San Jose Earthquakes v LAFC
The leading two teams in California meet at Levi’s Stadium in the early hours of Sunday morning when the San Jose Earthquakes move a home match to Santa Clara to take on Los Angeles FC at the home of the San Francisco 49ers.
The venue elevates the profile of this Cali-clash but it was high enough anyway because it is the first time that Los Angeles FC have been on the pitch since sealing their berth in the Champions League final in midweek.
Often there would be a concern of a comedown from that but really they were on easy street against the Philadelphia Union and LAFC are now well on their way to becoming one of the greatest MLS teams of all time.
San Jose are an improving force though. They sit fifth in the Western Conference by right and are enjoying a good campaign so far, spearheaded by the MVP-level candidate Cristian Espinoza, who is inspiring this side from his attacking position.
The sheer elevated size of the occasion with the setting this match will be played in will bring the best out of the players on show here and with Denis Bouanga in brilliant scoring form this season and Carlos Vela and Jeremy Ebobisse on show too there is no shortage of goals around in these teams.
Four of the last five San Jose matches have had over 2.5 goals in them, as have three of LAFC’s last five MLS outings. There have been 10 competitive matches between these two in all competitions in the past and only one has fallen below 2.5 goals and that was a 2-0 win.
With the confidence these teams are showing and the stage they are performing on I expect the goals trend to continue.
Sportivo Trinidense v General Caballero
Sportivo Trinidense are looking to keep up their fine recent run of just one loss in the past six games as they host General Caballero. The visitors have picked up seven points from their last four matches as new coach Troadio Duarte begins to see his style pay dividends.
José Arrúa had a midseason slump that saw his side unable to win over a five-game streak, but have now been victorious in three of their last five, only failing to win against the two biggest clubs in the country; Olimpia and Cerro Porteño. Lucas Barrios is providing the goals that were expected of him while the side have kept three clean sheets in a difficult run that saw them play four away games in their last five appearances.
Troadio Duarte’s first five league games in charge saw him pick up one draw and four defeats, the most recent five have been 2 wins, 1 draw, and 2 defeats as the team begins to gel. The 1-0 win over Tacuary was the first clean sheet since his debut game against Guaireña. Sanguina, who scored two goals in the last four matches, will be suspended for this one which reduces their attacking options.
Although General Caballero are showing improvement it is worth noting that they are yet to win away this year, their last victory was against now relegated 12 de Octubre in November 2022. In contrast, Trinidense have performed strongly at home, only losing in the Martin Torres to league leaders Libertad.
Fluminense v Vasco da Gama
This weekend, there’s an all-Rio derby as Fluminense host Vasco da Gama at the famous Maracanã Stadium in the latest edition of the Clássico dos Gigantes. The most recent meeting between the pair came in February of this year, which saw Fluminense run out 2-0 winners.
Fluminense come into this game having won eight out of their last nine matches. However, the loss came in their last league match, suffering a 4-2 loss on the road to North-eastern side Fortaleza. Flu’s loss wasn’t aided by giving their opponents several goal-scoring opportunities, allowing Fortaleza to have an XG of 4.88. This was mainly down to Flu resting a number of key players for their midweek Libertadores duel.
The gamble for Fernando Diniz paid off in midweek, as Fluminense tore their opponents, River Plate, to pieces with a staggering 5-1 victory, which saw a hat-trick from Argentine forward, German Cano. Cano will be hoping to put in a similar display in this battle against his former club.
After a win and a draw from their opening two games, Vasco da Gama suffered their first Brasileirão loss of 2023 last time out, as they were beaten 1-0 at home by Bahia, something they’ll be desperate to bounce back from. It was a deserved win for Bahia, as their XG of 1.36 was larger than the side from Rio, who could only manage 0.84, despite having more attempts at goal.
Despite Vasco midfielder Jair saying “there is no favourite” for this game in the build-up, Flu come into this game on the back of an impressive win and are unbeaten in their last seven meetings with Sunday Morning’s opponents.
Nashville SC v Chicago Fire
Two Eastern Conference teams meet in the early hours of Sunday morning when an improving Nashville SC team host a Chicago Fire side who might be full of pain after the amount of times they have shot themselves in the foot late on this season.
The late equaliser that they surrendered to the New York Red Bulls last week was the third time that they have lost points in the last five minutes of a game and they have let a 2-0 lead slip in that period as well.
None of that is good, particularly when you consider they go on their travels to Nashville SC who have just had their best showing of the season against Atlanta United.
The highlight of that win last week was the display of Hany Mukhtar, who had begun the season a little slowly by his standards but has begun to pick up speed. He will probably be looking forward to this match as he bagged a six-minute hat trick in the same fixture last season.
The Fire are a better team this term but there is no doubting they have an issue closing out matches so even if they are level going into the last 15 minutes it will be a nervy time for the Chicago players.
Getting in front of Nashville is no easy task though, especially at GEODIS Stadium, where only FC Cincinnati have left with all three points this season.
Nashville have only conceded six goals in their 10 matches this term and with Dax McCarty back pulling the strings at the base of the midfield and Mukhtar coming to the boil at the top end of the pitch I am expecting big things from this team over the coming weeks.
While Chicago are much improved, their only road success this term was at Inter Miami who prior to last week were becoming a mess. I think Nashville are the ones to be on here with home advantage and the standout individual talent on the field.
Vancouver Whitecaps v Minnesota United
The Western Conference will be the focus deeper into the early hours of Sunday morning when a much improved Vancouver Whitecaps team play host to Minnesota United at what should be a buoyant BC Field.
Vancouver look very much like a team on the up. That didn’t look like it would be the case when they lost their opening two matches but they are undefeated in seven since then and made it through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League in that time before running into the juggernaut that is Los Angeles FC.
Minnesota United aren’t as good on the eye this season but despite the absence of their string puller in Emmanuel Reynoso, the Loons sit in the playoff spots in the West, but head to Canada without a win in their last four matches.
These two teams struggle for goals but don’t give much away and that is a trend I expect to continue here. Vancouver have 11 goals in their nine MLS outings this term, which is an acceptable number, but slumps a little when you take away the five they scored against a terrible Montreal side.
Minnesota have only scored eight goals in their eight MLS matches and only four in their last six. Given the issues they have had with Reynoso it is no surprise that their goal output has diminished.
Goals for isn’t the only thing these two teams have in common. They don’t concede many either. The Whitecaps have conceded seven in their nine games, four of which came in the first two this term. Minnesota have leaked just eight in their eight games.
Only one of the last seven Vancouver games have had more than 2.5 goals in them while just two of the last six Minnesota ones have gone over 2.5 goals, one of which had a horrendous goalkeeper error on the third goal.
These two have already played out a 1-1 draw this season and I don’t see any more goals in this one than there was at Allianz Field.
Aalborg v Horsens
The meeting between AaB and Horsens is the most exciting of the 28th round of the Superliga. Four points divide these two teams with AaB being below the relegation line and Horsens right above it. It is thus a true six-pointer.
The home side received a nice confidence boost Thursday evening when they qualified for the cup final after beating Silkeborg 4-1 at home. The Red and Whites have now won two matches in a row, and they are undefeated in their last five matches. Head coach Oscar Hiljemark has truly rejuvenated the team since taking over earlier this spring, and they are in great shape at the moment. AaB could have a case of tired legs after the cup match, but you are winning, the legs don’t hurt as much as when you are losing.
Horsens have been the worst team in the league since the winter break. They have only managed to collect five points in the ten games this spring, and they are now dangerously close to the relegation line. The last time they met AaB, they lost 4-0 at home, and this Sunday they are without Jacob Buus and Magnus Risgaard Jensen.
AaB have been in great shape since Hiljemark took over the reins, and we expect their good form to continue in this home game. AaB are better on paper and have played nice recently, meaning that odds 1.70 on them to win at Betfair Sportsbook is great value.
FC Emmen v FC Twente
Relegation-threatened Emmen are battling away to earn points in their tough run of remaining fixtures. It is going to be neck and neck with them and Excelsior (and still maybe one or two other sides just above them) for the final relegation place (which is a play-off against two sides from the second tier).
Youngster Ole Romeny scored a hat trick two weeks ago to give the northern side a fighting chance of avoiding the dreaded relegation play-offs. Very few sides survive those play-offs to decide who drops down from the Eredivisie. Dick Lukkien has always got his Emmen teams up for the fight in seasons gone by, though I would suggest quality is a little lower this time, so keeping them up would be a massive achievement.
With Romeny in form and a defence that isn’t known for being particularly tight, I would say both teams scoring is a good bet to look at here.
Twente don’t seem as imperious as they were earlier in the season. Their confidence has taken a hit since being out of contention for the title and Dutch Cup. However, even with their poor away record, I don’t think they will get beaten easily by a side who are desperate for points.
Vaclav Cerny is a constant menace from the right side, and Twente like to invite their wing-backs forward to cause havoc. Emmen may sit deep to frustrate their visitors on Sunday. Nevertheless, having watched Twente recently, they still have the goals to hurt teams down this end of the league.
Almere City v NAC Breda
NAC Breda look like they are going to make the play-offs, but need a result here to be sure. For Almere City that feat has long been decided, but in comparison to the last few weeks, the pressure is off, as they aren’t in the running for direct promotion anymore. Both teams are in good form, though, NAC have won four of the last five games and with VVV Venlo, FC Eindhoven and Roda JC, three of those victories came against play-off rivals.
The man in form for NAC is Elias Mar Omarsson. The Icelandic striker is a proven goalscorer in the Dutch second division after a successful spell at Excelsior. His move to France didn’t quite go as planned, so he returned to the familiar hunting grounds. Since he joined NAC in January, he has already scored eight goals in 14 games.
Like NAC Breda, Almere City won four of the last five games, and they didn’t lose either of the games against the already promoted teams either. Yet, the fact that they suddenly don’t really have much to play for until the start of the play-offs at the end of May could take the pressure and the necessity of a victory away from them. Manager Alex Pastoor won’t want the team to relax until the play-offs, but the team is experienced. I suspect the side know very well that this match is of little importance and will already start preparing for those play-offs. NAC should benefit from that with a result.
Atalanta v Juventus
Many were quick to discount Atalanta from the top four battle as they have continually hovered around sixth and seventh place, but they are right in the picture after maintaining a steady run of form to not get cut adrift.
They have won three and drawn one of their last four and have as much of a chance as anyone of entering into the top four, even with Juventus catapulted back into the frame after their points penalty was suspended.
It is that momentum which means Atalanta should be looking to seize the initiative and grab the first goal against Juventus. Gian Piero Gasperini will know that if the Bianconeri can get ahead in Bergamo, it could be challenging to get back into the game.
Atalanta need to score first, bring Juventus out of their shell, and then let the game become frantic and end-to-end. It will suit their style of football more than it will suit Juventus’. With Duvan Zapata back among the goals, even in Ademola Lookman’s absence, they are a much more dangerous side.
Luis Muriel also scored last time out against Spezia, meaning Gasperini may be able to harness some of that confidence and get more goals out of him before the end of the season. Juventus have players that can score against anyone so they still pose a serious threat, meaning there could be goals in this one.
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