Get your plane tickets as we travel to the Nordics for Saturday’s Best Bets! Inter Turku will host Finnish Veikkausliiga leaders SJK and will demand of themselves at least a point, climbing the ladder into the top five and cementing their position as title challengers before it is too late.
The Swedish Allsvenskan, Swedish Superettan, Finnish Veikkausliiga and Norwegian Eliteserien are all halfway through their respective seasons and the tension is starting to creep up with the weight of each match becoming heavier and heavier as the end game approaches.
As a result, our League Scouts have been working in the diamond mines to find that most precious of jewels, value betting tips for all the Nordic football being played on Saturday. Their research does not stop there however, as they have also picked a selection of Best Bets for the Scottish League Cup and the Paraguayan Primera División.
Saturday’s League Scout Football Best Bets
Tacuary v Guaraní
Tacuary look to continue their unbeaten start to the Clausura season in the Paraguayan Primera Division as they take on a Guaraní that had a 4-game streak snapped by Libertad last weekend. The visitors are on a three-game winning run against Tacuary who have now gone 12 games without a clean sheet.
Striker Jorge Ortega has started the new season with a bang, scoring from almost the halfway line in the game against Nacional. He has two in his first two league games and is fast becoming the focal point in the forward line that was lacking in the Apertura. Ronal Dominguez will be available for selection following his suspension.
Guaraní held out well for 30 minutes against Libertad before succumbing to the brilliance of the defending champions, especially Tacuara Cardozo. The aurinegro should be able to recall Federico Santander who now has his paperwork straightened out to continue for the club. Another possible change is in midfield, as Luis Fariña returned to full training this week.
With both sides rarely keeping clean sheets in the league the data points towards the direction of goals. Since Tacuary returned to Primera in 2022 this fixture has gone Over 2.5 on three out of six occasions, but a safer angle is BTTS which has landed in all of Tacuary’s last six matches and four out of Guaraní’s last seven games.
Skövde AIK v OIS
We are now nearly half-way through the 2023 Swedish Superettan season and both of these sides find themselves in a lot of trouble down at the bottom end of the table with the home team seemingly destined for the drop into the regionalised third-tier already.
Skövde narrowly missed out on a top three finish and playoff football last season but this season, after 14 matches, sit firmly at the bottom-of-the-table, having collected just seven points so far. They have won just one game so far, scoring ten goals, which is the fewest in the division, and letting in 25 – only GIF Sundsvall have conceded more.
The home team come into this on the back of a 2-1 defeat away to Osters in a game in which they did take a surprise second minute lead, via Kenneth Viktor Bjerkebo. The former Sweden international Tobias Linderoth, has had a generally good spell in charge of Skövde but is now clinging onto his job as they try and fight against a bottom two finish.
Orgryte IS begin this weekend’s round of fixtures sitting third-from-bottom in the relegation/promotion playoff places, which they had to endure last season, too. OIS only survived relegation to the third-tier by defeating Sandviken over two legs, despite losing the home leg by three goals to two.
The visitors have majorly underperformed their underlying data, though, with their expected points, found by calculating both expected goals and expected goals against, would have them second in the leg. This would suggest OIS may begin to revert to a mean and majorly improve.
Given the fact that Skövde are rock-bottom with just seven points to their name and OIS have, as mentioned, perhaps been better than results have shown; an away win seems good value for this one.
HJK v Ilves
After months of speculation, HJK finally sacked Toni Koskela last week after the mediocre start to 2023. Despite three consecutive league titles and good European runs, the style of play has been basic at best and lacking much dynamism. Toni Korkeakunnas has taken the reins for now, he had been an assistant last year before joining the FA.
On the pitch, HJK laboured to an aggregate win at Larne on Wednesday, a 2-2 draw after extra time saw a sluggish second half but nicely taken goals from Ollila and Riski. A stiffer test is coming on Tuesday when Klubi host Norwegian Eliteserien champions Molde, who’ll be far more clinical than either Larne or Ilves. It’s likely that HJK will rotate a few players, the midweek bench was very young – Liam Moller came on for the final half hour and will expect minutes against Ilves – he has played eight minutes for the first team and scored in that brief cameo at KTP.
Facing this new era of HJK is going to be a challenge for an Ilves side struggling to score and without their leader. The post-Pennanen era began with a tepid 0-0 against Mariehamn, with few ideas and fewer shots on goal. New signings are required but at a premium, while last season’s attacking signing Adam Larsson has only scored twice in fifteen league games so far.
Toni Kallio’s side are resilient and tough in the mould of their manager, but they were far too reliant on Pennanen and it shows. They’ll need to be at their strongest and quickest to take advantage of the distractions of their opponents.
Inter Turku v SJK
After their season appeared to be on the mend, Inter are now four games without a win and are fighting to maintain their top half status. Monday’s 1-1 draw with KuPS was fairly open but low on precision, Tommi Jyry’s recent good form continued with the opener before they were pegged back by the leaders.
Despite all the optimism surrounding the arrival of coach Jarkko Wiss, Inter have only shown occasional improvement and are in need of more inspiration and a clinical touch up front. This fixture was a medal decider in recent seasons but one side is definitely climbing higher than the other. The signing of former SJK defender Nikko Boxall in midweek should add extra steel at the back.
SJK’s mid-season stumble continued last weekend with a frustrating 1-1 draw at Lahti. Missing striker Jaime Moreno was going to be difficult but a prospective champion should be looking to win these fixtures regardless. Latvian international Krisjanis Zviedris has taken over as number 1 and looks assured, but defence hasn’t been an issue. Manager Joaquin Gomez will relish this tie, pushing his mantra of being horrible to play against. Moreno will be back but now his card will be marked and opponents will know he can react if provoked.
SJK still have games in hand on their title rivals but five points from four games has given HJK and KuPS hope, despite their own troubles. A win here would be a huge statement but it’s unlikely to feature many goals – both have barely managed over a goal a game so far and SJK’s defence is incredibly stingy.
Elgin City v Queen of the South
Queen of the South should build upon their promising start to the season on Tuesday by going to Elgin and picking up three Scottish League Cup points against a team that, to all intents and purposes, is out of the competition.
Queen’s drew 3-3 against Premiership Motherwell in midweek, giving themselves a legitimate chance of qualifying even if they lost the penalty shootout. However, there is a premium on them winning at Borough Briggs with fixtures against East Fife and Queen’s Park to come.
Although the Dumfries side endured a disappointing season last time out, they finished the campaign very impressively, winning seven of their last 10 league games under Marvin Bartley. They have strong momentum and as they showed against Motherwell on Tuesday, they do not want for offensive talent.
Elgin, on the other hand, has lost both their League Cup fixtures by two goals. Like Queen’s, they also changed their manager late last season, but they did not have the same success. Sure, they survived, but they limped over the line as they lost seven of their last 10 in League Two.
The hosts still have a squad that is under construction, with only 16 players appearing on the teamsheet in midweek and an attack that looks weaker than it did last season. Furthermore, this will be Elgin’s third game in the space of a week – something that will count against a part-time team with a small squad against full-time opponents who have only had to play once.
This is a repeat of a League Cup fixture last season. Queen of the South won 2-0 on that occasion and a similar outcome is forecast here. The visitors are 2.6 with a -1 handicap, but backing the outright win is the safer way to go.
Stirling v Stenhousemuir
It’s a local derby in Scottish League Cup Group A, with both Stirling and Stenhousemuir having made strong starts to the season, recording impressive results against teams in higher leagues. This should be a competitive encounter – and it should be rather tight in terms of goals.
Stirling sits on four points after a draw with Ayr and a win at Alloa, with both those encounters lacking in real goalmouth action, even if they produced a total of five strikes. Similarly, Stenhousemuir has leaned on their defensive qualities in their two matches. The Warriors looked very robust and organised as they shocked Premiership St Johnstone 1-0 last weekend and were only edged out 1-0 by Ayr in midweek away from home.
Stirling has won seven of the last nine between these sides, but the odds on the home side are unattractive at 1.57. Instead, the goals market looks more interesting given the form the two teams have shown this season.
Indeed, the only time Stirling faced Stenhousemuir under Gary Naysmith, who is presently in charge of the Warriors, last season was a very tight 1-0 victory at Ochilview late in the season. They had scored three against the Larbert side in their three previous encounters, but the League Two outfit has become much harder to beat under Naysmith.
Whatever the outcome of Saturday’s game, it is unlikely to be one that produces lots of goals.
Stranraer v Edinburgh City
Goals are on the cards when Stranraer host Edinburgh on Saturday at Stair Park, with both of these teams having been involved in high-scoring encounters so far. Indeed, the three games played by these clubs have yielded 17 goals to date.
The home side have reason for concern. They have conceded eight goals in just two matches, and while these were against opponents of a higher standard, it is a very definite continuation of the form that saw them record the second worst defensive record in League Two last season.
Stranraer’s defence does not seem to have improved any over the summer, but in signing Ben Armour and Tommy Orr, they do have plenty of firepower in attack, and they will hope to make that count against a part-time opponent.
Edinburgh certainly showed a vulnerable side in midweek as they lost 5-3 against Kelty at home having been 3-0 up after 20 minutes. The capital side’s games were typically high-scoring last season, with 115 goals in their 36 league fixtures – the third-highest tally in the league. They have retained their strong attacking qualities but remain vulnerable at the back, as their midweek match showed.
Alan Maybury’s side also lost Ben Stirling to injury in midweek, putting him at severe risk of missing this match. He is one of their better defensive players.
With both these teams stronger going forward than defending – they have each conceded at least three times in their matches to date – expect plenty of goals.
Varnamo v Hacken
Värnamo are dangerously close to the Swedish Allsvenskan relegation zone despite being one of the most skilful teams in possession this season. They like to be expansive, playing their way out from the back and controlling matches. Meanwhile, they are also able to counter-attack when given the opportunity and space to do so. However, their approach to matches has sometimes left them exposed defensively, especially recently, having conceded two goals or more in 4 of their last 5.
Despite being an exciting team with plenty of quality, they simply aren’t collecting enough points from their efforts. Only four points in the last five matches is relegation form, and while playing well at times, they need to be shored up at the back. With players like Simon Thern and Gustav Engvall who can always be relied on to make the difference, the approach can afford to at times be a bit more pragmatic. This does seem to go against their grain though, so we should see them continue to play their preferred way, which is certainly easy on the eye.
Häcken are in the midst of a Champions League qualifying campaign, having beaten The New Saints from Wales by a hefty 5-1 aggregate scoreline. They have been playing in midweek during the last fortnight, with full-strength lineups, and could at this stage be feeling some jadedness.
While Trpcevski has become more of a regular feature up top, this season’s Allsvenskan top scorer Benie Traore has also just departed for Sheffield United and the Premier League. The strength in depth is questionable, and when Häcken have been struggling for fitness earlier in the season, their matches have become too open and end-to-end for their own liking. We could see something similar here, especially with a well-drilled home side looking to take the game to the visitors.
Molde v Sarpsborg
This Norwegian Eliteserien match absolutely screams goals with the majority of them flowing into the Sarpsborg net. This doesn’t look like a good time to be facing Molde. They have suddenly re-found their mojo and won 7 of their last 10 league games. It was a sticky start for the defending champions this season, but they have been gradually improving which was highlighted by their excellent 4-0 win vs Valerenga last week.
Prior to that they only beat Brann 2-0, but it could have been 5 or 6 such was the dominant nature of their performance. The squad is finally in better condition injury-wise, and players are hungry with plenty of competition for places. Winter signing Eric Kitolano has especially impressed recently with his fast acceleration causing all sorts of problems.
Sarpsborg will always be a dangerous and unpredictable side, who on their day can beat anyone. They actually travel here with the second-best average xG of any team in the Eliteserien (2.06), but they have underachieved this mark by only scoring 1.79 goals per game. That said, they have still hit the back of the net on regular occasions and the last time they failed to score was 11 matches ago way back in April.
Sarpsborg are managed by Stefan Billborn who only really plays one way and that is to attack. He likes to employ a high-risk but high-reward system which on any given day can blow away the opposition. They are vulnerable defensively though and head into this match on the back of a shock 2-3 home defeat to struggling Ham Kam last weekend. It is that sort of defeat which demonstrates a lack of consistency and the main reason why they lack being a credible medal or even top five candidate.
These two teams met as recently as 12th July in the Norwegian Cup quarter-finals and Mode won 3-1. Sarpsborg had been tipped to be a dark horse in that contest but found themselves 2-0 down inside 5 minutes and 3-0 down by HT. They were blown away by Molde’s offensive strength and I expect something similar here. It is no surprise to see over 2.5 goals priced up at 1.29. That feels like a sure-fire banker but over 3.5 goals at 1.80 looks like tremendous value. This should be an end-to-end shootout and in recent history, this over 3.5 goal line has covered in 5 of the last 7 meetings.
Nacional Potosi v Aurora
Equally matched Nacional and Aurora square up in Potosi on Saturday evening in the Bolivian Primera Division, in what could be the game of the weekend. Nacional do so looking to consolidate their league third place while Aurora seek to maintain themselves among the qualification berths for next season’s international cups.
Despite their bright seasons, both teams have stumbled slightly in recent weeks, Nacional have lost twice in a row (both 1-0 to Blooming) following a purple patch of five wins and a draw in the previous six which had propelled them almost to the top, while Aurora have reaped four wins and four draws in their last 10 games, but more tellingly have only managed one away win in their last five and two all season.
Aurora have scored 11 goals in their nine away games while Nacional’s home games average a huge 4.67 goals per game. These figures clearly point towards goals in this one.
Nacional’s goalscoring prowess depends heavily on striking pair Colombian Tobar and Argentine Prost, having netted 11 goals each this season, however, these goals have recently dried up, yet despite these goal droughts, Nacional have still hit nine goals in their last three games. In Aurora’s case they rely heavily on Jair Reinoso, who scores every other game and has netted ten this season.
Aurora won the previous meeting 2-0 back in February, albeit in Cochabamba, but this ended a 10 game unbeaten run on the part of Nacional between the sides which included six wins and four draws and stretched way back to April 2019. This game is tricky to call results wise, but with both teams scoring relatively freely, this should be a high-scoring affair.
Cerro Porteño v General Caballero
Cerro Porteño finally got back to winning ways in the Paraguayan Primera Division, with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Sportivo Ameliano in Encarnación. General Caballero have strung together four unbeaten matches, their best such streak since November 2022.
El Ciclón named Fernando Jubero as their new Sporting Director this week as the search for a new permanent manager continues. The game will be played behind partially closed doors, one sector of the stadium is closed, and there are still five players that have been separated from the main squad due to poor performance. Both Alan Benítez and Santiago Arzamendia were starters having returned to the club following stints abroad. New signing Jorge Morel slotted straight into central defence, a vulnerable area for Cerro since the start of the year.
This week both Guillermo Hauche and Teodoro Arce confirmed their contract extensions with the club, both should return to the fold having sat out the win against Trinidense. Troadio Duarte has built his team on a firm foundation, only conceding three goals from open play in the last eight matches – and those were to Olimpia and Libertad. However, Cerro did also score against them in that period, but from the penalty spot.
Troadio Duarte recorded his first-ever win against Cerro Porteño as a manager in the last meeting between these two sides. That was the fourth straight match that had gone Over 2.5 goals and seen BTTS hit but previously when coaching Guaireña he had lost or drawn those games. There is a sensation that both sides will be able to cause damage at the other end given recent form.
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