Cambridge United v Forest Green Rovers
Cambridge United need to win and see Morecambe and Milton Keynes Dons fail to win to achieve survival in League One this season.
The U’s missed an opportunity to put themselves in a very strong position when they were beaten 1-0 at Burton Albion on Wednesday evening. That said, it was a promising performance where they conceded a messy goal from outside the box and on the whole had the better of the chances at the Pirelli Stadium. Sam Smith, who has scored six goals in eight, was heavily involved once again and had six shots in the match.
Hosting Forest Green Rovers, who are 14 points adrift of 23rd place at the foot of the table, is a dream final day meeting for the U’s and Duncan Ferguson’s side will be looking forward to the end of season curtain. Since December 17th, Rovers have picked up just seven points from 24 league games, posting a points per game of just 0.29.
Cambridge have won two of their last three home games and should produce another spirited display. Lloyd Jones and Shilow Tracey are doubts for the hosts, but one last chance to oppose the Green in League One is too good to refuse.
Exeter City v Morecambe
There is enormous value in backing Morecambe to take something from their trip to Exeter City on Sunday.
The Grecians have lost six on the bounce, scoring just three in that period, and will be without Kevin McDonald and possibly Archie Collins and Sam Nombe too. They have been a trio that have been crucial to the team’s success this season when available.
In the 17 games since key attacking cog Jevani Brown has been absent for off-pitch reasons, City have picked up just 15 points at 0.88 PPG.
The Shrimps have won three in a row and crucially Cole Stockton is back to his old self. The 29-year-old scored 26 goals last season, has only just reached double figures this term, but by notching five goals in his last three games.
Motivation seems to have been an issue for the vast majority of the campaign after a transfer failed to materialise, but it has not been a problem in recent weeks and the Shrimps’ attacking threat has increased tenfold as a result.
Spirits will be high after last weekend’s remarkable 3-2 win at home to Lincoln City despite heading into the 50th minute 2-0 down.
A win will be enough for Morecambe to stay up if MK Dons do not win at Burton.
Burton Albion v MK Dons
MK Dons were mentally safe from relegation last weekend when they were leading Barnsley 4-1 at Stadium MK, a result that would have meant they would only have to avoid a huge goal difference overhaul to secure survival.
Mark Jackson is a very inexperienced manager to try and refocus the squad after they let the game slip to a 4-4 draw.
Burton Albion showed no mercy in beating Cambridge 1-0 in midweek, and Dino Maamria remains highly motivated in leading the side that rank ninth since he took over in early September. The mood at the club is arguably the highest in the league outside of those right at the top end.
The Dons have seen both teams score in five of seven and have not kept a clean sheet in that period. There is probably a bit of value on the hosts, but it was not a convincing display in midweek against the U’s and therefore a goals angle seems like the most sensible way into this one.
Final day tends to be a goal-heavy gameweek and the Brewers’ freedom could facilitate a cracker for the neutral.
Oxford United v Accrington Stanley
Suddenly everything is looking up again at Oxford United under Liam Manning, despite only ending a 17-game winless run last week.
The U’s are effectively safe due to their goal difference and in the same way Accrington Stanley are already relegated. Accy have picked up just seven points from their last 13 matches, at 0.54 PPG, and have accepted relegation.
Injuries have really hurt them this season and recruitment has not been as fruitful as it has been in previous years, they have not overperformed to the same extent. Players’ futures are uncertain and John Coleman has said that he has mostly made his mind up on that matter.
There may not be a single person who feels better about Stanley’s prospects of getting a result this weekend after watching Coleman’s pre-match press conference, and his demeanour appears very unlikely to motivate the squad this weekend.
Oxford are in great nick after beating Cheltenham Town 4-0 and Forest Green Rovers 3-0 to make it three from three to end the campaign.
If the U’s score early this could be a long afternoon for Accy, who may look like a very different side in League Two next season.
Sheffield Wednesday v Derby County
The Owls and the Rams could get very familiar with each other over these next couple of weeks.
Sheffield Wednesday learned just last weekend that their chances of automatic promotion were out of reach, and they must now settle for the play-offs. It is hard on Darren Moore’s team who have had an exceptional campaign. 93 points breaks the record for third place in the third tier, and could still yet be 96 points, with Wednesday falling the victims of having three exceptional teams in a league with just two automatic spots.
The Owls simply have to go again in the play-offs, where they will be fancied to progress to the final regardless of who they face. Barnsley are the only team to beat Sheffield Wednesday in a Hillsborough home game this season, a formidable home record built around the immense quality of the team. Lee Gregory will hope to be fit to partner Michael Smith up top in a 3-4-1-2, though Wednesday did thankfully have Josh Windass return to the matchday squad at Shrewsbury Town.
Barry Bannan is always marked as the influential man in the middle, with Callum Paterson playing more advanced and Will Vaulks providing the support alongside him. Marvin Johnson is the regular at left-wing-back. Dennis Adeniran features on the right when Liam Palmer is deployed into the back three.
Derby County could be heading back to Hillsborough not long after this final day trip. The Rams are in prime position to secure the final play-off spot as it stands, sitting sixth and two points ahead of challengers Peterborough United, who themselves have an equally tough final day test away at Barnsley. Paul Warne’s side are on a six-game unbeaten run split evenly between wins and draws, and still look to their two main forwards as the key men for goals.
James Collins and David McGoldrick have scored all of Derby’s goals since the beginning of April. The latter is the particular star man. Deployed in either attacking midfield or up top, 35-year-old McGoldrick has had a stellar season with 22 goals and five assists in League One, notching a further three goals in cup competitions.
McGoldrick is the key figure in the Derby 3-4-2-1, but by no means the only figure. Derby will hope to be able to call upon the attacking and creative threat that Collins, Conor Hourihane, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, Louie Sibley, Haydon Roberts and Jason Knight can all provide.
One of the Sky picks for League One’s final day, Sheffield Wednesday v Derby County offers an enthralling affair between two of the division’s most well-known sides and a potential pre-cursor to their upcoming play-off match.
The Owls have been near unstoppable on home soil this season, but will know that opponents Derby may require a result in order to secure a play-off place ahead of Peterborough United. The way this game goes could well all depend on the situation over at Oakwell. Expect an entertaining clash nonetheless.
Silkeborg v OB
Motivation, or lack hereof, is the keyword for this match. The home side missed their main goal Thursday when they failed to reach the cup final, and have nothing left to play for in the league. OB on the other hand are fighting to qualify for European football.
Silkeborg are coming of a rough match Thursday evening. In the return leg of the cup final, they lost 4-1 away to 12th placed AaB and missed out on qualifying for the cup final. Silkeborg have now gone six games in a row without winning, and only won one of their previous ten matches across the league and cup. The awful form has cost them the chance of European football, and with the loss in the cup semi-final, the red and whites seem to be on the beach already. To make things worse, Silkeborg are without the injured Gustav Dahl, Lukas Engel, Joel Felix, Mads Kaalund and Andreas Oggesen.
OB are in a quite different situation. The team from the birthplace of HC Andersen are undefeated in their last four matches, and they are just five points behind FC Midtjylland now. OB are thus still in the hunt for European football, but they need to win Sunday. OB have two draws in a row, but they have played good football, and should have won last week against Horsens. OB are without reserve players Kenneth Zohore, Alassana Manneh and Agon Muccoli.
We expect OB to be more motivated here, and if that isn’t enough, Silkeborg’s injury ravished squad should also have tired legs after their cup match Thursday. With great value odds of 1.67 for OB to win or draw, we’re backing the double chance option here.
Lyngby v Midtjylland
The home side are last in the relegation round, while the guests are leading. It is thus bottom versus top, and both sides need to win to achieve their goals.
Lyngby’s hope for survival has suffered severely over the past two weeks. A great run at the start of the spring saw them come close to escaping the relegation zone, but losing away to AaB last week cost them dearly. They are now six points behind with just five games left to play, and their form isn’t good. They have just one victory in their previous six games, and they are without top scorer Alfred Finnbogason.
Midtjylland are undefeated with head coach Thomas Thomasberg on the sideline. Since he replaced Albert Capellas, they have gathered 13 out of 15 possible points, and the performances have improved significantly as well. Last week, they trashed Silkeborg 3-0 at home, and they have only conceded two goals in the last five matches.
Young starlet Gustav Isakssen has scored four goals in the last three matches, and he is easily the most exciting player in the Superliga these days. With his current form, he is bound to make a major transfer in the summer.
Midtjylland are in tremendous form and with Isakssen playing the football of his life, we expect their winning streak to continue. Odds 1.91 on Midtjylland to win represent great value.
Austria Klagenfurt v LASK Linz
LASK look to make it back to back wins over Austria Klagenfurt, having ruthlessly seen them off with a 4-0 win on home turf a week ago.
As impressive as it is to see overachievers Klagenfurt in the top six, they’ve struggled to get points on the board since the league split, and look likely to end up sixth, despite the teams ahead of them failing to pull away. Klagenfurt have lost 4 of 5 in the Championship Round, and their only win came on the road against 5th placed Austria Vienna.
In fact they have been poorer in front of their home fans this season than they have away, losing 6 of their last 8 at the 28 Black Arena. Having failed to score 3 times in their last 5 games, defender Kosmas Gkezos was their unlikely hero in their one victory, but relying on him to get the goals (having sold top scorer Markus Pink recently) is highly unlikely to pay off very often.
Didi Kühbauer’s LASK team may have missed out on the Cup final, but they’ve quietly gone about building a very strong run which has seen them lose in the league only to Salzburg since early November. A few too many draws helped that run to go under the radar, but in the top six group they have turned a corner, winning 3 of their last 4 against tougher opposition.
They’ve made their home a fortress, but they’ve also been a great side on the road in recent seasons, and with Keito Nakamura in the groove for goals and assists, Robert Zulj starting to look very reliable, and Peter Michorl back near his best in terms of chance creation, LASK should prove too strong again for a team that they brushed aside a few days ago.
Nantes v Strasbourg
Nantes’ season is turning into a nightmare, with last weekend’s Coupe de France finalists sliding into the relegation zone in midweek as they suffered a 2-0 home defeat against local rivals Brest. Head coach Antoine Kombouare remains bullish that his side have what it takes to avoid relegation, but they will need to dramatically improve their recent form if they are to do so. Against a Strasbourg team in good touch, victory appears unlikely.
Nantes are in an alarming state, having earned only four league victories all season at home. The last of these was three months ago against Lorient. Since then, they have endured a 10-man winless run in the league, including a 2-2 draw against a terrible Troyes side in their last home game. Kombouare is doing his best to shake his side – even branding them publicly “s**t” after a recent fixture – while some players have spoken out over the lack of heart shown by their team-mates. This is not a club in a good place.
Strasbourg, meanwhile, are upwardly mobile under the wily Frederic Antonetti. Although they have lost three of their last five, two of these were away from home against members of the top four. They were also unlucky to lose 2-1 to Lyon last weekend, having generated a higher xG than their opponents.
Racing are undefeated in their last three against Nantes, who are a team coming into this match both low in energy and morale following a chastening period. Don’t expect the hosts to show a big improvement in this game.
Lorient v Brest
The Breton derby between Lorient and Brest is likely to be a close-fought game with goals at a premium.
Lorient might have recorded a spectacular 3-1 win against PSG last weekend but their opponents played into their hands in that match. Regis Le Bris’ side are best when allowed to counterattack, as they were in the capital, while an early red card for Achraf Hakimi simply gave them more space to operate. They are unlikely to be afforded such a luxury in this encounter against Brest.
Their neighbours have been thriving lately because of a series of close-fought matches. Eric Roy has tightened this team right up since taking charge in early January, confounding his critics by picking up 25 points in 18 matches. Brest have specialised in tight games over this period, with none of their last five producing more than two goals.
Similarly, Lorient’s home matches lately have been decided by small margins. Les Merlus’ last six home fixtures have produced just six goals in total – three of them coming in an easy win over bottom side Ajaccio. This is liable to be a good deal more complicated against a side that would see even a point as a boost in its battle against relegation. They will come with a defensive mindset and seek to profit from set pieces.
Historically, this is not a game that produces many goals either. Only one of the last four matches between these times in Lorient has produced more than two goals. Expect that pattern to continue on Sunday.
Malmo v AIK
Malmö have started the season like a house on fire, completely demolishing everything in their way to win all 8 matches, scoring 17 goals in the process. 13 of those have come in the last three fixtures and currently they are the team to beat, with no other side able to match them. They both have the strongest squad in the league, and combined with the tactical nous of Henrik Rydström, make for a real powerhouse again. A fluid system which plays to the strengths of the profiles on the pitch, they manage to squeeze as many attacking players in the starting XI as possible with wingers as full-backs.
Stefano Vecchia has been in scintillating form so far, but when he was being rested in midweek, the exciting Nanasi took full advantage and bagged a hat trick. The two can certainly start together and that is looking a real possibility here – the strength in depth in the squad is simply astounding for an Allsvenskan side. Even when top scorer Isak Thelin doesn’t get on the scoresheet, like in midweek versus Varberg, they are able to win 6-0.
AIK, conversely, park themselves at the other end of the table after a miserable beginning to 2023. There were positive signs in pre-season that new manager Andreas Brännström would implement something exciting and more forward-thinking than in recent years, but that has fallen flat since the start of the league. Disarray in the squad, a lack of balance, and a difficulty in converting their chances mean they have only won one match to date. They struggle to create dangerous opportunities and the 3-5-2 being utilised may be a bit too restrictive at times. The continued injury and fitness issues for John Guidetti haven’t helped, and star signing Viktor Fischer looks out of place and out of sorts.
While AIK’s games have been fairly low-scoring due to a cautious approach, I expect Malmö to run them over here and win by at least a couple of goals – there is a real gulf in quality, stability and form.
GAIS v Trelleborg
These two sides are at opposite ends of the Superettan table but both, for different reasons, have brought a fair bit of entertainment in the opening five matches of the 2023 campaign.
Göteborgs Atlet-och Idrottssallskap (GAIS), reached the Swedish second-tier last season as Ettan Sodra champions. Following promotion last season, under the management of Fredrik Holmberg, they have started this season with three victories, a draw and a defeat.
The hosts’ most recent outing was a 2-1 defeat away to Helsingborg, who were relegated from the Allsvenskan last season but had been pointless ahead of that match. GAIS’ five matches have been entertaining and the nine goals they have scored so far this season is only bettered by the current league leaders, Osters.
Trelleborg come into this on the back of a 4-3 defeat at home to just relegated but inconsistent GIF Sundsvall in their most recent outing, last weekend. The visitors have suffered four defeats in their opening five matches as they begin this weekend’s round of fixtures in the bottom-half of the table.
The visitors have slightly underperformed, according to underlying data such as the expected goals and expected points. That said, though, GAIS have the best xG record in the entire division.
Given that, GAIS remain the favourites for this one, especially with their home advantage, but it could well be a high-scoring and entertaining encounter.
Randers v Brondby
Both teams are in dire need of a victory here, so this fixture should be an interesting one. The home side are currently three points behind the fourth place and European football, while Brøndby are seven points away, sitting in sixth.
Last week, Randers head coach Rasmus Bertelsen lost his first match as the boss. Now, we’ll see if he can pick his troops up and get them back to their winning ways. It is only a few weeks ago since Randers demolished Brøndby 4-0 away, and despite the inexperience of Bertelsen, the home side have no reason not to believe they can get another great result here.
Brøndby are coming off an impressive 1-0 victory away against arch rivals FC Copenhagen. However, while the result was definitely impressive, the performance was less so. The Yellow-Blues were lucky to get away with the victory, and the problems they had before the derby are still in place. They still have a poor quality coach, no support from the fans who are protesting the ownership, and a severe lack of any attacking plans. To make things worse, Brøndby continue to be without playmaker Mathias Greve due to an injury.
Randers should be able to pick up the victory against a chaotic Brøndby team. However, there are question marks regarding both teams, so we pick the cautious approach here, and recommend backing Randers Draw No Bet.
Aalesund v Haugesund
It has been a shocking start to the season for Aalesund. They sit rock bottom of the Eliteserien table with 5 defeats in 5 games and they haven’t even scored a single goal. A midweek loss 0-3 away to Molde has cost manager Lars Arne Nilsen his job. His style was very pragmatic, not very entertaining so when results are bad, he will always come under fire. Aalesund have not yet appointed a successor, but a reaction is expected from the players in what is already dubbed a ‘6 pointer’ between two teams expected to struggle this season. In a home fixture like this, they simply must go for it and be attacking.
Haugesund have four points on the board after a fortunate draw 0-0 vs Sarpsborg last week. They were totally outplayed but some poor finishing and excellent goalkeeping from Egil Selvik managed to earn them a draw. Haugesund have the worst average xGA in the Eliteserien (2.05) and have lost both away games 0-3 so far. This is clearly a team with big defensive issues, but they did at least beat Ham Kam 3-2 a couple of weeks ago. These types of fixtures against fellow strugglers are going to be so important.
When two poor teams face each other in this scenario the match often opens up. Both will feel like they have to ‘go for it’ especially Aalesund who are pointless and goalless thus far. I think both teams to score is a good bet at 1.75. Aalesund have underachieved their xG by 3.60 this season and are now facing a terrible defence. We know of Aalesund’s own struggles at the back, so I don’t think it’s asking too much for at least one goal at either end.
Viking v Strømsgodset
Heading into the season there were a lot of question marks surrounding Viking. We didn’t know which version of them would show up. They have been a real pleasant surprise though and have 7 points after 4 games. Last week, they claimed a brilliant morale boosting 7-3 victory vs Ham Kam. They produced an amazing second half to blitz their opponents. Viking have won both home games thus far and the fans are really getting behind them at this stadium. Viking have strong underlying metrics at both ends of the field Their average xG per game is 1.78 which is the 4th best of any team. At the other end of the field their xGA average of 1.27 ranks 5th best.
There were also question marks surrounding Strømsgodset heading into this campaign. They were the only team in the Eliteserien to change their manager during the winter. Jorgen Isnes came in from OBOS Ligaen club KFUM Oslo. He started with a 1-0 victory vs Aalesund but since then things have gone wrong. Godset have lost three straight games starting with a 3-4 loss at Lillestrøm which was a bitter body blow. The have now failed to score in any of their last two games and are struggling to adapt to the new 3-4-3 formation the coach has employed.
Viking just look much better right now. They are really firing and should be full of confidence after winning 7-3 last week. In Lars Jorgen Salvesen and Nic D’Agostino they have two very physical forwards who can cause all sorts of problems. Meanwhile, at the other end of the field the centre back pairing of Gianni Stensness and David Brekalo looks solid as a rock. Taking Viking to win straight on the nose at 1.50 looks like the best bet of the round in the Eliteserien.
Lyon v Montpellier
Five of the last seven matches between Lyon and Montpellier have produced over 2.5 goals, and that run is likely to continue when the sides meet in the Rhone Valley on Sunday.
Lyon find themselves still chasing European football, with uncertainty over Toulouse’s continental participation next season meaning that sixth place in Ligue 1 could be sufficient to take a spot in the Conference League. OL are certainly in the type of form that suggests they are capable of moving up one or even two spots from their present position in seventh. Laurent Blanc’s side have won four of their last six.
OL’s improvement has come about largely because of their good attacking work. Up to full strength going forward, they have scored at least two goals in three of their last four matches, with the return of Alexandre Lacazette from injury doing them a world of good in this regard. Defensively, though, they are not to be trusted. Despite Anthony Lopes being in great form in goal, they have kept only two clean sheets in their last 12.
Montpellier may be without suspended playmaker Teji Savanier, but they showed last weekend by winning 4-0 in Monaco that they are more than capable of providing a threat without him. Meanwhile, they might have kept back-to-back clean sheets against Rennes and Monaco, but they are certainly no defensive specialists.
While backing Lyon is a risky business due to their capacity to throw in a random poor performance, everything here points to a game that provides at least three goals.
Borussia Dortmund v Wolfsburg
Borussia Dortmund could find themselves four points behind leaders Bayern Munich by the time they host Wolfsburg on Sunday, should their Bundesliga rivals beat Werder Bremen on Saturday evening. After last weekend’s performance at Bochum, Edin Terzic will be demanding a huge improvement but they face a revamped Wolfsburg side under Niko Kovac.
Sebastien Haller has just one goal in his last 347 minutes for Borussia Dortmund and Terzic has a big call to make on whether he starts the Ivorian, or Youssoufa Moukoko who has shone when replacing Haller in previous games. One positive of late is the improvement of Donyell Malen, who has scored five and created one in his last six games, whilst Karim Adeyemi has eight goal contributions (five goals, three assists) in his last eight games – the duo have improved dramatically.
But Dortmund’s attack face Wolfsburg and Koen Casteels, who have kept a joint league best of 12 clean sheets this season. The Belgian stopper and the performances of Sebastiaan Bornauw and Maxence Lacroix makes this VfL team difficult to penetrate.
Wolfsburg have scored eight in their last two Bundesliga games against Bochum and Mainz but Dortmund are far stronger at home, losing just one of their 18 games across all competitions at the Westfalenstadion this season. Dortmund also play three of their last four Bundesliga games at home, which could work in their favour as they search for the first Bundesliga title since 2012. However, BVB will be made to work for this one, and I can’t see more than three goals being scored.
Halmstads v BK Hacken
Halmstad have been a real mixed bag so far, notching a couple of victories against Stockholm powerhouses AIK and Djurgården, but also suffering heavy defeats in their other four matches. Losing 2-0 to Brommapojkarna was a tough blow in what is looking like being a feisty battle to avoid relegation, followed by a 6-1 battering at the feet of Elfsborg. The Borås side is mightily exciting, but Halmstad were helpless in preventing them from creating dangerous chances – an xG figure of 6.27 against is simply not acceptable at any level.
There are real issues with the defence, with Andreas Johansson way past his peak and Gabriel Wallentin inexperienced at this level, and overall the team structure doesn’t protect the backline. A 4-4-2 can work if implemented correctly, but in this team it is not robust enough to protect central penetration. Magnus Haglund is an old-school manager and it remains to be seen if he makes any significant changes, but they may be needed for Halmstad to stand a chance of staying up. The recent omission of starlet Kazper Karlsson, who provides plenty of central quality, from the starting lineup is odd, too.
Häcken have begun this season like they finished the last one, winning all but one match so far placing them second in the division. They have readjusted well to player departures and look as strong as ever, even with some current injuries to starters. The first half against Djurgården was lacklustre, but in the second, Lars Larsen caught fire and turned the game on its head.
Samuel Gustafson is a real gem, too, controlling matches from his central midfield position. What was a losing result at half-time was turned into a dominant 4-1 victory, completely steamrolling a ragged Djurgården side in that second period. It looks like only Malmö will be able to rival this bolldozer for the league title, and it could be a battle for the ages.
Halmstad are much better at home than away, but even then, will be powerless to withstand Häcken’s onslaught.
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