their lead before the break, with Rildo coming off the bench and scoring a consolation goal to make it four goals for three Brazilians in Ponta Delgada. Having arrived on September 1 from relegated B-SAD for €350,000, Safira would grab his first league goal on January 30, coming off the bench and scoring in the 97th minute, just two minutes after Chaves had equalized, to secure Vitória’s first win since November 13. Four days later, he broke the deadlock within 11 minutes against Estoril, before doubling their lead before the interval in their derby win against Braga and grabbing a brace at the weekend. Vitória sit fifth in the table, occupying the last automatic berth for European football and boasting a five-point advantage over Casa Pia and a six-point advantage over Arouca.
After narrowly avoiding the drop in their return to the top-flight last season, Arouca have enjoyed a stellar campaign under Armando Evangelista and are proving more competitive against Portugal’s top sides, as evidenced by their 1-0 win against Sporting and 2-2 draw to Vitória, but their away form has left plenty to be desired. Apart from a 2-1 win against Santa Clara on August 20 and a 1-0 win against Vizela on November 5, Arouca have failed to win away from home this season, and I don’t expect that to change on Saturday.
They have failed to find the back of the net in two of their last three matches, having drawn 0-0 at Boavista at the weekend. Apart from the win against Vizela, the draw to Boavista and a stalemate against Casa Pia on September 4, Arouca have failed to keep a clean sheet in each of their seven away matches this season, and I expect these defensive frailties to come to the fore against a Vitória side that will be looking to give themselves an extra cushion in the race for European football.
AZ Alkmaar v Groningen
What a thrilling win for AZ at Lazio on Tuesday! Hopefully Pascal Jansen sees the importance and opportunities in the Europa Conference League; it is a European competition that AZ are capable of winning. It was fascinating seeing Jesper Karlsson come alive on the big stage. He seems to only perform when the stakes are high. Perhaps he is chasing a big summer move, knowing big clubs will circle him if he plays well against the top sides.
Despite AZ’s win at Vitesse last weekend, too, I am still unsure about them as a whole for the rest of this season. They are finding it trickier to win the easier games, like this one coming up, in fact.
In Groningen’s last game, they battled Feyenoord, and only lost 1-0 owing to a late goal. Playing with ten men was a poor decision from the referee in my opinion. Isak Maatta got a second yellow for kicking the ball into a player when the ball was still in play. Groningen’s performance in general was ugly and unusual for ‘the pride of the north’, though it may prove effective as they go into the next batch of games. They will be aiming to keep the goals out the whole game.
AZ don’t like teams who sit back and try to pinch a goal, so I think after all of that hard work on Tuesday, AZ could drop points here to lowly Groningen.
Real Santa Cruz v The Strongest
A regular start to the season for Real Santa Cruz with a win, two draws and one defeat, with a goal record of barely 3-3. In The Strongest’s case there is a different story, as they have hit the ground running, with five wins out of five to their name, with a goal record of 13-5. These five wins include games won in Cochabamba and Sucre and a derby win against Bolivar.
The Strongest hold the upper hand in recent confrontations between the two, more strikingly having won the last two encounters in Santa Cruz, both during last year. Despite mayor changes in the summer The Strongest seem to have a fairly settled side with Ursino, Arias, Roca, Castillo, Chura and free-scoring Triverio all making auspicious starts to the season. Real Santa Cruz have resorted to some well-known veterans such as Edemir Rodriguez and Zoch.
Expect a The Strongest win and not many goals.
Brest v PSG
PSG crashed out of the Champions League in midweek in rather embarrassing style and face an awkward trip to Brest in order to get back on track. For Christophe Galtier’s side, if they had to play away from home after going out to Bayern in a surprisingly limp fashion, this is probably the fixture they would pick. After all, they have won their last 12 matches against Brest.
The capital side have shut their Breton rivals out in five of the last six matches they have played, but there is little guarantee of a repeat in this game. After all, Marquinhos is unlikely to play after a midweek injury and Presnel Kimpembe is already out for the rest of the season, so the rearguard is severely depleted and has not been performing to a particularly high standard in any case. Backing PSG to win to nil is, therefore, risky.
On the other hand, PSG will naturally pose a danger going the other way. Kylian Mbappe has scored five times in this fixture since his 2017 move from Monaco, with this match played seven times since then. Brest, meanwhile, might have been shored up defensively under recently appointed head coach Eric Roy but still conceded seven goals in three matches before beating struggling Strasbourg last weekend.
Although there are goals on the cards in this match, it’s hard to see over 2.5 goals scored and PSG not winning, so rather than simply backing overs at 1.57, throw in the PSG win for a little extra value.
Libertad v Guairena
The league leaders are in good form heading into the opening game of the weekend against 10th place Guaireña who are winless in four. The gumarelo trailed for the second time of the season against Sportivo Trinidense but the introduction of Óscar Cardozo handed them their third straight victory with a goal and assist.
Despite sitting top of the table with an unbeaten record, Daniel Garnero will still be wary of this home fixture where they have only managed to score exactly one goal per game in their three outings to date. Alfio Oviedo has been the starter up front but they will be hoping for more support from Lorenzo Melgarejo and Héctor Villalba on the flanks to put games to bed earlier. In the middle Hernesto Caballero has been hit with the mosquito-borne disease Chikungunya which means he will be replaced by Álvaro Campuzano.
Guaireña registered their first clean sheet of the season in the 0-0 draw against General Caballero and have only won once, against bottom club Tacuary, since the start of 2023. Despite the average opening to the season Roberto Torres has remained fairly faithful to his starting XI but the ACL injury suffered by Antonio Marin means he will have to turn to a new face in midfield.
Libertad are rightly favourites to keep up their good run of form with another home win against Guiareña. But with Garnero’s side are much more conservative in attack compared to the 2022 Apertura. They average 1.5 goals scored per game this season while in the first six matches last year they averaged 2.5 per game. Guaireña aren’t finding the net with much regularity either, meaning the value is on a low scoring game rather than the outright market.
Atlético Nacional v Millonarios
It’s the Clásico, arguably the biggest game in Colombia’s football calendar. Regional hostilities between the country’s two biggest cities, Bogotá and Medellín, mix uneasily with the rivalry stirred by this being Colombia’s two most successful clubs coming head to head. There’s usually trouble – Millonarios had to exit Medellín’s stadium in a police tank and then a Millos player had a knife thrown at him while on the pitch in recent years! – and it can get pretty ugly. But for Millonarios this game won’t have quite the shine as it usually offers. Manager Alberto Gamero has sent a fairly inexperienced side to Medellín, with goalkeeper Alvaro Montero the only player included in the squad that also started last Wednesday’s 1-1 home draw against Atlético Mineiro.
And it’s the second leg of that Copa Libertadores tie that explains Gamero’s thinking. Millonarios have won lots of praise for their style of play and long process – for South American standards anyway! – developed with Gamero as chief architect. But the Bogotá side only have one domestic cup title to show for their efforts. That’s why Wednesday’s trip to Brazil is of utmost importance. Millonarios are underdogs in that tie, but landing a scalp like Mineiro matters. Not only would it inject $3m dollars into the club’s coffers, but it also vindicates Gamero’s project. For all the mystique wrapped around a domestic Clásico, unless there’s a Liverpool-style thrashing dished out, it matters little in the long-term picture. That’s where Millonarios’ focus is and that’s why Nacional will probably win this year’s first big showdown between Colombia’s top guns.
*Bet links only appear when accessing from mobile.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
18+ please gamble responsibly.
Haven’t got a Betfair account? You’re in luck…
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: