To start your Thursday off, we have betting tips from the Swedish Superettan, Dutch Eredivisie and the Copa do Brasil to get stuck into here. Sao Paolo look to nudge out Sport Recife for a quarter-finals slot, as Vasteras look to continue their solid start to the 2023 campaign.
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Heerenveen v FC Twente
Once the Dutch Eredivisie regular season is complete, we have the ‘nacompetitie’ which means ‘after competition’, where there are play-offs to decide who stays up in the league, and in the case of these two match previews, who, out of the teams finishing 5th-8th, will enter the Europa Conference League at the second qualifying round later in the summer.
Twente go into the play-offs as the favourites to qualify. At the beginning of this season, they faced Fiorentina in the final qualifying round before the Conference League group stage, but fell just short of a home victory that would have seen them through against the team that have gone on to be finalists in the competition.
The Dutch league is in good health with teams like Twente qualifying, and I think they will show us again how strong they are against Heerenveen.
The Frisians qualified largely thanks to the goals of striker Sydney van Hooijdonk, who finished as one of the league’s top goal-scorers. Ultimately, this is a mid-table team, and whilst I am sure the home fans in this first leg will give the players plenty of passion, Twente will win this over the two legs. It is away from Enschede where Twente have not been as strong throughout the season, though they did finish the season with four high-scoring victories, and they were unfortunate not to win the two games just before that.
Given that Twente have been playing so well, you could back an away victory, but the safer bet has to be to go with goals — both teams to score. This may seem a strange choice with Twente having the strongest defensive record in the Eredivisie, but I believe they will sacrifice some of that solidity to go for goals again, pushing their full-backs high up the pitch to put Heerenveen under pressure. Twente’s left-back Gijs Smal has 10 assists this season already, and I also think that Vaclav Cerny will keep up his excellent form from the right wing.
GAIS vs OIS
Last season, the hosts were promoted to the second tier whilst the visitors avoided the drop in the relegation playoffs. So, mid-table finishes may have been viewed as relatively successful for either side, but they have both had more positive starts to the campaign.
Following promotion last season, GAIS begin this midweek round of fixtures sitting third in the Superettan table. The hosts have managed five victories and two draws in their opening nine matches, but they do come into this on the back of being held to a goalless draw at home to AFC Eskilstuna.
They have been very impressive and arguably overperforming so far this season, with a reliance on their impressive defensive record. In nine matches so far this season, they have conceded just seven goals with no other side having let in fewer.
Orgryte IS haven’t quite hit the heights of their opponents, but the visitors’ impressive and comfortable 3-1 win at home to Gefle at the weekend made it back-to-back victories extending their unbeaten run of form to four matches.
That impressive run has seen them climb into the middle of the table, having started the campaign winless in their opening seven matches, majorly underperforming their expected goals data. Given that, their recent victories are a bit of a ‘return to the mean’ and is reflected in the fact they have suffered just two defeats in their opening nine games.
In terms of the underlying data, these are the two best-performing sides in the second tier. GAIS have an expected goals against of just 1.12 per match, which are the best defensive numbers in the league, with 2.19 expected goals for per game, which is just better than OIS’ 1.95.
Even though GAIS’ impressive defensive stats, they are still averaging more than a goal per game in terms of xGA so are overperforming that with eight conceded in nine. Given that, as well as OIS’ seeming potency and picking up of results recently, this could be a fun match for the neutral.
J-Sodra vs Osters
These two sides have both started the 2023 Superettan season well before slight dips and then coming into this one on the back of positive results – as well as being two of the most entertaining sides in the Swedish second tier.
After narrowly avoiding finishing in the bottom four and having to face the relegation playoff last season, Jonkopings Sodra are enjoying a much-improved crack at it this time around, under the management of former Raufoss boss Andres Garcia, who was appointed in January ahead of this season.
They come into this on the back of a 4-1 hammering of Brage in their most recent outing, at the weekend, which made it back-to-back victories for the hosts. They begin the midweek sitting fifth in the table, below their upcoming opponents on goal difference.
Stefan Tugedzic’s Osters missed out on promotion to the top-flight last season after losing the two-legged Allsvenskan/Superettan relegation/promotion playoff tie against Varberg. This time around, the four-time Swedish champions looked set to try and go a step further, or even two, and gain promotion to the Allsvenskan for the first time 2013.
The visitors began the season with four impressive victories, scoring 12 goals in four games, including victories against both relegated sides from the Allsvenskan, Helsingborg and GIF Sundsvall. However, since then, they have managed just one win and come into this on the back of a much-needed end to their slump with a 2-1 win at home to in-form Landskrona.
In their nine matches so far this season, there has been 33 goals in J-Sodra’s matches, whilst Osters’ games have consisted of 30 goals. These are the two highest-scoring teams in the league with leaky defences and, regardless of who comes out on top, it could well be another high-scoring encounter.
Vasteras vs AFC Eskilstuna
As we head into June, one of these sides will be extremely pleased with their opening nine matches of the campaign, whilst another will be concerned, they are set for a long and hard battle against finishing in the bottom four and the danger zone.
Under the management of Kalle Karlsson, Vasteras are enjoying an impressive start to the 2023 campaign. The home team come into this on the back of a 3-2 defeat to Trelleborg, though, as they get pegged back from league leaders Utsiktens. The hosts have managed five wins and two draws in their opening nine matches.
Prior to that 3-2 loss, they had conceded just four goals in their opening eight matches and have the joint-best defensive record in the league, alongside fellow high-flyers GAIS.
AFC Eskilstuna come into this on the back of a goalless draw away to newly promoted and high-flying GAIS, in their most recent outing, at the weekend. That made it back-to-back draws for the visitors and does extend their unbeaten run of form to four matches.
However, they have managed just two victories in their opening nine games as they begin this weekend’s round of fixtures sitting in the relegation playoff places down at the bottom end of the table. Jawad Al Jebouri’s side have struggled for goals throughout the campaign, too, with just eight goals scored and only one side, Helsingborg, have scored fewer than them.
These are two sides in very different forms, with different expectations for the final 21 games of the season. Despite their defeat the other day, Vasteras will be confident of bouncing back, especially at home.
FC Utrecht v Sparta Rotterdam
In the other semi-final first leg, we have seventh versus sixth. Utrecht have had an up-and-down season, without really ever falling out of contention for the European play-offs, and in the end they comfortably finished in seventh, which is exactly where this club is at the moment — too good for mid-table, but nowhere near the top five in terms of player quality.
Anastasios Douvikas finished as tied top goal-scorer in the Eredivisie this season with 19 to his name. He is a poacher, someone who could cause an ageing Sparta defence some problems.
The visitors from Rotterdam have enjoyed an incredible season under Maurice Steijn, going from close to being relegated 12 months ago to a side that can mix it up with the big boys on their day.
Because of Douvikas and Utrecht’s resurgence at the end of the season, where they won five of their last seven Eredivisie games, this is tough to call. Sparta are like the Eredivisie equivalent of Brighton from the Premier League: they have not gone away the whole season, they have good defenders, and they have goals in them from all over the pitch.
When you see the value in Sparta either keeping a draw or sneaking a win to take back to Rotterdam, backing a handicap may just be the way forward, with the safety of course of your money back should Utrecht edge them out at home. I would happily back Sparta today though because of their excellent campaign, which could be about to get even better.
Sao Paulo v Sport Recife
There’s a place in the Copa do Brasil quarter-finals at stake as inform Sao Paulo plays host to second-tier Sport Recife at the Estádio do Morumbi. The first leg was a comfortable evening for the top-tier side, who enjoyed a 2-0 victory away from home, setting them up perfectly for the second leg. Sport managed to keep themselves in the game until Fabinho picked up two yellow cards in the second half, which saw Tricolor take advantage.
Sao Paulo have been in tremendous form since Dorival Junior arrived at the club. Since his arrival, they have won seven and drawn four times and remain undefeated. During this period, Sao Paulo have scored 18 times, whilst only conceding five.
They are currently on a four-game win streak, with the most recent being a 2-1 victory over Goias. After conceding in the first half, Junior’s men managed two second-half goals to secure all three points. Sao Paulo’s XG of 0.78 was slightly greater than Goias’ lowly 0.30. Tricolor will be hoping to be slightly more creative in this duel. Arboleda can return from injury here and Alexander Pato has joined the club for a third spell and could make his first appearance since re-joining.
Sport Recife come into this duel with a mountain to climb and will need to make a historic comeback to qualify for the next round. Their form coming into this battle has been inconsistent, with two wins and two draws. At the weekend, they did at least enjoy a 4-1 victory over ABC at home which will give them a boost. Sport racked up an XG of 2.55, whilst keeping ABC to an XG of 0.95. They will be hoping that veteran striker Vagner Love can inspire them to victory, Love is Sport’s top scorer in all competitions this season, with 17 goals.
Coming into this one, it’s hard to see anything but a Sao Paulo win. They have been unstoppable since Dorival Junior’s arrival, and they should rack up a fifth straight win here.
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