Roma v Sassuolo
Sassuolo travel to the capital hoping to claim another big result after beating both AC Milan and Atalanta in recent weeks, but there aren’t many teams in Europe who are as strong as Roma at home in 2023, most recently seen in their wins over Juventus and then Real Sociedad in the Europa League.
The Giallorossi are a hard side to get the better of at the Olimpico, and most of that is down to how Jose Mourinho has made them as compact as anybody at the back, and they don’t give their opponents too much of a sniff at their goal.
Although Domenico Berardi is back for Sassuolo after suspension and will be looking to threaten Roma, Mourinho’s men have probably built up enough trust defensively to suggest that they won’t be beaten, and almost definitely not if they manage to score as it’s hard to see them conceding more than once at home.
At the other end, they’ve not always been quite as sharp as they might have hoped, though Tammy Abraham is hitting a bit of form in terms of goal involvements, if not purely with goals of his own. For this, a Roma win to nil or a low-scoring draw are probably the ways to go.
Volos v PAOK
PAOK paid for their lack of a clinical touch in front of goal a couple of weeks ago and drew 0-0 away at Giannina. However, Razvan Lucescu’s side bounce back in the next two games and grabbed two convincing wins against minnows Ionikos and Lamia. In those two duels, PAOK scored a total of 11 goals, looking improved in attack, with as many as nine different players getting their names on the scoresheet.
On Sunday, PAOK will try to grab the victory, potentially overtake Olympiacos and head into the playoffs in third position in the event the reigning Greek Super League champions drop points away at leaders AEK Athens on the same day. PAOK have won eight of their last 10 games against Volos. They beat their upcoming rivals 3-0 back in November and they are expected to double their victories on Sunday.
Volos have already secured a playoff spot. They are currently sitting in fifth, two points ahead of sixth-placed Aris, with whom they will compete for European qualification. They may have grabbed 11 victories from 25 games so far, but they struggle whenever they face a Big-4 (Olympiacos, Panathinaikos, AEK and PAOK) side. In fact, they were thrashed in all of their four home duels against a Big-4 team so far this season, conceding a total of 15 goals and scoring just one.
Only one team have conceded more home goals than Volos (24) this season. Their 12 home duels featured a total of 41 goals, which means roughly 3.4 goals per match. More than 5,000 PAOK fans will make the two-hour trip to Volos in their bid to push their team to the win. A total of 27 goals have been scored in the last six games between the two teams, which means that we should expect at least over 1.5 goals to be scored in Sunday’s duel.
Atromitos v Panathinaikos
A drop in form saw Panathinaikos lose three games in less than two weeks back in January, but Ivan Jovanovic’s men seem to have bounced back, as they have registered four wins in the last five games. In fact, they only dropped points in the derby away at Olympiacos in late February. The Greek Super League reigning champions were the better team on that day, but Panathinaikos managed to keep their fourth clean sheet in five games.
Indeed, Jovanovic’s team managed to improve by going back to basics and making sure that they are solid at the back, especially away from home. No team have conceded fewer times than Panathinaikos on the road this season, as they have allowed just six goals in 12 games. After beating Atromitos in a rescheduled game that took place midweek, AEK Athens are now top of the table. Yet, they face third-placed Olympiacos on Sunday and Panathinaikos will want to take advantage of a potential AEK slip to move back to the top of the table.
However, to do so they have to break down a solid Atromitos defence. AEK are the team with the most goals scored on the road this season (22), but they struggled to penetrate a compact Atromitos back-four on Wednesday. Chris Coleman’s side are particularly solid on home soil, where they have allowed in just eight goals in 12 games this season. In fact, no team (apart from the Big-4) have conceded fewer home goals than Atromitos.
This means that Saturday’s duel will be one between the best away defence in the league and one of the finest home defences in Greece. Panathinaikos’ lack of quality finishers has seen them struggle to find the back of the net this season, in which they score just 1.44 goals per game. Atromitos score just one goal per home games, which means that we shouldn’t expect and open duel on Sunday. Meanwhile, it has to be noted that only six of the last 38 games between these two teams have ended with over 2.5 goals scored.
Panaitolikos v Lamia
Heading into the Greek Super League playoffs, the top-six teams will play a mini-league to compete for the title and European qualification. Yet, neither Panaitolikos nor Lamia will be among these six sides. These two teams will be part of the group of teams which will finish seventh through 14th and will have their own playoffs to decide who is relegated.
The two teams who will finish bottom and second-bottom will drop down to the second division, but Panaitolikos are not expected to be one of them. Sitting comfortably 13 points above the relegation zone, Panaitolikos have practically nothing to play for in the remainder of the season. After impressing in the first stretch of the season, Panaitolikos have been struggling in 2023. In fact, they have scored just eight goals in 12 games after the World Cup break.
Only four teams have scored fewer home goals than Panaitolikos (9 in 12 games) this season. In addition, they have managed just four goals in their last 11 games on home soil. On Sunday they will face a team which is in need of points in their bid to avoid relegation. Lamia are currently just one point ahead of the relegation zone, but they have improved lately, grabbing one draw and one win in their last two Super League games. Yet, Lamia are very poor in attack on the road.
No team have scored fewer goals than Lamia away from home this season, as they have netted only three times, failing to find the back of the net in nine of their 12 away games. The duel between the worst away attack in Greece and the fourth worst home attack in the league is expected to be anything but exciting. Lamia will try to snatch at least one point by being compact in defence in a game where we shouldn’t expect more than 2.5 goas to be scored.
Maritimo v Benfica
It has been nothing short of an immaculate campaign for Benfica. The club have lost just one match all season – a 3-0 defeat to Braga on December 30 – in addition to draws against Vitória (October 1) and Sporting (January 15), and they currently sit eight points clear of Porto, 10 above Braga and 15 above Sporting. They have the best attack in Portugal (58 goals scored) and the best defense (13 conceded), and they are in the driving seat to win their first Primeira Liga title in four years. They show no signs of slowing down either – apart from the draw to Sporting and a 1-1 draw to Braga that would see them fall to 10 men within 31 minutes and lose on penalties in the Taça de Portugal, Benfica have won each of their 11 matches in 2023, keeping nine clean sheets in the process. Having beaten Famalicão 2-0 on Friday, Benfica would thrash Club Brugge 5-1 in the second leg to secure a 7-1 aggregate victory and book their ticket to the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals for the second straight year.
Whilst Benfica are enjoying a dream season, Marítimo are having a season from hell. The Madeira outfit have remained in the top-flight since 1985/86, but they find themselves in grave danger of dropping out of the competion and currently occupy the relegation play-off spot, sitting one point above Santa Clara and four above Paços de Ferreira.
They have gone through three different managers and managed to escape the relegation zone for the first time all season after beating Santa Clara 3-1 only to lose 2-0 to Gil Vicente on Sunday, their fifth defeat in six matches. They have the joint-worst attack (17 goals scored) and defense (42 goals conceded) in the Primeira Liga, and they cool be in for a long day as they host Roger Schmidt’s side. The last time these two sides played, Benfica secured a 5-0 victory via a brace from Gonçalo Ramos and goals from Rafa Silva, David Neres and Julian Draxler. I’m backing Benfica to get their sixth victory in a row against Marítimo, and I’m expecting Gonçalo Ramos to play a key role in their win. The Portuguese striker has recorded back-to-back braces and currently sits atop the scoring charts with 15 goals, and I’m expecting him to add to his tally and lead Benfica to their 21st league win of the season in what should be a fairly lopsided, high-scoring fixture.
Nacional v Always Ready
Both teams come into this with relatively good squads having suffered humiliating elimination from continental competition, Always losing home and away to Colombian Magallanes and conceding three goals in each game while Nacional went one worse and conceded six at home to El Nacional from Ecuador. Nacional have nine points from five games in the league, and are fourth in the table, while Always have only played three games but only have one win (and two draws) and are currently ninth.
Recent history sees Always Ready hold an advantage in Potosi between the sides, having won twice and drawn the other of the latest three games. Nacional come from a promising win in Cobija against Vaca Diez and have a settled side, with the same eight or nine players regularly starting, including Ortiz, Torrico, Widen, Prost, Andia and Tobar who seems to be getting on the scoresheet every single game.
Always Ready come from a hard fought home draw with Wilstermann in a game renowned for riot police and gas in the changing rooms. Despite quite a few changes over the summer and the setbacks against the Colombians, Always seem to have settled down with their main new signings, such as Reyes and Riquelme. Expect a tight Nacional win.
Juventus v Sampdoria
Watching both Juventus and Sampdoria has become a chore this season, so this might be one to back and then leave until full time before checking again. Massimiliano Allegri’s side have been pretty ruthless on the field – their position in the table is heavily influenced by their 15-point deduction – while Samp have been simply awful.
The Old Lady know how to swat sides aside, and they’re more capable than anybody in Italy of strangling the life out of a game. Samp, though, won’t take much squeezing to stop. With just 11 goals scored this season, the Blucerchiati have the lowest total in Serie A and their total is almost half of that of the next worse attack – Hellas Verona have scored 20. It’s hard to give them a hope in Turin, and they’ll likely be going there to park the bus and pray that they can keep Juventus out.
It’s not likely to happen. Juventus will score and it will take something close to a miracle for Samp to do the same, so Juventus to win to nil, under 2.5 goals or a negative both teams to score bet should all be safe.
General Caballero v Olimpia
Troadio Duarte has recently taken charge of General Caballero and his side crashed out of the Sudamericana group stages with a penalty shootout loss to Tacuary. It was a deflating defeat having played most of the game with 10 men and conceded an equalizer late on. Olimpia also drew against ten men in midweek, a 1-1 tie with Nacional in a rearranged league fixture.
General Caballero are racking up the miles with this game being played in Ciudad del Este, their fourth consecutive game in a different city having been in Juan León Mallorquin, Villarrica and Asunción in the last two weeks. Their winless record has followed them around the country, with the only victory coming on the opening day. Scoring has been an issue with just three goals from open play in their six league games, striker Guillermo Hauche only managed one but there are precious few other options in attack.
Olimpia caused a stir early in the week by removing their manager Julio César Cáceres after the 2-2 clásico draw with Cerro Porteño. A huge surprise considering they are the defending champions, in the interim Spanish coach Aítor Garcia has taken charge – he was formely both Fernando Jubero and Julio César Cáceres’ assistant. In the midweek game against Nacional there were some notable changes, the side played three at the back with Richard Ortiz starting in defence and youngster Sebastián Quintana in midfield. Bruera returned to the starting XI at the expense of Brian Montenegro.
Since their defeat to Trinidense in Encarnación Olimpia have drawn three games in a row and three of their four goals in that spell have been from the penalty spot. General Caballero are not playing well themselves and while Troadio Duarte was at Guiareña he lost six of his most recent seven against Paraguay’s most successful club. All things being equal El Decano should get back to winning ways.
Resistencia v Nacional
Resistencia continue to flounder with last week’s loss to Luqueño the straw that broke the camel’s back, Miguel Zahzú was relieved of his duties shortly afterwards with Sergio Orteman taking charge. Nacional have continued to struggle with the volume of games, since the Copa Libertadores campaign began they haven’t won in the league.
Sergio Orteman’s immediate challenge will be to get some goals out of Resistencia, the side from the Chacarita have found the net just four times this season with three of the goals coming in their only win. Alan Pereira is still suspended which limits their attacking options further, so Orteman has plenty to work on.
Nacional have been rotating constantly in recent weeks with five midweek games in a row as Sarabia had to juggle between two competitions. Now that they are out of the Copa Libertadores the attention switches to the league and expect as full strength a side as possible at the weekend. One player missing is left back Fernando Román, suspended for this match. Up front we saw teenager Francisco Morel get his first start since early February and he could be the solution to Nacional’s goalscoring problems.
Last season we saw Resistencia win both games against Nacional in the 2022 Apertura but fail to win in the Clausura which is indicative of both sides trajectory since the beginning of last year. With the game being played at a neutral venue and Orteman only having a couple of days to work with the squad the feeling is that Nacional will prevail.
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