Charleroi v Sint Truiden
Charleroi host Sint Truiden with their rigid playstyle focusing first on defence on matchday 27 of the Pro League. This contest in the middle of the standings is expected to be a close fought game. Both teams are known for their defensive approach and physical qualities.
Sint Truiden dropped out of the play-off zone after back to back defeats. Last week, Koita’s early red card hypothecated the match against Westerlo (0-1). The organisation was gone for a while and two minutes later the only goal of the match came. After the goal, Sint Truiden limited themselves to solely defending. Only in the last 10 minutes did Hollerbach try to turn the tide with a triple substitution, but it proved too late. Attentive viewers could sense that frustration in the post-match interview with central defender Leistner. It is remarkable that they easily held off Westerlo’s danger with 10 men, but it was only in added time that they recorded their first shot on goal themselves.
At Charleroi, successful coach Mazzu has made a good start to his second term as head coach. In 2023, they lost only once in eight games, at home against Union (0-1). They have regularly turned draws into wins in the last 10 minutes of the match, also called “Mazzu time”. The question is whether Charleroi’s forwards can break through Sint Truiden’s solid defence. The Canaries are masters of such close games. Eight of their last 10 games have featured less than three goals.
Although both teams gain little from one draw, we expect a wait-and-see attitude from both teams. This should result in little goal threat.
Milan v Atalanta
The outgoing champions face a tricky test in Serie A this weekend, hosting Atalanta at the Stadio San Siro. It was against La Dea that Milan all but wrapped up the title last season with a 2-0 win at the San Siro, but both sides are in very different positions this time around.
Stefano Pioli has shifted things tactically of late and gone to a three-man backline. Malick Thiaw, Pierre Kalulu and FIkayo Tomori look really solid as a defensive unit, and they’ve now won 1-0 three times on the bounce after losing to Inter by that same scoreline.
The madness that surrounded Atalanta games in January has also faded. They were scoring for fun after Serie A’s return, but they’ve more recently won 2-0 twice, lost 1-0 twice, and lost 2-1. Against Milan, they’ll likely have to adjust their game a little in an attempt to break the Rossoneri down.
Goals probably won’t be free flowing in this one, and their 1-1 draw at the Gewiss Stadium in Bergamo earlier this season might be a good bit of guidance as to how this one is going to end.
Sevilla v Osasuna
Sevilla will be looking to make it six home wins in a row as they continue to climb up the table with their post-World Cup break recovery. Since the tournament in Qatar, the team have picked up 17 points, with 15 of them coming at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, so Osasuna face a tough test.
The Andalusians were in action in The Netherlands as they saw out their first leg lead over PSV Eindhoven in the Europa League on Thursday night, but it was a team featuring seven changes to the line-up. That means that Jorge Sampaoli will have room to manoeuvre to keep his players fresh for this game.
Osasuna themselves have hit a sticky patch of form, with their only win in their last seven matches being the extra-time Copa del Rey win over Sevilla at El Sadar in January, a result that means they now have a semi-final next Wednesday, for which they might make rotations. In LaLiga, meanwhile, Osasuna have not won away from home since November 5th. On the road, they have averaged just 0.75 goals per 90, the fourth lowest in LaLiga.
That combination means that Sevilla are in a strong position to see out the result and pick up another home win. The form table over the past five games puts Sevilla in fourth up against Osasuna in 18th, and there is little indication that such form will change after this result.
Bolivar v Oriente Petrolero
This game is the second most played derby in Bolivian history with the two teams playing each other 199 times since 1977. Bolivar have won 95 of those games, losing 66 and drawing 38.
In La Paz it is much more lopsided, with Bolivar having won 74 of 81 games alongside 13 draws. Bolivar are currently on a ten-match unbeaten run against Orient, the last time they faced defeat being 19/12/18 when they lost 2- 1 in Santa Cruz. Of those 10 games, six have been in La Paz.
Oriente, similar to their great rivals Blooming, whilst being one of the Bolivian traditional top five have struggled severely in recent years, both in terms of a lack of leadership and financial woes.
Traditionally, after Bolivar, Oriente used to be the most successful Bolivian side abroad, reaching the knock out stages of the Libertadores in 1988 and 1997, however in the past 22 years Oriente have only lifted a local trophy twice, in 2001 and 2010 and have faded totally internationally, putting on a series of woeful performances on the continent.
Olimpia v Guairena
Olimpia look to bounce back from a surprise defeat away to Sportivo Trinidense as they return to the Manuel Ferreira where they have won six of their last seven league games. Guaireña have had a mixed start to the season but did win their only away game to date against bottom club Tacuary.
Julio César Cáceres will make changes in defence, one forced following the sending off of Mateo Gamarra and one tactical as he is rumoured to want to bring in Victor Salazar at right back. It is the backline that has struggled this year, El Decano have kept just one clean sheet in their four competitive games to date. Going forward they have been superb starters, leading at halftime in all three league matches so far via different goalscorers.
Guaireña have been finding the net regularly, only failing to score in the last match against Cerro Porteño, but they have been leaking goals in the league. Seven conceded in four games as Roberto Torres continues to tinker with his team to get the right set up. Miguel Paniagua got some minutes against Cerro after injury and could start in midfield, another experienced hand Rosalino Toledo may be in line for a start having also come back from injury in the previous game.
Olimpia should prevail as they usually do at home and with both teams erring defensively there is a heightened chance of goals at either end. While Roberto Torres doesn’t have a positive record against the defending champions, he believes attack is the best form of defence and often finds the net. In nine games managing four different sides he has seen his team score on seven occasions.
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