The return of European football is just one week away in many countries, but our League Scouts have once again scoured the fixture list in the nations where football has not stopped for the summer break to provide all the best bets you could ask for.
Our Scouts have picked best bets this week from the Norwegian Eliteserien, Swedish Allsvenskan, Finnish Veikkausliiga and the Swedish Superettan up in the Nordic nations.
They have also been busy on the other side of the world in South America, where we have bets from the Bolivian Primera Division alongside the Paraguayan Primera Division.
Saturday’s League Scout Football Best Bets
Guaraní v Nacional
Guaraní prepare for their final Paraguayan Primera Division game before the Copa Sudamericana showdown with Botafogo on the back of a win to nil against Tacuary. Nacional are also on the up having come from behind to defeat Olimpia in their last game.
Néstor Camacho has been in fine form for the Aurinegro as the veteran netted a late winner to take his tally to three goals in the last four games, but he is expected to sit out this game for personal reasons. The side has plenty of attacking depth with substitutes Romeo Benítez, Luis Fariña and Facundo Barceló all coming off the bench last match. The latter was returning from injury that has kept him out since May, having scored 5 goals in 11 starts in the Apertura.
Nacional pulled off a stunning stoppage time win over Olimpia after been behind for much of the game, with Christian Ocampos emerging from the bench to score on 95 minutes. Prior to that Facundo Velazco, signed from the Argentine lower leagues, scored his first goal for the club. Sarabia is likely to stick with a similar XI, using the more attacking Alfaro in the middle from the offset.
The previous meeting was a 2-2 draw and Guaraní haven’t won this fixture at home since 2020. In fact the home side have been struggling at the Rogelio Livieres of late, losing their last three and only winning one of their last seven. Without Camacho it would be wise to avoid the outright result and look to the goals market with both sides finding the net regularly, except when facing Libertad.
Häcken v Elfsborg
After a round severely lacking in goals last time out in the Swedish Allsvenskan, there are a couple of match-ups which promise more fireworks this weekend. The main attraction is certainly this top-of-the-table encounter between first and second, with Elfsborg leading the charge. Few outside Borås would have predicted them to be in this position more than halfway through the campaign, but the belief within the squad has been strong since their impressive run toward the end of the 2022 season.
The frontrunners look to have everything needed to go all the way and keep going from strength to strength. Last week’s dismantling of Djurgården, who were very briefly threatening to get involved in the scrap for the title, was mightily impressive. A devastating 4-0 scoreline with a strong performance to back it against one of the in-form teams in the league was immensely impressive. To do it away from home, against a team which had only dropped two points at Tele2 previously, made it even more so.
The locomotive that is Elfsborg will take some stopping, with a ridiculously strong backline and a varied attack, even in the absence of the departed Jacob Ondrejka. They look like being able to score in abundance in every match with goals from all avenues. With striker Gudjohnsen dropping off somewhat, Per Frick came in and was a huge thorn in Djurgården’s side, and missing the ever-impressive Lagerbielke through suspension did not rock them either.
Häcken suffered a surprise defeat last week versus Värnamo, their first in seven matches. They did look a bit leggy after a couple of European qualifiers in midweek, and the lack of quality squad depth is taking its toll. Benie Traore will be sorely missed as Ola Kamara has not found his feet after his winter arrival and Trpcevski not fully ready to take over up front yet.
Simon Gustafson is unfortunately back on the injury list, and Amane Romeo who impressed so much in his absence is out too. While the young Pontus Dahbo impressed in their stead, he is inexperienced and lacks consistency.
If Häcken show any weakness, Elfsborg will exploit it like they did to their opponents last week. Were the home team to score, there should also be goals in the other direction.
Östers v Jönköping Sodra
As we tip over the half-way mark of the 2023 Swedish Superettan season, this is one of the most intriguing match-ups in the second-tier, with a potentially defining outcome in the promotion race. It could also be one of the more entertaining encounters for the neutral.
Last season, Östers missed out on promotion to the top-flight of Swedish football by losing the end of season Allsvenskan/Superettan relegation/promotion playoff against Varberg. That two-legged defeat would have stung, but they entered this campaign as one of the favourites for automatic promotion and did begin with four successive victories. However, a major blip in which they won just two and drew one of eight matches had seen them fall away.
The hosts have begun to fight back again, though, following the mid-summer break and, still under the management of Srdjan Tufegdzic, they come into this on the back of back-to-back 2-1 victories against bottom-of-the-table Skövde as well as Brage.
Ahead of the 2023 Superettan season, Jönköping Sodra appointed former Getafe youth coach Andres Garcia and the Spaniard has cultivated a very entertaining and effective side to watch so far. After finishing 2022 in the bottom-half, sitting just above the bottom four and the relegation playoff places, J-Sodra are currently fifth, two points behind Östers in the promotion playoff place.
As they challenge for an unlikely promotion to the top-flight for the first time since 2017, they have been one of the more thrilling sides for the neutral. In 15 matches so far this season, there has been 52 goals with no team scoring more and only one side conceding more often.
With both of these sides pushing for a top three finish and challenging for promotion to the Allsvenskan, this is definitely worth keeping an eye on. Östers are in improving form and J-Sodra have been the most entertaining teams in the league, so this one could well be an even but exciting affair.
Örgryte v Brage
At the half-way stage of this Swedish Superettan campaign, these are two sides coming into the weekend in poor form but to very different extents. The hosts are fighting for their lives, whilst their opposition are seeking to string some results together and really kick on towards the top three.
Örgryte IS come into this on the back of a 2-0 defeat away to bottom-of-the-table Skövde in their most recent outing, last weekend. That terrible result has continued some terrible form, and the hosts have now suffered five successive defeats either side of the mid-summer break.
That run of form means they begin this weekend’s round of fixtures sitting in the bottom two and the automatic relegation places, two points adrift of Örebro and Helsingborg in the relegation playoff places.
The visitors’ return from the mid-summer break was an impressive one as they hammered their upcoming opponents by four goals to one. Since then, though, they have suffered back-to-back 2-1 defeats against AFC Eskilstuna and Östers.
Those losses have seen Brage, who would have expected to built on a top-half finish last season and aimed towards the top three, slip, once again, into the middle of the pack. They sit six points behind Östers in third place and will still have ambitions of challenging in the second-half of this campaign.
Whilst it may not be an overly convincing victory, given their recent losses, Brage are the favourites for this one against struggling opposition and value can be found backing them.
Vålerenga v Sandefjord
The Norwegian Eliteserien season is only at the half-way stage, but this fixture is already a legitimate ‘6 pointer’ down at the bottom of the table. Vålerenga have been one of the big underachievers and most people expected them to be challenging for the top six positions or at least be in the top half. It has been a miserable campaign though and ‘Enga have now lost 6 of their last 7 league games.
The Oslo based club looked to have pulled off a masterstroke by convincing Geir Bakke to move from arch-rivals Lillestrøm but so far, this managerial change hasn’t worked out. Bakke got thumped 0-4 in his first home game in charge and then they lost 1-2 away to Odd last week. It was however only a controversial VAR penalty and late red card denied them a point and it was certainly an improved performance. It is results that Vålerenga need though to get out of the mess they are in.
The good news is they have probably the easiest possible fixture right now in the Eliteserien. Sandefjord travel here in shockingly bad form and look like a side heading straight down to the OBOS Ligaen. They’ve lost 7 of their last 9 games but the biggest issue has been a catastrophic defence which has now conceded 24 goals in their last 7 matches.
Sandefjord have been leaking goals left right and centre. Their defensive players are not good enough and the tactics which they employ are too wide open. They are legitimately bad with an average xGA per 90 mins of 1.88 which is the worst of any side in this league. Their away record is a miserable 0-2-6 with a 6:22 goal differential. This team does not look good enough for the Norwegian top-flight at the moment.
If we look at raw metrics and numbers Vålerenga have the 7th best xG in the league and the 5th best xGA. If they maintain those sorts of figures, then they will comfortably climb away from the drop zone.
This is a must win game and Geir Bakke will know the importance of getting all 3 points. I am expecting a committed and strong display from the hosts and their extra quality should shine against a shambles of a backline. They are a short price at 1.44 to win but this looks good enough, and should be an ideal chance to return to winning ways.
SJK v HJK Helsinki
SJK go into this match with a three point lead and a game in hand – and crucially without the distractions of European football. With only a handful of games until the Finnish Veikkausliiga splits, a first title since 2015 is still in their own hands and a favourable fixture list would be theirs if they go into the post-season in first place.
The youngest squad in the league has yet to get any bigger, but they keep grinding out wins and looked comfortable against Inter Turku (before conceding an injury time consolation). Jaime Moreno returned from suspension with a typical close range goal, assisted by the very dynamic Murilo – one of the key heads in the rejuvenated side from wing-back.
HJK are in the middle of their biggest week of the season (so far) after a good 1-0 win against Molde on Tuesday. The return leg is on Wednesday and a victory would guarantee another European group stage at least. The club have been busy in the transfer market, signing Finland wing-back Niko Hamalainen and Swedes Filip Rogic and Kristopher De Graca until the end of the season.
There will be some rotation with eyes on midweek, likely to open up some minutes for these new players. Topi Keskinen was the match winner last time out but may need a rest. The tactics of new coach Toni Korkeakunnas are still bedding in, the 1-0 league win against Ilves last week wasn’t convincing but three points at least. HJK still have big games remaining and can’t afford to lose too much pace.
Morton v FC Edinburgh
Morton will stand a strong chance of progression in the Scottish League Cup if they beat FC Edinburgh at Cappielow on Saturday – and a big win would virtually guarantee the Greenock club a spot in the last 16. It should prove a relatively straightforward objective for the hosts.
The Ton had the relative luxury of a midweek off after a narrow 2-1 defeat against Premiership Ross County last weekend and indeed went close to winning that match as they led until the closing 20 minutes. Prior to that, Morton had already swept aside lower-league opponents in the form of Kelty Hearts (1-3) and Stranraer (3-0) in the group stages thus far.
On the other hand, Edinburgh approach this fixture seeking their first points of the season but the name of the game for Allan Maybury’s side will really be about preparing for the league opener against Stirling Albion next weekend. The capital side have lost three from three, conceding 10 goals along the way. This will also be their third match in seven days, while they were given a stern workout in a 3-1 loss to Premiership Ross County as recently as Wednesday, making this an even harder task.
One worry for the hosts is a lack of numbers – they only had a squad of 15 players last weekend – but not playing in midweek should have aided in that regard, while the quality of their starting XI is also impressive. Expect them to win this game with some to spare.
Falkirk v Peterhead
Group B is fiendishly tight, and though Falkirk come into this match in fourth place, they have a shot of top spot if they win by at least two goals. The exception, however, is Peterhead, who are down and out, having claimed just one point from three matches. To stand a chance of going through, Falkirk need to win, and ideally handsomely.
Falkirk have had a mixed bag in the competition to date, struggling to win against Spartans before overcoming Partick away from home on penalties and losing a competitive match with Dundee United in midweek. The hosts showed enough in that midweek encounter to suggest they have what it takes to continue a winning streak against Peterhead that stretches four games.
Indeed, these clubs are familiar foes from last season. Falkirk swept the Blue Toon, winning all 12 possible points and running out 15-2 winners on aggregate. In each encounter, the Bairns scored at least three goals. In front of a crowd eager to celebrate a first home win of the season, there is unlikely to be any holding back from a side that specialised in cup competitions last year, reaching the last 16 in the Scottish League Cup and the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup.
With Peterhead already eliminated, a similarly one-sided scoreline should be expected. This is a team that has lost habitually for over a year now, while they even went down 2-1 to League Two new boys Spartans at home on Wednesday. Facing a quick turnaround between matches and having already played twice this week, it’s hard to see this game ending positively for a team still in a rebuilding process.
Livingston v Clyde
Livingston have to beat Clyde to progress through to the knockout stages of the Scottish League Cup, and the form the Premiership side have shown so far in the competition suggests that they should comfortably achieve that goal.
Livvy have hit nine goals in the competition to date, averaging three per game, and they will come up against the side with the worst goals conceded per match in the form of League Two side Clyde. Although the home side were known as a team that typically won hard-fought matches last season, they are coming off a handsome away in against Cove Rangers on Tuesday – a game in which they had the luxury of changing half their team in the middle part of the second half.
Clyde, meanwhile, are looking ahead to the start of the league season having endured a wretched League Cup campaign that has seen them losing three from three, including a home match against Highland League outfit Brechin last time out. Moreover, their squad remain pitifully small. Against Brechin on Tuesday, they had only 14 available players and lost midfielder Barry Cuddihy to injury in the first half. They will be in preservation mode before the meaningful stuff begins for them next week.
The Bully Wee’s previous away match ended in a 5-2 loss against Cove Rangers and against top-tier opposition who need to win this game, it would be miraculous if they kept the encounter competitive. It is worth noting, however, that Clyde have scored in all three of their matches to date this season.
Longford Town v Cobh Ramblers
Two teams who were involved in thrilling FAI Cup ties at the weekend meet at Bishopsgate on Saturday night in the Irish First Division. Longford Town continued their upturn in performances by pushing Premier Division title chasers St. Patrick’s Athletic all the way in a 2-1 FAI Cup defeat while Cobh also lost out in a five goal thriller away to Premier Division side UCD.
Longford Town did pay a heavy price however, for pushing the Saints so hard with goalkeeper Jack Brady and defender Dylan Hand both sent off, while there were a few bruised and battered bodies after the game.
Stephen Henderson’s side deserve huge credit for taking the game to a star studded Saints side but the defensive mistakes they made in the lead up to the Pat’s goals cost them dearly with Longford conceding a penalty just moments after they had equalised. That lack of concentration is the difference between teams in the top-flight and the second tier and while Longford are back up against a team of a similar level here, De Town have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last eight matches now.
Ramblers have also looked leaky at the back in recent weeks with the Rams failing to keep a clean sheet in any of their last four. However, they have scored two or more goals in three of their last four while Longford have done likewise.
Also, De Town were missing the in-form Beineón O’Brien-Whitmarsh at the weekend, the former Cobh striker has scored five goals in just seven matches since signing as a free agent and will eager to return to face his old side on Saturday. Adam Wixted also missed Sunday’s FAI Cup tie and has really stood out as a creator in midfield since signing in recent weeks. In fact, the Midlands club have arguably done some of the shrewdest business in the July window and if they play anything like they did against St. Pat’s then there’s every chance they can win this.
However, consistency has been a big problem for most sides in the Irish First Division this season and Shane Keegan’s Ramblers will be bidding to maintain their unbeaten record against De Town so far this season (away draw, home win). This has all the makings of a cracker.
Sportivo Trinidense v Olimpia
Sportivo Trinidense have moved this game to Encarnación where they pulled off a famous 3-1 win last year. Olimpia head into the match having lost three Paraguayan Primera Division games in a row for the first time since August 2021.
José Arrúa has seen his side concede two goals in each of the opening three games, his side struggling since the departure of central defender Paul Riveros to Guaraní. Rodrigo Delvalle played the first two games in the back but was replaced by José Báez in the 2-1 loss to Resistencia. Going forward the team still shows plenty of promise, scoring four goals, so far all from different players.
Chiqui Arce will likely want to make changes to his side after another disappointing result, both Victor Salazar and Saúl Salcedo are back from long term injuries but might not be ready to play a full ninety minutes. Arce employed his standard 4-4-2 meaning Facundo Bruera is likely to continue up front with Guillermo Paiva as they await the return of Derlis González.
Olimpia have a poor record in Encarnación, their only win in the southern city was back in 1994, and recent form is just as bad with three league defeats and the Copa Paraguay exit. Trinidense are struggling themselves. One theme for both sides is that they have seen plenty of goals in their games, at an average of 3.5 goals in the six games the sides have played this season.
The Strongest v CA Palmaflor
League leaders The Strongest will be keen to wipe the slate clean and get their season back on track on Saturday evening when the play host to Municipal Vinto Palmaflor in La Paz following the heavy defeat inflicted by arch-rivals Bolivar at the weekend.
Making a quick return to winning ways has been made more pressing after Always Ready, their immediate pursuers, made use of that defeat, keeping up their consistent run of good form (16 points from a possible 18), and cutting the once seven point lead to just one. The Bolivar defeat aside, The Strongest had managed to steady the boat somewhat in recent weeks, with two wins and two draws in the previous four, just enough to keep them top.
Palmaflor for their part are caught in a dire run of form, with only one win and nine defeats to their name in the last 15. Their moving to the Tropics does not seem to be having a desired effect on their fortunes.
For The Strongest, goals aren’t really the problem, although they have only managed 12 in the last 10, they have scored 35 all season (19 games) and have a goal per game average of 3.05. In Palmaflor’s case however, there are serious problems, they have managed to score barely six in the last 15 games, and the last game against Pari was the first time they had netted twice for the entirety of those games. Up the other end it is a different story with 22 conceded.
All things considered expect quite a few The Strongest goals in this one. Top scorer Triverio will no doubt be anxious to get back on the scoresheet following his penalty miss against Bolivar.
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