Spezia v Verona
This is a huge game at the bottom of the Serie A table with Hellas Verona trying to claw their way out of the bottom three whilst Spezia try desperately not to get dragged into it.
Spezia are seventeenth with 20 points whilst Verona are eighteenth with 17 points. There is a huge amount riding on this game for both teams.
With a recent upturn in form that has given Verona a chance at survival, they are expected to attack from the off against Spezia. The Giallorossi have a more talented squad and they will feel as though they’re superior to the Ligurian side.
It would be surprising if they did not find the net at some point against Spezia, but there is one man that Leonardo Semplici’s side will be looking towards to ensure that both teams get on the scoresheet.
M’Bala Nzola netted twice last time out against Udinese in a 2-2 draw and that brings him to 11 Serie A goals for the season. Interest in his services is building from teams in the Premier League and he will be determined to at least reach the 15-goal mark, likely securing him a move to a bigger club.
Darko Lazovic and Adolfo Gaich will be the players that Verona look towards for goals in this huge match.
Troyes v Monaco
Troyes are a club in crisis, with the City Group’s French division facing relegation from Ligue 1 after a miserable run of results that is unlikely to improve any this weekend as they play host to Monaco on Sunday afternoon.
The decisions of the sporting directors at the club have come under fire in recent weeks, with angry protests from ESTAC fans expected before this game. Certainly, their decision to sack Bruno Irles and appoint Patrick Kisnorbo during the winter break is one that has backfired badly. Troyes did beat Strasbourg on January 2 but since then have embarked on a run of eight matches that has seen them win only one point.
What has been most concerning about Troyes’ work is their abject defensive play. In their last nine league games, they have conceded 24 goals, and after leaking twice to a poor Ajaccio team last weekend, there is little sign of this stopping.
Monaco, meanwhile, will see this fixture as the ideal chance to get back on track after a miserable week that saw them lose to Bayer Leverkusen in the Europa League then get thumped 3-0 by Nice in the derby last weekend. Prior to those matches, Monaco had won seven of their previous nine in the league, and having a midweek off will help them hit those heights again.
With the visitors having scored at least twice in 15 of their last 19 Ligue 1 matches, it would be very surprising if Troyes – the worst defensive team in the league with 55 concede – were able to limit them in a meaningful way. Expect Monaco to get the win and expect them to score at least twice in doing so.
St. Mirren v Celtic
On Sunday, Celtic will visit the scene of their only previous league defeat this season. The league leaders were stunned 2-0 by St Mirren in mid-September but have since won all but one fixture domestically. They will travel to Paisley intent on revenge.
There were long periods in the first half of the season when Celtic were not winning their domestic games with ease, doubtless hampered by their European schedule, which saw fixtures played thick and fast. Wins came, but often they were by one or two goals.
Now that Ange Postecoglou’s side can focus fully on domestic affairs, they are flying. Last Sunday, they won the League Cup with a 2-1 win over Rangers, while they have picked up five straight league victories. They have been achieved with ease. Every one has come by at least two goals and only on one occasion have they conceded.
What could go wrong on Sunday, then? Well, St Mirren have built a strong home record, losing only two of 14 games and conceding only nine along the way.
The home side, though, are going through their trickiest period of the campaign. They have won only one of their last five matches, including a 1-0 home defeat to Hibs.
Celtic, meanwhile, are formidable away from home. They have scored 41 times in 13 away games and are simply a class above everyone else in Scotland. With the incentive of making amends for their previous loss here, look for them to continue their trend of big wins.
Silkeborg v Nordsjælland
Sunday kicks off with what is often referred to as ‘El Plastico‘ in Denmark, as the two only clubs with astro turf on their stadiums meet.
Silkeborg have struggled to start the season, and it is looking more and more likely that last season’s bronze winners will miss out on top six and the championship playoff. In January, they lost top scorer Nicklas Helenius, and last week they were severely beaten 3-0 by FC Copenhagen at home. However, they played a good match last week against rivals AGF, and produced more than enough chances to win that one. Silkeborg, despite recent results, remains a good team especially offensively.
Nordsjælland are arguably the strongest side in the league and are also leading the Superliga. The offense remains strong despite the loss of Andreas Schjelderup to Benfica, and they remain favourites to secure the title. They have conceded three goals in their first two league games, but have scored five already. Striker Wahid Faghir has scored three of these, and he is in stellar form at the moment.
This is a fixture between two high scoring teams with offensive mindsets. Both teams are playing with a “we have to score more goals than the opponents” mentality, well-knowing that they are unlikely to keep a clean sheet. We expect an entertaining match rich on goals, and recommend betting on over 2.5 goals at odds of 1.73 on Betfair.
St. Gallen v Grasshoppers
St. Gallen just can’t seem to find any momentum this season. Back in November, they halted a seven-game winless run with two consecutive victories, including a 7-2 rout of Sion away from home, but the World Cup break denied them any chance to build on those triumphs.
After two winless games following the winter break, they convincingly beat Servette 3-0 only to lose again in the next match to YB and a 4-0 triumph in their last league match with Sion was followed up with an extra-time loss in the cup to Basel. Such a strong start to the season coupled with the tight nature of the league means that FCSG are still in a very good place in third.
A two-point gap to Servette and possible UEFA Champions League qualification is more than the fans at kybunpark would’ve expected before a ball was kicked, but there is a realisation that their team really must start to put some form together or those lurking close below them will leave them out of luck when it comes to European football.
Grasshoppers must be wishing they can play Basel every week as their only two wins in their last nine games have come against the twenty-times Swiss champion, both by a 1-0 scoreline. Worryingly, the Zurich club have drawn just one of the other seven and lost six, including their last three in a row.
A loss to city rivals Zurich sandwiched in between defeats to European hopefuls Servette and Luzern has dragged GC from the European race and directly into the relegation battle at the bottom. Only two points keep them ahead of Winterthur and Sion and with two games to come against those two sides, they must refind their form quickly.
I predict Over 2.5 Goals at kybunpark this weekend. FCSG’s last four in a row have had this outcome while it has been the case in four of the last five away games for Grasshoppers. The previous three matches this season have also had at least three goals. The home side average close to two goals per game while GC have failed to score only twice away from the Letzigrund this season.
Austria Klagenfurt v Altach
Seventh plays tenth on Sunday afternoon as Klagenfurt go into a three-game run against teams below them in the table, games which will decide whether they can play in the top six “Championship Round” and push for a place in Europe next season. After four defeats in five, Peter Pacult’s team pulled off a vital victory away in Graz last time out to reignite their top six hopes.
Crucially, league top scorer Markus Pink was back in the goals after a dry spell, and that could be a great sign for his side at this key moment. Italian Simon Straudi seemed to click with the team last week for the first time, setting up both goals with some clever and tenacious play on the right. With the belief back on their side, a tie against struggling Altach should see the usual high-scoring and frantic defending of Klagenfurt return.
Miroslav Klose’s Altach have been playing some fine football with scant reward recently. They’ve conceded three goals in each of their last two games on the road, and a point last weekend was their first of 2023, yet they came so close to finding the net several times and they would have been disappointed with the draw.
With the dribbling of Mike-Steven Bähre, the energy in attack from Amir Abdijanovic and the aerial threat from Atdhe Nuhiu, Altach will surely be back in the goals soon, and a match against another of the sides who are amongst the highest conceding teams in the league is a good chance to get on the board. Klagenfurt tend to find winning tougher at home too, making them harder to back despite their tag as favourites. Instead, we can see both teams going for it in a fairly high-scoring battle.
RKC Waalwijk v PSV
RKC Waalwijk have come into form at just the right time to take on PSV, who are currently six points off the top. RKC have only lost to Feyenoord and Ajax in Waalwijk so far this season.
The side sitting in eighth have recently gatecrashed the top eight which had been so settled this season. If Joseph Oosting keeps this form up, you have to make him a strong contender for manager of the season given the budget of RKC being well below all of the other Eredivisie top half teams.
PSV, on the other hand, are on the verge of a very disappointing season. They are are out of the Europa League already, and they are also six points off first place, having sold some of their attacking assets, including Liverpool man Cody Gakpo. Ruud van Nistelrooy has been criticised for his lack of tactical impact at times this season, but on the whole, PSV have been able to dig out results in most games such as this one, where they will have a lot of the ball.
The Eindhoven club tend to win these games by throwing all they can at teams when they are not winning. They can use their physicality to score goals in the air from crosses, and teenager Xavi Simons is having an incredible season of development; I think he will weave his magic again to get van Nistelrooy out of trouble.
PSV have the goals to win, and RKC have been dangerous themselves lately.
Reims v Ajaccio
Reims against Ajaccio isn’t the type of Ligue 1 fixture that typically screams goals, but with over 2.5 priced above evens, it’s well worth a look ahead of Sunday’s clash between the two sides.
Reims’ league form needs little introduction at this stage thanks to the exploits of head coach Will Still, who incredible remains undefeated in the league since taking charge of the Champagne side in the autumn. Their last defeat was back on September 18 against Monaco. Since then, they have played 17 matches. While many of these have ended in draws, they are beginning to show themselves as a very impressive home team.
Reims have won four of their last five at home, doing so in some style. They have scored 14 goals in these games – despite being held to a 0-0 draw in the other. Their recent home form shows wins over Lorient (4-2), Troyes (4-0) and Toulouse (3-0). Troyes are a similar standard to Ajaccio and their other opponents are a little better.
Ajaccio, meanwhile, were promoted last season largely thanks to their excellent defensive record but have found the going tough in the top flight, particularly after being hampered by injuries lately. They have leaked 46 times, which is one of the worst records in the league while they have not kept a shutout this year.
The Corsicans were invigorated offensively last weekend by the return of key winger Youcef Belaili, who scored in their 2-1 win over Troyes, so expect them to be more dangerous going forward.
Four of Ajaccio’s last five games have seen more than 2.5 goals while Reims’ hot scoring form at home means that they have scored three or more at home in four of their last five. Back this trend to continue.
Toulouse v Clermont Foot
Although Toulouse have lost three of their last six matches, they should still be considered one of Ligue 1’s most dangerous teams as they approach a weekend fixture with Clermont, which they should win.
TFC’s potential was amply demonstrated in midweek, when they dismantled Rodez 6-1 in the Coupe de France. They played a strong team in that game but had the luxury of easing off early as they led 3-0 after 10 minutes and 5-0 by the break. It was the perfect night for them.
Indeed, Toulouse’s attack has typically clicked brilliantly in recent weeks. They were unfortunate to lose 3-2 to Marseille and 2-1 against PSG, while they have scored at least two goals in seven of their last nine home matches.
The hosts should be licking their lips to play a Clermont side that will be deprived of at least two of their starting three centre-backs and potentially the third with Max Caufriez a doubt at the time of writing. This has left the Auvergne side vulnerable at the back, conceding two goals in three of their last four matches.
Worse for Pascal Gastien, though, is that his attack has simply failed to clock. Clermont have scored just once in six games, and while this run of fixtures has been testing, it does not bode well before a trip to an in-form and confident opponent.
Clermont appear to have neither the capacity to stop Toulouse in this game nor the ability to score a couple of goals of their own – which is what they may need in order to get a point. Look for TFC to avenge the 2-0 loss they suffered at Stade Gabriel-Montpied earlier this season.
Olympiacos v Levidiakos
Despite being superior from start to finish, Olympiacos failed to beat arch-rivals Panathinaikos last Sunday. The reigning Greek Super League champions drew 0-0 on home soil, this being their second clean sheet in a row.
Sunday’s clash is considered their easiest fixture of the remainder of the season. After the split, the teams who finished in top-6 will face each other in a 10-game mini-tournament, one which will decide the champions but also the teams that will secure European qualification ahead of next season.
With two games to go until the playoffs begin, Olympiacos (50 points) will host second-bottom Levadiakos in their bid to close the gap on leaders Panathinaikos (55) and second-placed AEK Athens (53).
Only AEK (6) have conceded fewer goals than Olympiacos (6) on home soil, while only Lamia (3) have netted fewer times on the road than Levadiakos (5) this season. The derby against Panathinaikos was the first home game they’ve dropped points in 2023. In fact, Michel’s side have won seven of their last eight home duels across all competitions.
Olympiacos also boast an impressive head-to-head record against minnows Levadiakos, having beaten their upcoming rivals 14 times in a row on home soil, all whilst securing a clean sheet in 10 of these matches. Levadiakos haven’t scored a single goal at the Georgios Karaiskakis stadium since back in 2017 and they will likely struggle to do so on Sunday too.
In fact, Levadiakos haven’t celebrated a single goal in their last four games, having netted just two goals in seven games. They don’t have what it takes to produce a surprise on Sunday against an Olympiacos side who will push to get back to winning ways ahead of their last game of the regular season – an important duel away at AEK next weekend.
Leverkusen v Hertha Berlin
Bayer Leverkusen have certainly improved under Xabi Alonso but after 19 Bundesliga games under the Spaniard, B04 sit 11th, and are 10 points behind Eintracht Frankfurt who occupy the final European spot. They come into this weekend’s game against Hertha Berlin following a 1-1 draw against Freiburg, Sardar Azmoun rescuing a late point, but have just one win in their last five.
Meanwhile after just one win in eight games, Hertha Berlin are improving of late. Wins against Borussia Monchengladbach and Augsburg in two of their last three league games has moved Hertha one point clear of the relegation zone. They’re far from safe just yet with just four points separating the bottom five teams, but their performances in 2023 under Sandro Schwarz are promising.
Dodi Lukebakio has scored two in his last three games for Hertha Berlin, who are relatively good at converting their chances. In their 2-0 win against Augsburg last weekend, Hertha converted 2 of their 3 chances created and 4 of their 6 chances against Borussia Monchengladbach two weeks ago. With Lukebakio and Marco Richter, they can cause Bayer Leverkusen problems but Alonso’s squad should have the quality to combat the small threat that Hertha pose.
Patrik Schick has returned for Bayer Leverkusen after a long layoff and provides Bayer Leverkusen with a focal point, something they struggled with when playing Adam Hlozek, Moussa Diaby and Amine Adli. Florian Wirtz is also in excellent form for Bayer Leverkusen and is averaging a goal or an assist every 86 minutes under Alonso since his return from injury in January.
Bayer Leverkusen certainly possess the better squad, but Hertha have the ability to cause problems. The visitors on Sunday have scored in 24 of their last 26 trips to Leverkusen but with Piero Hincapie and Jonathan Tah returning from suspension, that should make Leverkusen’s defence far better. Factor in the returning Schick, and both Diaby and Wirtz playing some of the best football they’ve played this season, Leverkusen winning this one is a highly likely outcome.
Lyngby v Brondby
Highflying Brøndby takes the short trip to Lyngby for this fixture against the 12th ranked team in the Superliga.
The home side are in big trouble and are currently sitting dead last in the Superliga with just one victory so far. With 13 points up to the right side of the relegation line, Lyngby seems to be playing in the Superliga on borrowed time. The Royal Blues have collected one point in their first two games after the winter break, and they are without the suspended Marcel Rømer.
Brøndby are on a two game winning streak with new head coach Jesper Sørensen, and they have played some tremendous football. The club from the outskirts of Copenhagen are creating more chances than before the World Cup. Last week, they defeated FC Midtjylland away after an impressive performance, and they are playing better than in a long time. The signings of Frederik Winther and Håkan Evjen have brought more quality into the squad, and Sørensen seems to have found ways to elevate the level of most of the players as well.
Brøndby are in excellent form going into this one, and with offensive stars Nicolai Vallys, Ohi Omoijuanfo, Daniel Wass, Simon Hedlund and Ejven in great shape, they are firm favourites.
Barcelona v Valencia
Barcelona will be boosted by their Clásico win in the Copa del Rey on Thursday night against Real Madrid at the Bernabéu, and now welcome relegation-fighting Valencia to Camp Nou as they look to bounce back from defeat to Almería in LaLiga last weekend.
They are overwhelming favourites, with good reason, but don’t get carried away thinking that this will lead to them scoring goals for fun.
Barcelona managed only two shots on target from a total of four attempts at the Bernabéu and will likely still be without Robert Lewandowski, who is struggling with a muscle injury. Gavi will also be suspended, with Ousmane Dembélé already out, meaning that Barcelona will be down to their fourth-, fifth- and sixth- choice attackers.
That means that either Ansu Fati (no goal in his last 11 LaLiga appearances) or Ferran Torres (no goal in his last 10 LaLiga appearances) will lead the line. They could be joined in attack by Raphinha, or even Sergi Roberto, who could come in on the flanks if rotations are needed.
Valencia may find themselves down towards the wrong end of the table, but that isn’t so much down to their defensive record. In fact, since Rubén Baraja’s appointment as coach, Los Che have only conceded one goal in two games, and produced a formidable defensive display in a 1-0 win against third-placed Real Sociedad at Mestalla last weekend.
Baraja could repeat with a five-man defence with Hugo Guillamón or Dmitri Foulquier dropping in, and that could make it hard for Barcelona to rack up an exciting scoreline.
Gil Vincente v Maritimo
Sunday’s action will get underway with Marítimo traveling to Barcelos and facing off against Gil Vicente. After finishing fifth and qualifying for Europe in the first time in club history, Gil suffered an exodus that would see various key players like Samuel Lino and Pedrinho as well as manager Ricardo Soares depart Barcelos, with the team beating Riga 5-1 before losing 6-1 on aggregate to AZ Alkmaar in the Europa Conference League playoffs.
Two weeks later, they defeated Marítimo 2-1 in Madeira, the third straight occasion that both teams found the back of the net in Gil-Marítimo, with Léo opening the scoring for the hosts early on and Fran Navarro equalizing for Gil after the break and scoring the go-ahead goal in the 85th minute.
They would draw Rio Ave 2-2 in the following match before losing their next four, causing Ivo Vieira to be sacked on November 2 after four months in charge, but they have nevertheless stabilized their form under new manager Daniel Sousa, opening the year with a 1-0 defeat at Boavista before beating Vitória 2-1 and Casa Pia 3-1, losing 2-1 at Paços de Ferreira, drawing 1-1 to Arouca, winning 1-0 at Famalicão and drawing 1-1 to Vizela, before closing out February with a trip to the Dragão.
Mehdi Taremi opened the scoring for Porto within four minutes, with the defending champions coming close to doubling the lead shortly after only for Pêpe to squander an open-goal chance. Navarro drew level in the 27th minute, exhibiting sensational off-the-ball movement to deceive Pepe and fire in a cross from Zé Carlos. In doing so, he became Gil Vicente’s all-time leading scorer in the Primeira Liga with 29 goals since his arrival in 2021.
His 13 goals this season are only matched by Gonçalo Ramos and only bettered by his Benfica teammate João Mário (14), and he is three goals away from matching last season’s tally. Porto went down to 10 men shortly after as João Mário saw red, whilst Mateus Uribe conceded a penalty before the break with Murilo de Souza putting Gil ahead from the spot.
Uribe would receive his marching orders in the 52nd minute, leaving Porto with 10 men and helpless as Gil achieved their first win at the Dragão in the club’s 99-year history.
They will be taking on a Marítimo side that, similarly to Gil, has had a penchant for scoring and conceding goals in their recent matches. Gil sit 14th in the table, four points above Estoril Praia and 10 above Marítimo, who, for the first time all season, sit outside the relegation zone. José Gomes’ side occupy the relegation playoff spot after defeating Santa Clara 3-1 and leapfrogging the Azorean side in the table, with the victory coming on the back of three consecutive 2-1 defeats to Chaves, Braga and Portimonense.
Whilst Marítimo’s defence will have a tough time slowing down Navarro, Gil’s defence has been leaky and could be punished by a Marítimo side that has suddenly gained life under their third manager of the season. I’m expecting plenty of goals from either side in what should be a lively fixture at Barcelos.
Rapid Vienna v RB Salzburg
The biggest game in the Bundesliga this weekend sees Salzburg travel to Hütteldorf to play Rapid Vienna in what’s set to be a sell-out encounter on Sunday evening. Rapid snapped a run of eight straight losses to the Red Bulls by picking up an impressive draw on the road in the reverse fixture back in September, and they’ll need some more of that fighting spirit this weekend, whilst being roared on by a vociferous crowd.
They’ve won their last two games whilst missing a few chances along the way, but top scorer Guido Burgstaller has often been well-placed in the box of late, and thanks to Denso Kasius and Jonas Auer Rapid offer a lot more creativity from the flanks than they used to, and with the extra motivation to get one over on Salzburg, we can see them getting at least a goal against an opposition who are perhaps not as complete as in recent seasons.
For Salzburg’s part, they’re still nine points clear, and they recovered from their European exit with a routine win last weekend, scoring twice and having two more goals ruled out for infringements. They will naturally play high-intensity attacking football, and in Noah Okafor, Junior Adamu, Nicolas Capaldo (amongst others) they have players who can find the net, even if they’re without a true leading scorer such as Adeyemi or Daka from the past few years.
They’ve conceded just ten goals all season, but seven of those have come away from home, and despite all of Salzburg’s strengths, Rapid will get chances at home against a youthful defence with Oumar Solet and Strahinja Pavlovic in the centre who are still perfecting their craft. It’s been a one-sided rivalry for a while now, but we can see Rapid bringing the fight to Salzburg this weekend, with both teams finding the net.
Liverpool v Man United
A huge derby match awaits us on Sunday as the game of the weekend takes centre stage. United make the short trip to Merseyside in a fixture they’ve not got the best of records in at Anfield. With the Premier League season playing out the way it is though this time round, they’ll fancy their chances to at least find the back of the net with the red hot form they’re currently in.
Ten Hag has his side firing on all cylinders at the moment as they continue to advance in each competition they’re in, as well as lifting the Carabao Cup last weekend! In comparison, Liverpool have had a very poor season so far by the standards they set themselves. However, after a rough run of results in the New Year and early February, they may well have turned a corner.
It’s now 34 of 35 games in which we’ve seen Liverpool find the back of the net at Anfield! A statistic that certainly enables us to lean on the selection of BTTS. Although they’ve been under par this season overall, all we are worried about here is a single goal to be scored by both sides. The home side have been boosted by the return of Diogo Jota, someone we all know can be so dangerous in attack.
With the likes of Gakpo, Salah and Nunez all also pushing for a start, I’m confident between them they’ll be able to score a goal within ninety minutes. The downfall seems to have been in the midfield area for the hosts, many in the media have pointed this out in various interviews/articles and this is something Man Utd will no doubt look to exploit.
Bajcetic, Henderson and Fabinho could be the three utilised in midfield on Sunday, however the inexperience of Bajectic and the form of the latter, as well as the remainder of the squad in this area may cause issues. Regardless of form though, this particular game always has added spice due to the rivalry and I’m anticipating an entertaining affair!
United arrive into this one in excellent form and manager Erik Ten Hag has brought back belief to a team who’ve underperformed in previous seasons. Their recent goal record has also been quite staggering; with the Red Devils bagging at least 1+ goal in twenty eight games in a row.
Marcus Rashford has been the main man in attack, with many touting him to be in the form of his life at this moment in time. He’s been a tough man to stop and that’s just one of the away sides numerous weapons. The Manchester born attacker has 17 goals to his name in his previous 20 in all competitions, an outstanding return.
Others to note are Bruno Fernandes, Casemiro, Fred, Antony and Garnacho who have also contributed multiple goals in the campaign. So, I feel whoever Ten Hag decides to go with from the off, United will have enough ammunition to score on at least one occasion here.
This game hasn’t always lived up to the hype in the last few years but I’m banking on this one being a thriller! Back BTTS with confidence and let’s hope for another winner!
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