Stade Laussane-Ouchy v Vaduz
Two wins in a row for Stade Lausanne-Ouchy means that they are in a good place ahead of the visit of principality club Vaduz to the Pontaise on Saturday. However, they’d be forgiven for having flashbacks to the last time the Liechtensteiners visited back in October and came away with a 5-1 victory. That, coupled with the fact that they’ve let in four goals in each of their last three home matches, will make what would normally be viewed as a very winnable contest against relegation-threatened Vaduz a little more fraught. After six winless games, the two victories over Bellinzona and away at Aarau were much welcome, even if they were by the skin of their teeth. The win against the Ticino club came via a single goal scored from the spot while they needed two stoppage time goals to run out 3-2 victors at Brugglifeld against Aarau.
It is hard to categorise the season that Vaduz are having in 22/23. They are a team that enjoyed qualifying for and playing in the UEFA Europa Conference League all before they finally won their first game of the season in October. They had also won just one game in twelve prior to a crucial victory last weekend against Bellinzona, even if that win prior had come against promotion-chasing Lausanne. Despite being winless in seven before hosting their relegation rivals last weekend, FCV had earned creditable draws away to Lausanne and second-placed Yverdon-Sport. Still, they are in danger when it comes to the relegation picture. That win over Bellinzona has brought some breathing space as they moved six points clear of Xamax but they will constantly be looking over their shoulder if they are to endure further winless runs similar to what they have experienced in the last couple of months.
My pick is for Both Teams to Score here. SLO have certainly regressed at home since that 5-1 meeting with Vaduz in 2022 and their previously strong defence has been looking paper-thin lately. Vaduz have kept only one away clean sheet all season but they have shown they can grind out results. They have only kept two clean sheets though so I would expect both teams to find the net.
Borussia Dortmund v FC Koln
Borussia Dortmund host Cologne in the Bundesliga Topspiel on Saturday evening as they aim to climb above leaders Bayern Munich, who play Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday. Edin Terzic will expect a response from his players after they were held to a 2-2 draw against relegation candidates Schalke in the Revierderby last weekend following their elimination from the Champions League.
Terzic has several options to keep things interesting against Cologne. Marco Reus could make a return, Julian Brandt is working his way back and will face a late fitness test but whilst Terzic did keep his cards close to his chest regarding midfield options, he hinted that Raphael Guerreiro could again start in midfield, as he did against Schalke given his attacking qualities, which would mean Julian Ryerson would line-up at left-back. Salih Ozcan and Mahmoud Dahoud are also possibilities.
Gregor Kobel is likely to return in goal after missing Borussia Dortmund’s last three games, but Saturday’s game is likely to come too soon for Karim Adeyemi, whilst Youssoufa Moukoko remains sidelined. Kicker suggests that both Donyell Malen and Sebastien Haller will start in attack.
As for Cologne, they have failed to score in their last four Bundesliga games. They sold last season’s top scorer Anthony Modeste to Borussia Dortmund – Steffen Tigges has scored just 5 goals in 21 games, Davie Selke is yet to score following his January move and Mark Uth has played just 45 minutes and is out for the remainder of the season. Cologne are underperforming in their xG (36) by 4 goals, and only four teams have a poorer chance conversion rate.
Meanwhile under Terzic, Borussia Dortmund’s attack is only bettered by Bayern Munich. They’re outperforming their xG of 44 by 5 goals, average 6 shots on target per 90, in-comparison to Bayern Munich’s 8, whilst averaging 8 chances per 90. It’s fair to say that BVB have faltered of late, noticeably at Stamford Bridge, whilst their 2-2 draw in Gelsenkirchen will be looked back upon should they miss out on the Bundesliga title, but their game against Cologne represents an excellent opportunity for Die Schwarzgelben to keep the pressure on leaders Bayern Munich.
Espanyol v Celta Vigo
This is the third meeting between Espanyol and Celta Vigo this season, as they also faced off in the Copa del Rey, and both previous matches produced plenty of goals. In Vigo in the opening round of the league season, these sides played out a thrilling 2-2 draw, with Espanyol’s Joselu firing in a 98th minute equaliser from the spot. Then, in the cup, it finished 1-1 at the RCDE Stadium before Espanyol went on to score two more in extra time and win 3-1.
This weekend, there’s a good chance that we’ll see both teams scoring again. Espanyol are joint-top of the LaLiga rankings for matches in which both teams scored, as this has happened in 72% of their games this season, in 18 of 25 rounds.
Celta Vigo are lower in this ranking, as both teams have scored in just 48% of their games, but it’s important to keep in mind that a couple of things have changed in both penalty areas in recent weeks. One is that they’re now without the injured starting goalkeeper Agustín Marchesín and, though his replacement Iván Villar has done well, he has still conceded five goals in six games. Then, at the other end, the young Gabri Veiga has come into his own, with four goals across his last six games, making Celta a more dangerous attacking force.
When you also consider that these two teams have one lethal striker each, in Joselu (joint-second-top LaLiga scorer this season with 12 goals) and Iago Aspas (joint-fourth-top LaLiga scorer this season with 11 goals), this Saturday’s match is absolutely one that should produce goals.
Longford Town v Finn Harps
Two sides going through rebuilds this season with plenty of young and inexperienced players in both squads. Longford have recovered well from a humiliating defeat to local rivals Athlone on the opening day with Stephen Henderson’s men recording three consecutive draws since.
Henderson has very much gone back to basics and made his team hard to beat but they’ve only scored two goals all season which is a concern. Just like Longford, Finn Harps drew 0-0 at the weekend and are still searching for that elusive first three points under new manager Dave Rogers.
Longford’s last two games have ended 0-0 and even though they’ll be at home in this one, it seems Henderson may be slightly afraid to ask his team to open up and fully go on the front foot given what happened against Athlone. Harps would probably be happy to come down the road and go home with a point so this isn’t likely to be a classic.
Atletico Madrid v Valencia
This Saturday night game pits the second-best LaLiga team since the World Cup against the worst LaLiga team since the World Cup, with Atlético Madrid having taken 24 points from the 11 games since then, while Valencia have just seven points in that time.
While it’s true that Valencia have improved a little since Rubén Baraja took over as coach four games ago, that improvement has come at home. They’ve so far won 1-0 twice at Mestalla and lost 1-0 in both his away games, while even one of the home victories was courtesy of an own goal.
With some important Valencia players still missing through injury, that minor improvement isn’t likely to be enough for Los Che to make a dent in Atleti’s impressive form. Diego Simeone’s side are thriving now that they don’t have midweek European football to worry about and they thrashed Sevilla 6-1 in their last home game, with Antoine Griezmann and Memphis Depay particularly impressive. They’ll be looking to put on another show this Saturday night and are more than capable of beating this improving-but-still-flawed Valencia unit.
Equidad v Union Magdalena
The odds are stacked heavily in favour of joint bottom club Equidad who are at home for this game. On one hand, based on simple geography, it makes sense. Union are from sea level and are used to playing in the sweaty Caribbean heat of hometown Santa Marta. Equidad, on the other hand, are from the relative cool of the Andean mountaintops where the altitude pinches at the lungs. Colombia’s dramatic topography plays an important role in determining an exaggerated home advantage compared to most other countries and today’s game is a perfect example.
Union will come and sit deep, conserve their energy and hope to snatch something on the counter. It’s a pretty basic strategy, but one that is played out time and time again in a league not renowned for its tactical innovations. However, there’s always a deeper context to explore, one that contradicts this guiding principle.
Equidad are the slightly better team. But they also tend to struggle against teams where they are required to take charge. Their lack of a goalscorer, a replacement for last season’s departed number nine Pablo Sabbag, is also hurting them badly. Manager Alexis Garcia is a highly effective reactive coach. But in matches like this, his teams often come unstuck. With Equidad struggling to find their groove this term and Garcia still searching for his best team, a stab at the ridiculous odds of 4/1 on Union is worth an outside punt. But leverage those odds to maximum benefit with a handicap bet.
Manager Garcia is famed for his tight game management; there is rarely more than a one-goal difference in Equidad results for either side. Thus, Union +1 at evens is a good shout. But for this week’s banker stretch that to +2 at 1.29.
Nacional v Sportivo Luqueno
Nacional scraped past Resistencia in a lifeless Sunday evening game while Luqueño were involved in the most thrilling match of the season so far, throwing away a two-goal lead only to rescue a point with a 100th minute equalizer from veteran Pablo Aguilar.
The Tricolor worked hard for their win against lowly Resistencia but it was important to pick up three points again after a four game winless streak in all competitions. Mathías Martínez sparked the dull game into life with a fantastic run to set up Gustavo Caballero for the winner, both players have earned their places in the starting XI over the course of the season. Goalkeeper Héctor Espínola put in another strong performance, he might be in line for a national team call up.
Luqueño performed well for 80 minutes against a heavily changed Cerro Porteño side but fell apart late on conceding three goals as their leaky defence remains unable to plug the gaps. Gustavo Florentín will have been pleased with the Charpentier-Pérez partnership as the Argentinian scored for his second game running while the young Paraguayan added another to his tally. Sebastián Maldonado is back from suspension but the experienced Jorge Mendoza could keep his place in midfield, he paired well with Rodrigo Rojas in the last two matches.
Nacional are favourites but it is worth pointing out that they are not at home, the game is being played in the national stadium the Defensores del Chaco where they have conceded five goals in their three league matches there in 2023. Luqueño have seen BTTS land in five of their last six matches, only keeping out Resistencia (the same side that failed to score against Nacional). We should see action at both ends again in this one.
Atlanta United v Portland Timbers
We are into matchday four in the MLS season and the second match to kick off this weekend does so from Mercedes-Benz Stadium where Atlanta United take on the Portland Timbers in a clash between two sides who will expect to be postseason challengers at the end of the year.
If that is going to happen the Portland Timbers need to sort out some early issues. The first big problem they have got is an extensive injury list which only looks to be getting longer rather than easing at all. The other problems the Timbers have is their new DP signing Evander has already been benched and their defending of set-pieces is so bad it has to be seen to be believed.
The latter is very much a problem when you consider that Atlanta have arguably the best dead ball exponent in the league in Thiago Almada in their ranks. He isn’t just the best dead ball specialist but right now he is probably leading the MVP race after a start to the season which has been full of goals and assists. Atlanta come into this match off the back of a fine 3-0 win in Charlotte last week, a game where the highly thought of Caleb Wiley showcased his talents with a brace of strikes. Later that night Portland were losing at home to the new boys St Louis City which certainly isn’t the result they would have been looking for.
Portland are without Evander, Cristhian Paredes, Yimmi Chara, Dairon Asprilla, Sebastian Blanco and Felipe Mora for this match so their attacking unit is decimated by injuries. Atlanta, who have opened up with a pair of wins and a draw this term, can take advantage and find another win.
New York City FC v DC United
Two sides in the Eastern Conference meet at Yankee Stadium on Saturday evening when New York City FC play host to DC United with both teams sitting on four points from their opening three matches and wanting three more here.
New York City came stumbling out of the traps this term. They looked very ordinary when losing to Nashville SC in the opening round of the season before almost stealing a point in Chicago to get up and running for the season. They had a good win over Inter Miami last week though where there were real signs of improvement for the 2021 champions.
DC United started the campaign with a miraculous win over Toronto FC in a game they trailed heading into injury time but came out with the win. Since then they have been to Columbus and lost and somehow failed to beat a much changed Orlando City side last week.
Wayne Rooney is very much a coach who wants his team to play out from the back, but I’m not convinced DC really have the personnel to do it. We have seen it get them into trouble on a number of occasions so far this term and they could be very vulnerable because of it here.
New York City FC are still trying to find the answer in the number nine position since Heber left at the end of last season. They have tried Talles Magno in a false nine which hasn’t worked at all but the addition of James Sands from Rangers earlier in the month which subsequently pushes Keaton Parks further forward allows the NYCFC front three to interchange and I think that is a much more successful formula for Nick Cushing.
A high energy New York team which can press very high is a bad matchup for a DC United and you just sense that the home side will turn the ball over in the right areas enough to get the goals they need to come out on top here.
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