Clermont v Lens
Sunday’s lunchtime kick off in Ligue 1 will pit Clermont against Lens in a match that has provided a surprising number of goals in the recent past. It would be surprising if that trend were to continue when the sites meet again at Stade Gabriel Montpied.
The last six between these clubs have seen both teams find the net, while each of the last three have produced over 2.5 goals, including a 2-2 draw between the clubs in the Auvergne last season. Other than head-to-head history, there is nothing that points to a high-scoring match on this occasion. Lens’ away games, for example, have produced only 25 goals this season – averaging less than two per match – while only two of their last eight Ligue 1 matches have seen three strikes or more. Clermont, meanwhile, are on a run of seven successive league fixtures that have had two goals or fewer.
The home team pulled off a major shock last weekend by winning in Toulouse, but what was most surprising about it was that they kept a cleansheet with their three first-choice centre-backs missing. A couple should return on this occasion so they should be more defensively robust. They are struggling offensively, though, with just two goals scored in this seven-match run of low-scoring matches.
There are a couple of ways to approach this game. The first is backing against Lens at 1.91. Given they have won only three of 13 road trips this season, this is viable, but Clermont have not been in good form at home, losing six of 13 this term. Both teams, meanwhile, are struggling to find the net but looking solid at the back, so another tight match should be forecast.
Club Brugge v Standard Liege
Club Brugge lost the return match in the Champions League against Benfica (5-1) earlier this week, and really didn’t stand a chance. This defeat became too much for coach Scott Parker. He was sacked after just 67 days, and assistant Rik De Mil again became interim head coach. He performed pretty well for three matches in 2021, when head coach Clement was felled by COVID. It was striking how De Mil insisted on dynamism and attacking play during his press conference. He didn’t hold back all his criticism on Scott Parker, who was defensive-minded and had players playing in unusual positions.
De Mil’s no-nonsense approach will result in an attacking line-up, with man-in-form Noa Lang on the left wing instead of as a false nine. Buchanan will definately also play higher up, where his speed can hurt Standard’s slow defence.
While things are somewhat up in the air at Club Brugge, Ronny Deila can do nothing wrong at Standard. The club will soon even start selling T-shirts of the coach – pretty unique! No one who will blame Ronny Deila should Standard ultimately fail to make the Champions Play Offs. The Norwegian coach pulled the Rouches out of the crisis and made last season’s number 14 a serious PO1 contender. If they win, they will even jump over Club Brugge in the standings. He has a fully fit squad for Sunday. They have only lost twice in 2023. Besides, the 3-0 win from their earlier clash this season will provide the necessary confidence.
We expect both teams to play with an attacking mindset. Duels between these teams always guarantee spectacle, and mostly goals. In 4 out of the last 5 clashes, 3 or more goals fell. We see this happening this time again.
Real Mallorca v Real Sociedad
Sunday’s early kick-off will involve two of LaLiga’s top three most frequent teams to be involved in duels with under 2.5 goals. Javier Aguirre’s structured and rigid set-up has helped Mallorca to pick up points by prioritising the defensive side of their game and looking to threaten either on the counter or through Vedat Muriqi’s aerial prowess from crosses or set pieces. But, they won’t even have that attacking threat this weekend, since the striker is suspended.
Home team Mallorca have stuck to under 2.5 goals in 83% of their matches at Son Moix this season, with five of their last six games at home ending with a scoreline of 1-0. Villarreal are the only visiting team to score two on the island since Real Betis did so with two penalties in the second match of the season.
Real Sociedad have struggled for goals of late too. They have not scored in 355 minutes of football and have failed to score in any of their last three matches, including against relegation-battling sides Valencia and Cádiz. Umar Sadiq remains injured, Alexander Sørloth has lost his form, with only one goal in his last six games from 2.05 xG, and Mikel Oyarzabal is yet to get back to his peak after returning from a long-term injury.
That combination of a defensively resolute team coming up against a flailing attack means that we could see a low-scoring affair, with under 2.5 goals likely on Sunday afternoon.
Midtjylland v Lyngby
Two teams under pressure meet in Herning on Sunday afternoon. The home side are in the battle of their life to finish in the top six with two games remaining, and qualify for the championship round, while Lyngby are dead last in the league.
Midtjylland must win Sunday if they want to keep their hopes of fighting for the title alive. The Wolves haven’t played great lately, and they were lucky to get a draw away against AaB last weekend. However, Midtjylland are a team that performs well under pressure, and Albert Capellas’ troops should be very motivated for Sunday’s fixture. They need three points, and the home side should push them forward towards victory for the entire game.
Lyngby picked up their second victory of the season last weekend by defeating Brøndby 1-0 at home. The victory was a huge surprise, and it could give the Royal Blues a bit of momentum. Nevertheless, Lyngby remain by far the weakest side in the league, and the victory was most likely just a fluke. They didn’t play particularly well, and could easily have lost based on xG-stats.
Midtjylland aren’t in the best form, but they play at home in front of a loud and highly supporting crowd, and they are forced to win. They shouldn’t fail this game against the worst team in the league, and we recommend Midtjylland to win @1.57 at Betfair Sportsbook.
Servette v Luzern
After a scintillating start to the season that brought five wins from the first eight matches, Servette have since only picked up three wins from their next fifteen. They don’t lose often, they’ve only lost four games all season, but they are becoming rather accustomed to drawing games and have dropped six points from their last three matches after draws with Basel, Winterthur and Zurich. That those three wins in the last fifteen have come against bottom club Winterthur and twice against seventh-placed GC will be of some concern for an SFC side who will definitely be delighted to have launched themselves up to second, but who are also going to be caught up pretty soon if they don’t add a winning edge to being difficult to beat.
Luzern weren’t in a too dissimilar position after three draws in their last four before they welcomed Basel to the swissporarena last weekend. Mario Frick’s side have been in good form recently to propel themselves into the European race but were frustrated by a narrow 1-0 defeat to Basel on Saturday. It was the first time they’d failed to score in six games and also the first time they’d drawn a blank at home since losing to Basel back in early November. A trip to Geneva will be welcome given they have the second-highest away points tally in the league and they’ll be confident of finding the net having failed to score only at YB, Sion and Zurich in their eleven away matches so far.
SFC have conceded in seven of their last nine home matches, including against goal-shy Winterthur, so their defence is likely to be breached given Luzern’s potent attack on the road. Only two clean sheets for FCL suggests that Servette can score, especially considering their two home matches without scoring came against FCB and YB. I’d go Both Teams to Score in this one.
Heerenveen v Ajax
I would strongly advise backing a seventh successive Eredivisie win for Ajax and Johnny Heitinga.
Yes, we know the challenge that Heerenveen can present the top four when they are at home, but with a few players out injured, and not enough attacking threat on the counter, I don’t see how the Frisians can really trouble even this wobbly Ajax side.
Ajax are growing together as a team now that Heitinga’s line-ups are more predictable. Edson Alvarez has gained a more important role in the side, Owen Wijndal has finally been given his opportunity to play, and Dusan Tadic is being deployed through the middle as a striker.
Domestically, Ajax have their confidence back, and the players seem focussed again now on winning silverware at the end of the campaign. Ultimately, I think Feyenoord will regain their Eredivisie crown, but Ajax are going to push them all the way, with the upcoming Klassieker likely to play a big part in the destination of the Eredivisie schaal come May.
Ajax are still grinding out the wins to keep in touch with Feyenoord at the top of the Eredivisie. I think this has away win written all over it.
Manchester United v Southampton
Manchester United are straight back into action on Sunday as their relentless schedule continues against Southampton at Old Trafford. The Red Devils bounced back with a convincing win against Spaniards, Real Betis in the Europa League on Thursday night. They ran out 4-1 winners and blew any possible hangover still kicking around after their humbling 7-0 defeat at Anfield just last weekend. Ten Hag stuck with the same XI sent out at Liverpool in a bid to restore confidence within the camp. This was no doubt achieved with their talisman in attack Marcus Rashford yet again finding the back of the net.
United look to be immediately back on track and I forsee another dominant performance here. In contrary, the Saints arrive into this having picked up all three points at home Leicester last time out in a 1-0 win. Although they remain in the relegation zone and struggling to find any kind of sustained form.
United are currently in the midst of a twenty one match unbeaten run on home sail in all competitions and have been scoring for fun during this period. Despite the blip last weekend in the chaotic game versus Liverpool, I’m backing them to be all guns blazing here. Back on home turf, the Theatre of Dreams has become a fortress once again. On this superb unbeaten run, we’ve only seen United drop points on two of these occasions, so a home win looks to be on the cards.
Marcus Rashford has been unstoppable since Christmas and there’s no stopping him right now. The Mancunian attacker has racked up an incredible eighteen goal return in his previous twenty two matches. So, there’s every reason to believe he’ll be able add to his tally against the lowly ranked Saints. Another interesting stat I came across in relation to our pick is that United have now score 2+ goals in sixteen consecutive games at Old Trafford. This has only happened four times in clubs entire history! With this in mind, I find it hard to imagine they’ll face too many problems keeping this up against their opponents.
The visitors are having an extremely poor season by their standards and have struggled on the road thoughout the campaign. It’s now nine losses out of their thirteen away trips in the Premier League this season. Now facing one of the most formidable sides in the division it’ll be a huge task to come away with anything. Southampton also have a poor record of late against their opponents and remain winless in their last thirteen encounters. They seem to be ever so reliant on their skipper, James Ward Prowse. The set piece wizard is widely regarded as one of the best central midfielders in the competition and has notched on six occasions this season. He’s also their top scorer which I believe is one of the reasons they find themselves in 19th position. The rest of the squad have contributed very little in terms of attacking output and it’s impossible pin all your hopes on one player!
Another strong home showing from United looks in the offing, back the home side to win and over 1.5 goals and you should have an excellent run for you money!
Ajaccio v Montpellier
Montpellier will be aiming to continue their recent revival on Corsica, where a victory over Ajaccio could effectively end any fears of relegation. Certainly, everything is pointing to the visiting side returning to mainland France with some kind of positive result.
Ajaccio, after all, have lost nine of their last 12 matches. The fixtures they have avoided defeat in? Against amateur opponents in the Coupe de France and versus Angers and Troyes in Ligue 1 – coincidentally the only two teams below them in the standings. Indeed, Ajaccio has been a surprisingly hospitable venue this season. Against teams presently in the league’s top 15, the Corsicans have managed to take only a single point – and that was against Lens in the second week of the season. That scoreless draw feels a long time ago now.
Montpellier, meanwhile, are a resurgent side under head coach Michel Der Zakarian. They have won three of their last four matches, with each of those victories coming against opponents of around the same grade as Ajaccio. Troyes and Angers have been seen off 1-0 and 5-0 respectively, while there was also a 3-0 success over Brest. The visiting side, meanwhile, will carry a good squad into the game. Elye Wahi is set to return to the starting XI after being benched last weekend, while Teji Savanier returned from suspension with a bang last weekend as he scored twice.
Montpellier have only won four times on the road this season, so a little caution should be exercised, yet backing them on a draw-no-bet basis looks good given their recent form.
Cremonese v Fiorentina
Despite the criticism of Vincenzo Italiano and his Fiorentina side at points this season, La Viola will probably look back on this 2022/23 season as a good one. Sitting 12th in Serie A, they’re in the Coppa Italia semi-finals and are enjoying a good European run in the Europa Conference League as well.
Their Coppa Italia opponents also host them in Serie A this weekend in Cremonese, and they have started to show signs that they might not be dead and buried at the bottom just yet.
The Grigiorossi claimed a shock 1-0 win over Roma on Matchday 24 to pick up their first win of the Serie A season, and followed that up with a spirited comeback that fell just short at Sassuolo – battling back from 2-0 down to be tied at 2-2 before a late Neroverdi winner. They have, though, shown themselves to be a real threat in attack when things click, and recently they really look like they are clicking.
Fiorentina themselves have started to find their rhythm across all competitions and are without defeat in their last three in Serie A – including a 2-1 home win against outgoing champions AC Milan last time out.
In Cremona, we’ll see two flawed teams that are both capable of more than their Serie A position suggests, and both should be able to net at the very least.
AC Horsens v Copenhagen
It is one of the bottom teams versus one of the top when Horsens take on Copenhagen at CASA Arena on Sunday afternoon. The home side are fighting to avoid relegation while the guests are chasing another championship.
The home side have been the worst team so far this spring. Horsens have lost their three Superliga matches since the winter break and conceded a staggering ten goals in the process. Last week, they lost 2-0 to AGF, and they aren’t creating any chances. It is lucky for them, that both AaB and Lyngby are looking miserable as well, as they would otherwise be in imminent danger of relegation. To make things worse, Horsens are without the former Chelsea keeper Matej Delac and Magnus Jensen.
The reigning Danish champions from Copenhagen are smelling blood. Nordsjælland are off to a bad start this spring, and Copenhagen are now just three points behind. FCK have won their previous six Superliga matches and even kept a clean sheet in all of them and scored 18 goals. For this game, they should have both Andreas Cornelius and David Khocholava back from injuries, which would strengthen them even further. They remain without Zeca and Nicolai Boilesen though.
Copenhagen are the strongest team in the league at the moment, and they are big favourites away against AC Horsens. The odds should be even lower on Copenhagen, so we are smashing an away victory here at odds 1.47 at Betfair Sportsbook.
Sevilla v Almería
We have a regional rivalry on Sunday afternoon as Sevilla and Almería, two teams from the region of Andalusia, meet in Seville. In Andalusian football terms, these clubs are at opposite ends of the spectrum, with Sevilla the most successful club in the region and Almería just happy to be back in the first division, but right now they are level on points in the table, both on 25 points and on the border of the relegation zone.
It really is a huge six-pointer and Sevilla will be glad that they have home advantage for it, because they have been strong at home lately and because Almería are the worst away team in the division. Sevilla have won six of their past seven matches at home, including a 2-0 Europa League first leg win over Fenerbahce on Thursday night. Meanwhile, just three of Almería’s 25 points have come on the road, courtesy of three draws.
The home victory really does look the most likely in this game. Even though Sevilla were thrashed 6-1 at Atlético Madrid last weekend, they have already shaken off that result by turning in a very professional and impressive performance in their Thursday night continental victory over Fenerbahce. They should now return to winning ways in the league too, seeing off an Almería side that travels terribly and that will even be without their in-form captain César de la Hoz for this one.
Rio Ave v Gil Vincente
Sunday’s action in Portugal gets underway in Vila de Conde as Rio Ave welcome Gil Vicente to the Estádio dos Arcos. Both teams enjoyed an impressive 2021/22 season – Rio Ave finishing atop the second division to secure an immediate return to the Primeira and Gil finishing fifth to secure European football for the first time in the club’s 98-year history. After a summer exodus that saw them lose key players like Samuel Lino and Pedrinho as well as manager Ricardo Soares, Gil struggled in the opening weeks of the season and found themselves hovering above the relegation zone when Ivo Vieira was sacked on November 2 after four consecutive defeats. His replacement, Daniel Sousa, has fared dramatically better, with the 38-year-old guiding them to a comfortable mid table position.
After closing out the year with a 1-0 victory against Santa Clara, Gil fell to a 1-0 defeat to Boavista before beating Vitória 2-1 and Casa Pia 3-1 and losing 2-1 to Paços de Ferreira. Sousa, who served as André Villas-Boas’ assistant coach in Russia, China, and France, led Gil to an impressive February that saw them draw 1-1 to Arouca and Vizela, beat Famalicão 1-0, and win at the Dragão for the first time in club history, with the Gilistas securing a 2-1 victory against a Porto side that would fall to 10 men in the 35th minute and 9 men in the 52nd minute. They opened March with a 2-0 victory against Marítimo and currently sit 10th in the table, two points clear of 11th-placed Rio Ave.
Since losing 4-2 at Benfica on October 8, Rio Ave have seen just one league match featuring over 2.5 goals – a 3-1 loss to Vizela on January 29. I’m expecting this one to follow the pattern – whilst Rio Ave’s goals have dried up in the second half of the season, they nevertheless have remained competitive due to their ability to keep the scoreline low and stay in the game. Gil Vicente, meanwhile, have become a force to be reckoned with on the defensive end as well – they’ve conceded more than one goal on just one occasion in 2023, and the emergence of Tomás Araújo in central defense has seen them find some much-needed stability. I’m backing this one to be a fairly low-scoring fixture in Vila de Conde.
Basel v St. Gallen
FC Basel continued their improvement under Heiko Vogel last weekend with a narrow 1-0 victory over Luzern at the swissporarena. Things are definitely looking up again at St. Jakob-Park with that victory following on from a cup triumph away to St. Gallen although their flaws were showcased again in the 2-2 draw with Slovan Bratislava in the UECL in midweek. Any kind of European football next season looked like it was hanging in the balance before club legend Alexander Frei was relieved of his duties in early February, now there is a real shot of FCB claiming second place and a UEFA Champions League spot with only five points between the 20-times Swiss champion and Servette FC. Cutting that gap is certainly on the agenda, but first FCB can move level with St. Gallen in third if they can get the better of them again on Sunday afternoon.
St. Gallen continue to be erratic and were held to a home draw by Grasshoppers in their last outing. Only two wins from their last seven has opened the door for the teams around them in the European race and, more specifically, it has allowed Luzern and Basel the opportunity to move level this weekend and threaten to bump them from the reckoning altogether if they don’t start turning draws into wins. FCSG do have a strong record on their travels to St. Jakob-Park, they’ve lost only two of their last ten and won four of those matches. On the flip side of that, they’ve yet to better FCB in any of the last five matches home or away, including that extra-time cup defeat just a week and a half ago.
FCSG’s big problem has been conceding goals, especially away from home. They score over two goals per away game but also concede over two as well, simultaneously leading the way for both goals scored and conceded in the away table. FCB have only failed to score once at home this season and their clean sheet against Luzern was the first in the league since November against the same opponent, so they still have plenty of vulnerability about them defensively, something that was clear to see in Thursday’s draw with Slovan. All three matches this season and the last five in a row between these two have featured Both Teams to Score. That is my pick here.
LASK v RB Salzburg
There may be little riding directly on this game – league leaders Salzburg are nine points clear at the summit while LASK are already assured of a place in the Championship Round ahead of the split later this month – but this will still be a fiercely contested clash between two of Austrian football’s biggest clubs. LASK have home advantage – at their state-of-the-art, almost €100 million new stadium – but that is unlikely to matter to the Red Bulls, who have won their last nine Bundesliga away matches on the bounce.
The length of the injury lists in the two camps is relatively similar: LASK are without defenders Yannis Letard and Jan Boller and forward Tobias Anselm, who are all out with cruciate ligament injuries, while Salzburg are missing striker Fernando and attacking midfielder Luka Sucic. The Croat sustained a knee injury without any involvement from an opposition player in the game against Rapid last weekend and subsequently required surgery, meaning he will not play again before the season is out.
Salzburg have not only won nine Bundesliga away games in a row, which is an ongoing club record and only three away from the league record for consecutive away wins jointly set by Austria Vienna in 1985 and LASK in 2020 (12); they have also put together a nine-match unbeaten run against the Linzers (W7 D2) which stretches back more than three years. We would therefore recommend backing the Red Bulls to come out on top in this one and take their run of unbeaten games against LASK into double figures.
Rapid Vienna v WSG Tirol
With both teams still gunning for a place in the Championship Round – Rapid currently sit in fourth spot on 30 points, with WSG Tirol two points behind in sixth place – this looks like one of the most enticing match-ups of the weekend. But Rapid will certainly be the favourites heading into this clash: the record champions will have the vociferous support of the Allianz Stadion behind them and have won their last seven matches against WSG – their longest ongoing winning streak against any current Bundesliga side.
The Hütteldorf outfit will be without a couple of their attacking players: forwards Oliver Strunz, who scored two goals in the recent victory over Altach, and Ferdy Druijf are missing with muscular injuries, while left-back Jonas Auer and defensive midfielder Aleksa Pejic are suspended. But their Tyrolean visitors also have some important absentees to contend with: central defenders Osarenren Okungbowa and Felix Bacher will miss out through a hamstring problem and suspension respectively, while midfield metronome Bror Blume has been sidelined for the past fortnight with an ankle ligament injury.
Rapid are on the better run of form heading into this game, having lost only two league games – to the top two of Salzburg and Sturm Graz – since mid-October. WSG Tirol, meanwhile, seem to have dropped off at the worst-possible time: Thomas Silberberger’s men are now winless in three games for the first time since early September. That all makes the hosts the favourites in our eyes and so we’re backing them to extend their winning run against WSG to eight games.
Altach v Ried
While much of the focus is understandably on which teams can squeeze into the top six by the time the Bundesliga splits and the points are divided in half, that should not detract from another hugely important battle that is set to take place at the foot of the table this weekend: Ried (12th place, 14 points) face a long trip west to take on fellow strugglers Altach (11th place, 16 points) in a relegation six-pointer between the bottom two teams.
The Vorarlbergers, who have been regular relegation battlers in recent seasons, have a number of players unavailable. Left-back Nosa Iyobosa Edokpolor is suspended after accumulating five bookings, while right winger Jurica Jurcec is out with a muscle strain. Ried have two players who regularly form part of the spine of their team suspended for this crunch clash: centre-back David Ungar is suspended until early April, while central midfielder Michael Martin must serve a one-game ban. Goalkeeper Samuel Sahin-Radlinger, defensive midfielder Marcel Ziegl and attacking midfielder Denizcan Cosgun are also out due to injury.
With Altach and Ried winless in seven and eight Bundesliga matches respectively, calling a match result outcome in this one seems like an impossible task. That makes us tempted to back under 2.5 goals instead. After all, this is a match between the two worst strike forces in the division: Altach (20 goals, joint second-worst) have scored two goals across their last four home games, while Ried (14 goals, worst) have mustered just one single goal across their past four away matches.
Monaco v Reims
Monaco may be Ligue 1’s second top scorers behind PSG, but look for them to experience a frustrating evening when they host Reims on Sunday.
The home side do boast a strong scoring record. They have netted at least twice in eight of their 11 Ligue 1 matches since the World Cup, including a 2-2 draw against Troyes last weekend in a match they should have won. It was the continuation of a mini-stumble that Philippe Clement’s side have had, which has seen them go three matches in all competitions without winning.
Monaco’s confidence will be tested against Reims, the surprise side who have the longest undefeated run in Europe’s Big 5 leagues. Indeed, the odds on Monaco to win this game at 1.8 seem rather disrespectful to Will Still’s side, who have not lost in Ligue 1 since a 3-0 September home defeat against their Sunday opponents.
Still was not in charge at that point and he has made them far more efficient at both ends of the field – but especially in defence and especially away from home. Reims have not conceded in their last five league matches, while they have only conceded three times on the road since the English-Belgian was appointed in the early autumn. Under Still, Reims’ eight away games have produced just seven goals, including four scoreless draws.
Given the defensive organisation of the visiting side, expecting a glut of goals in this match would simply be wrong, despite Monaco’s offensive qualities, and a tight fixture is probable. That is in keeping with the history of these teams. Since Reims returned to Ligue 1 in 2018, six of nine have seen under 2.5 goals and only one has seen four.
Werder Bremen v Bayer Leverkusen
Bayer Leverkusen travel to Werder Bremen on Sunday afternoon after being involved in Europa League action on Thursday night. Unbeaten in their last four across all competitions with three wins and a draw, Xabi Alonso will be hoping his side can continue their form with Die Werkself just eight points off the final European spot with 11 games remaining.
Although a difficult trip to Hungary in the coming week, don’t expect Alonso to rotate too much with his side already 2-0 up against Ferencvaros with qualification for the Europa League still possible. That would mean a front three of Florian Wirtz, Moussa Diaby and either Sardar Azmoun or Adam Hlozek acting as the focal point, with Patrik Schick again being an option from the bench.
Scoring goals isn’t something that Bayer Leverkusen struggles with. They’ve scored in their last seven games across all competitions but whilst strong in attack, they do have defensive issues with Lukas Hradecky being the centre of their problems – the Finnish ‘keeper has struggled this season.
Although a clean sheet against Ferencvaros on Thursday, Bayer Leverkusen conceded in eight successive games prior to Thursday’s win. And Werder Bremen will be looking to exploit their defensive frailties. With 4 goals in 8 Bundesliga games in 2023, Niclas Fullkrug is continuing his excellent form and has scored 14 in the league this season. Werder Bremen have scored in 10 of their last 12 Bundesliga games and with Fullkrug and Marvin Ducksch, who have created an excellent partnership, in the team, goals can be expected.
Only two teams have conceded more than Werder Bremen’s 43 in the Bundesliga this season and so you would have to fancy Bayer Leverkusen to score. And because of B04’s defensive problems, expect Bremen to test Hradecky. Both Teams to Score offers excellent value.
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