We have games from Portugal and Holland this Sunday afternoon, bringing you action from the Eredivisie and the Portuguese Cup.
We also have the final day of the Danish Superliga season, including a spicy tie between rivals AGF and Brondby; alongside games that could be crucial in the race for promotion to the Allsvenskan in Sweden, with the two favourites to go up facing off on as Osters host Utsiktens.
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FC Twente v Heerenveen
In this Europa Conference League play-off semi-final, the first leg finished 2-1 to Twente. I am backing Twente to qualify for the final next week by keeping Heerenveen at arm’s length throughout the second leg.
Twente have been on an upward trajectory at the end of the season, being the league’s in-form team having won five on the bounce, including a 3-1 win over Ajax in Enschede. At home, I have repeated throughout the season how strong the Tukkers have been; they have the second-best home record in the Eredivisie, including zero defeats all campaign.
Despite Heerenveen having a decent second-half performance in the first leg, in which they held onto possession better than in the first, they didn’t get the dangerous Osame Sahraoui on the ball in promising areas often enough. The Frisians will need to do so in this leg if they want to stand a chance of victory.
The threat of Cerny, Misidjan and Smal from wide areas will be a constant menace all game. Add to that the form of young striker Manfred Ugalde, who has eight goals and two assists in his last ten games.
With Heerenveen likely to tire and lose hope later into the game, it is clear that a Twente win with over 1.5 goals is the way to go.
Osters v Utsiktens
These are, ahead of this weekend’s round of fixtures, the two strongest sides in the Superettan and both sides, after a third of the campaign, it seems clear that both will be mounting a serious and sustained challenge for automatic promotion to the Allsvenskan.
Under the management of Stefan Tugedzic, Osters missed out on promotion to the top-flight by being beaten by Varberg in the Allsvenskan/Superettan relegation/promotion playoff last season. This time around, they were expecting to not need those playoffs.
The hosts began the campaign with four successive victories before suffering a serious stumble throughout May. However, they come into this on the back of a much-needed and entertaining 3-2 win away at fellow high scorers J-Sodra in midweek. That means their ten matches this season have consisted of 35 goals as they move second in the table, behind Utsiktens.
It has been a really impressive start to the 2023 Superettan campaign for Utsiktens. After gaining promotion to the second-tier in 2021, they were content with a mid-table finish last season but now, after ten games and two months of this campaign, they sit at the top-of-the-table, a third of the way through.
The visitors, under the management of Bosko Orovic, come into this on the back of a come-from-behind 2-1 victory at home to struggling Orebro in their most recent outing, during the week. They have now enjoyed four successive victories, collecting 23 points in their opening ten games, and notching an impressive 18 goals.
These are the top two sides in the division after a fair chunk of the campaign and both come into the game on the back of positive performances and results. With that in mind, this one should be an intriguing and entertaining encounter.
Nordsjælland v Viborg
Nordsjælland have nothing left to play for, while Viborg are fighting for third place for the first time in club history.
The home side failed to keep their title hopes alive last week as they lost 5-1 away to Brøndby. Now they are ready to go on summer vacation with their second place confirmed, as they cannot overtake Copenhagen, nor can AGF or Viborg overtake them.
The Farum side have an exciting and young team, but they haven’t been able to get the job done this spring since losing their top scorer and head coach in January. They have only won three of their previous nine matches, and they have conceded 14 goals in their previous five matches.
Viborg have everything to play for, as they can take the third place by collecting more points than AGF this weekend. Viborg have never finished this high and the entire city is behind the team as they go into this match. Unfortunately, the green and whites have struggled slightly lately, but have still only lost twice in their last six matches. Viborg are a more or less complete team, and are strong offensively. They should be able to put the home side under pressure in this match.
Viborg could pull away with a surprise victory here as their players should be more motivated. Farum is a difficult place to visit though, so we recommend a more cautious approach and recommend Viborg double chance instead of the outright.
AGF Aarhus v Brøndby
The home side can secure third place with a victory, while the visitors only care about ruining the day for their rivals.
AGF have been one of the most impressive teams this season and their current third place is definitely deserved. Over the past weeks, their attacking play has truly improved and they have scored ten goals in their last four games.
They are also going into this encounter in good shape with just one defeat in their last six matches, and they couldn’t have more confidence. Striker and captain Patrick Mortensen is in great shape these days and is attempting to become league top-scorer for the first time in his career, though he will need a special final day of the season, sitting two goals behind Gustav Isaksen’s 17.
Brøndby demolished Nordsjælland 5-1 last week and destroyed their championship hopes. It was the best game Brøndby have played all season, and they were incredibly effective in front of goal. The yellow and blues have nothing to play for but AGF is one of their main rivals, and they would be happy to kill their dreams of third place. Unfortunately for Brøndby, their defence remains a weak spot, and they give away way too many chances.
We expect an entertaining match between two sides that really do hate each other. Both teams have done well offensively recently, and with Brøndby’s weak defence, we expect a match with several goals.
Valerenga v Bodø/Glimt
Bodø/Glimt travel here top of the table and unbeaten with 8 wins out of 9 games. The 2020 and 2021 Eliteserien champions have looked absolutely rampant thus far, firing in 26 goals and conceding just 8 times. They look highly focused, motivated, and driven to reclaim the gold medal in Norway.
The only real stumbling block would appear to be their manager Kjetil Knutsen now being linked to several high profile jobs across Europe. This is something which has occurred before though and Glimt are used to dealing with such matters. Matches involving this team average 3.80 goals per game which is the most of any side in the league. 7 of their 9 games have resulted in over 2.5 goals.
Glimt are likely to win here against Vålerenga which is why they are odds-on favourites around the 1.70 mark. The home side are very inconsistent with 3 wins, 1 draw and 4 defeats, but in general just have not performed well in the big matches this season. It’s quite noticeable their only points obtained were facing teams currently in the bottom five positions. Put them against anyone good and they have struggled so far.
More was expected of Vålerenga this season, but it appears they are nothing more than a mediocre Eliteserien outfit. They will probably have nightmares about this fixture last season when Glimt beat them 0-6 on their own patch.
Taking Bodø/Glimt to win or over 2.5 goals are other bets worth considering but backing the visitors team total over 1.5 goals looks like a smart option. Bodø/Glimt have scored at least 2 goals in all of their fixtures so far and odds of 1.62 look perfectly fine in this market.
Glimt average 1.97 xG per match; their offence is legitimately strong and feels unstoppable right now. Whatever the final outcome, Kjetil Knutsen’s men should hit the back of the net at least twice.
Stromgodset v Haugesund
Over the past few seasons there has been a big difference between home and away results for Strømsgodset. Here at Marienlyst Stadion they can be formidable opposition in front of their own fans. Godset have won 2 out of 3 home fixtures this season by the exact same 1-0 scoreline. They were unlucky to lose 0-1 vs Tromso in the other encounter.
For the first time this season we are starting to see some signs that this team is starting to adapt to new manager Jorgen Isnes’ 3-4-3 tactic. The 1-1 draw they obtained last week away to Odd was their best performance of the season. For large spells of the game, they were the better team and an early missed penalty by Herman Stengel probably cost them victory. Godset ranks comfortably in midtable for xG and xGA metrics.
This is a very good chance for them to win against a poor looking Haugesund outfit. The visitors have struggled this year and are languishing inside the relegation zone. Their only victory was against Ham Kam and one of the big problems this team has is scoring goals. The West Coast outfit have only netted 5 total goals, and 3 of those came in one fixture.
Haugesund ranks rock bottom in xG average per game (0.80) and at the other end of the field they have the third worst xGA metrics. In simple terms, this is just a poor team and if they continue this trajectory then they will get relegated. Perhaps even more of a worry is the lack of general positivity and excitement around the club. There almost feels like an inevitability about their demise this year.
The same fate could have happened to Strømsgodset but their freshly appointed managerial change during the winter was always going to bring a different approach. Isnes is a head coach with potential and his 3-4-3 system is starting to develop nicely.
Strømsgodset should win this match at home facing an inferior side and backing them at 1.80 looks like a more than acceptable price. They are very capable of keeping a clean sheet vs this toothless attack so it might only require one or two goals to get the required victory.
Aalesund v Brann
These are two teams who are set for completely different trajectories this season. Aalesund have endured a miserable campaign with just 1 win in 9 games whilst Brann are flying high. The visitors are strong odds-on favourites to prevail and should realistically get the job done.
The home side have had a turgid campaign with their only success a shock 3-1 victory against Molde. That was in front of a packed house on May 16th though which is a unique fixture on the Norwegian calendar. AFK have failed to score in 7 of their 9 fixtures although at least striker Isaac Atanga has been in better form of late.
Brann are second in the table and are also the newly crowned Norwegian Cup champions. Things are looking really good for the Bergen based club and they’ve played some excellent football this season.
Brann have the best average xG per match (2.19) out of any team in the league and striker Bard Finne has especially been in fantastic form. At the other end of the field Eirik Horneland’s men also have some impressive metrics conceding just 9 goals in 9 games. Only Molde and Glimt have better xGA numbers.
Brann should be able to capitalise on some poor Aalesund form by taking a comfortable 3 points. They are quite simply the better team right now and playing with a lot of confidence and belief.
The only issues Brann have had this season have been facing teams sitting back and defending well. Aalesund have only kept one clean sheet and are quite porous. Taking Brann to win at 1.57 looks like a fairly safe bet under the circumstances.
Ostersund v Vasteras
After a third of the campaign, ten matches in, these are two sides that have followed a similar pattern in terms of results, albeit to different extents. Both started well but come into this on the back of some indifferent performances.
In 2021, Ostersund were relegated from the Allsvenskan and looked certain to suffer back-to-back relegations in 2022. Financial issues have badly hurt the club in the last half a decade or so and a fall from grace into the regionalised third-tier seemed inevitable. However, an impressive end to last season under the management of Magnus Powell, meant they managed to scrape to survival in the relegation playoffs at the end of the season.
If they continued their good form from the end of last year into this season, they would expect to challenge towards the top end of the table – and they started just like that, going unbeaten in their opening six matches. However, a 2-1 loss at Brage in midweek has extended their winless run to five matches, collecting just two points in that time, as they drift into mid-table, struggling for goals.
Vasteras ended the 2022 campaign in extremely impressive form with three successive victories and they have continued that strong form, like Ostersund, into this year. The visitors’ opening ten matches have seen them lose just twice as they challenge towards the top end of the table.
They will be seeking a legitimate and sustained challenge for an unlikely promotion to the top-flight but their goalless draw with AFC Eskilstuna in their most recent outing in midweek is the latest result in what is proving to be a slight dip in form. They have managed just one win in their last four matches.
To different extents, both of these sides will be seeking to overcome a difficult run of form. They are slightly underperforming their underlying data. Ostersund are averaging 1.78 xG per game at home, whilst Vasteras have a rate of 1.56.
FC Utrecht v Sparta Rotterdam
In the first leg of this fixture, Sparta took a 2-1 victory in their home fixture and I believe this keep their winning run in this leg.
I correctly backed Maurice Steijn’s men to claim a positive result to take back to Rotterdam, despite Utrecht inevitably having a lot of the ball and pressure. Sparta have shown throughout the season that they have goals in them and aren’t afraid to stand strong defensively to see out results.
Sparta need to be careful here though. By playing too cautiously, they will show too much respect to Utrecht, who can be good away from home when teams sit back. The home side will need to play on the front foot and get the goal, giving them further control over this tie.
I think this will be a good match. Earlier in the season, Utrecht won 0-3 in Rotterdam, but that was during Sparta’s mini dip in form just after Christmas. I do think the away side will show their qualities and get a goal, but Sparta have scored in all but one of their eleven games since the aforementioned 0-3 loss (and that was a 0-1 defeat to PSV where they missed a couple of VERY good chances).
In the end, we could even be looking at a game that is a draw or maybe even goes to extra time. Because of their firepower, Sparta will have enough in the tank to meet Twente in the final.
Braga v Porto
The Portuguese football season is over…well, almost over. Benfica are champions for the first time in four years, Sporting are headed to the Europa League group stage after finishing fourth, and Paços de Ferreira and Santa Clara are headed to the second division.
Arouca and Vitória de Guimarães are headed to the Europa Conference League qualifiers, where they’ll be looking to become the first Portuguese teams to qualify for the group stage of UEFA’s new tertiary competition. However, there’s still plenty left to play for as we look to close out the campaign.
Marítimo and Estrela da Amadora will face off in the two-legged promotion/relegation playoff, with Marítimo looking to extend their uninterrupted 38-year spell in the top-flight, whilst Estrela da Amadora are seeking to return to the Primeira for the first time in 14 years. Saturday will see Estrela host the first leg, whilst Sunday will see Braga face off against Porto in the Taça de Portugal Final at the Centro Desportivo Nacional do Jamor.
Both teams enter June in stellar form: Porto have won 11 in a row in all competitions, with seven of those matches featuring over 2.5 goals, whilst Braga have won every single league match since the start of March with the exception of three games: a 0-0 draw to Porto on March 19, a 1-0 loss at Benfica on May 6, and a 1-1 draw at Boavista on March 20. Five of Braga’s last six matches have seen both teams find the back of the net, whilst seven of their last 11 have featured over 2.5 goals. I’m expecting a high-scoring affair between the second and third-placed teams in the Primeira.
Braga have booked their ticket to the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League and are returning to Europe’s premier competition after 11 years, whilst Porto are headed to the group stage and are looking to add yet another trophy to this season’s collection after the Taça da Liga and the Supertaça.
Both teams will be looking to make the most of their attacking arsenals with Braga boasting the likes of Ricardo Horta and Bruma and Porto boasting Mehdi Taremi, who finished as the league’s top scorer with 22 goals, as well as other players like Otávio and Pepê. Seven of the last eight Taça de Portugal Finals have featured over 2.5 goals, including a 2-2 draw between Porto and Braga in 2016 which saw Braga win 4-2 on penalties, and I’m expecting this one to follow that pattern.
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