Augsburg v Schalke
Augsburg will look to make it five successive wins at home when they host Schalke on Saturday afternoon. In his first head coach role at a top flight club, Enrico Maassen has impressed and his project at Augsburg is an exciting one. They’ve recruited well with in attack with Mergim Berisha, Ermedin Demirovic and Dion Beljo, but they still have problems defensively.
FCA have scored in 8 of their last 9 Bundesliga games, including putting three past Borussia Dortmund in January, whilst they come into this game having scored three against Bayern Munich but still found themselves on the losing side after conceding five. With eight Bundesliga goals this season, Berisha has been nominated for Hansi Flick’s Germany squad for their upcoming friendlies.
Operating in a 4-2-3-1, which often transitions into a 4-4-2 when in possession of the ball, Augsburg have the ability to cause Schalke problems despite the visitors conceding just three goals in their last seven Bundesliga games, of which they’ve remained unbeaten. Augsburg winning five consecutive home games would match a club record. They have the attacking ability to break down a resilient Schalke side that now seem far more of a defensive unit. However, S04 are the lowest scorers in the Bundesliga with 20 goals after 24 games and they have the poorest chance conversion (18%) in the Bundesliga.
Although they put two past Borussia Dortmund in the Revierderby last weekend, they’ve struggled in front of goal. Wide-player Marius Bulter is their top scorer with six, followed by midfielder Dominick Drexler (3) and veteran striker Simon Terodde (3).
Augsburg certainly possess the better squad in the final third and the quality of Berisha and Beljo in a central position should cause Schalke’s defence a couple of problems. Unbeaten in seven, Schalke will make this difficult but Augsburg should have enough to get the win, and to move further clear of the relegation zone.
Flint Town v Pontypridd Town
Flint Town have already beaten Saturday’s opponents twice this season. They scored five and conceded just once over the course of those two matches. They last played at this ground in January and it was an easy win for the home side. Since the league split into two, Flint have won both of their home matches. In fact, they have won their last three matches when playing at home.
The only team to beat Cae y Castell and come away with all three points is The New Saints. T.N.S are the dominant force in Welsh football and are running away with the league again this season. Flint held second place, Connah’s Quay to a point in this run; the team that are second in the table. Over the course of those eight matches, Flint are averaging 0.37 more goals per game than their opponents. I expect this margin to grow as they take on more opponents in the lower half of the division.
Pontypridd have been extremely poor on the road this season. They have played 12 away matches in the league and their only win came against Airbus. Airbus have been the whipping boys of the league this season and they have a -66 goals difference to this point. Many of the bookmakers have chosen not to price up the side that have a negative points tally after 26 games this weekend. This shows you how poor they have been. Over the course of Pontypridd’s away matches, they have conceded an average of 2.17 goals and scored just 1.08 goals per game. Zack Clarke has been the main goal threat for Flint in recent weeks. He has found the net in three of the four matches played in the Play-Off Conference of the Welsh Premier League.
Aberdeen v Hearts
Caretaker manager Barry Robson has successfully stabilised Aberdeen, and look for the Dons to pick up another positive result at the weekend, when they will host a Hearts side that struggles on the road and is beset by injury issues.
It has been a long season for the Dons, but they finally appear to have hit some form, albeit against relatively weak opponents. Wins have come against Motherwell, Livingston and Dundee United to enhance their top-six hopes, with the sole defeat in Robson’s interim tenure coming at home against Celtic.
Meanwhile, Hearts approach this encounter having lost three of their last four, although two of those games were against the runaway Premiership leaders. Robbie Neilson’s side, though, struggle away from home and have done all season. They have won only three times in their travels in the league, with those wins coming against Motherwell, Ross County and St Johnstone – all clubs in the bottom five.
The stark difference between the Jambos at home and away is illustrated by their results against Aberdeen. Having lost 2-0 away to the Dons, they won their last meeting 5-0 at home. There has been a huge change in attitude from Aberdeen since that match, while a long injury list includes doubts over key players Robert Snodgrass and Lawrence Shankland.
Given Hearts’ poor away form, it would be a surprise if they travelled back to the capital after this game with maximum points against an in-form Aberdeen, but some caution should be exercised on the hosts given that Robson has not been tested against this calibre of opposition yet.
Celtic v Hibernian
Celtic’s steady march towards the Scottish Premiership title should continue at a pace on Saturday as they host Hibs. Ange Postecoglou’s side have won their last 13 matches in all competitions and have opened up a nine-point gap to Rangers in second. This streak should continue at Parkhead – and in some style.
The Hoops have won their last eight Premiership matches by at least two goals, while they have struck a rich vein of scoring form. They have netted 19 times in their last five league games and continued that form into the cup last weekend as they dismantled Hearts 3-0 away from home. In total, they have scored at least three goals in each of their last seven matches against Premiership rivals.
Hibs are not a side well equipped to stop their opponents. Yes, they had picked up three successive wins before losing against Rangers on March 8, but these were all against weak opponents. Their 4-1 home drubbing by the Gers was far more instructive as to what to expect here.
In their previous matches against the two Glasgow giants this season, they have conceded 19 goals in five games and have only once restricted their opponents to more than two tallies in a single game. They have fared particularly poorly against Celtic, with a 6-1 loss on their last visit to Parkhead followed by a 4-0 defeat at home last time the teams met.
With Celtic in rampant form, there is no evidence Hibs’ poor fortunes in this head-to-head are about to change.
Hamilton v Ayr
Hamilton kick off against Ayr on Saturday with the intention of taking advantage of their opponents’ Scottish Cup hangover. The Honest Men suffered a 2-1 defeat to League One side Falkirk on Monday in a match that will leave mental scars. Ayr had a glorious chance to win the game in the last 10 minutes but Chris Maguire sent his penalty against the post. Falkirk went up the other end and scored with a cruelly deflected shot.
Ayr, who have only won one of their last five matches in all competitions, will do well to pick themselves up from such a defeat with just a four-day turnaround. Although they have won two of their three previous meetings with Hamilton this season, there is a different feel to the momentum of the two clubs going into this clash.
Accies have been in good form of late, dragging themselves off the foot of the table thanks to a succession of strong results. In their last 11 matches, they have lost only to Premiership side Hearts in the cup – a hard-fought match – and to Championship leaders Queen’s Park.
The improvement has been underpinned by some strong defensive work. Hamilton have kept four cleansheets in their last six league matches, with only two of these fixtures yielding over 2.5 goals. Ayr, meanwhile, are struggling offensively, having been shutout in three of their last five league games.
Hamilton are well placed to take something from this game after two one-goal defeats to Ayr in the clubs’ last meetings.
Dunfermline v Edinburgh City
Dunfermline and Edinburgh are likely to play out a tight match at East End Park on Saturday, with the home side grinding their way ever closer to a return to the Championship.
Although the Pars are undefeated at home this season, their form has been anything but spectacular. They have drawn six of their 14 home matches, which have produced a tally of only 32 goals. Of these games, only four have produced more than 2.5 goals, with each of these fixtures coming against the clubs in the bottom three in the league. Instead, James McPake’s men have specialised in 1-0 or 2-0 victories.
Edinburgh, meanwhile, might have impressed in front of goal in their debut League One season, but they have not found a way to undo Dunfermline. Although the Citizens have plenty of attacking options at their disposal, they have yet to net in three previous meetings between the two teams, with each of the last two encounters finishing in competitive 1-0 defeats.
Indeed, Alan Maybury’s side have performed horribly against the league’s three fully full-time clubs, losing all of their nine previous games against Dunfermline, Falkirk and Queen of the South.
This fixture is likely to be dictated by the wearing style of Dunfermline rather than the more dynamic Edinburgh team, and that points to a low-scoring match. Seven of the Pars’ last nine in the league have produced under 2.5 goals, and given the value on offer, it’s worth backing under 3.5 as a safety net.
Dumbarton v Albion Rovers
Dumbarton are top of League Two but are certainly not an exciting side, and Saturday’s match with Albion Rovers has all the ingredients to be another tightly fought match from the Sons.
Although they have won nine of their 12 home league matches, they have not done so in a particularly thrilling manner. Although these games have produced 28 goals in total, only 17 have been scored in the nine fixtures they have played since the end of August – averaging under 2 per match.
Each of their last two home games have ended in 2-1 victories, but Saturday’s match against Albion Rovers is likely to be more of a battle. Not only will they be up against a team fighting for survival, they will be playing on a bog of a pitch that has already had two matches postponed on it over the course of the last five days (a home fixture against Stirling Albion on Tuesday and Rangers B’s Lowland League match on Thursday). Images of the pitch suggest it will not provide conditions friendly to attacking football.
Albion Rovers, meanwhile, have been involved in a string of low-scoring matches. Prior to a 3-2 loss at Stirling on March 4, five of their previous six had yielded under 2.5 goals.
In terms of the head-to-head, too, this is not a match liable to produce thrills. Dumbarton did win 2-1 in Coatbridge in August but the team have played out two tight games since then. Indeed, six of the last seven between the clubs have seen under three goals and everything is pointing to that outcome again.
Toulouse v Lille
The prospect of goals in Toulouse’s home encounter with Lille on Saturday is high. Both of these teams are far stronger going forward than they are at the back and the net result should be an end-to-end match in the Pink City.
Toulouse’s home games this season have been particularly attractive on the whole. Just 14 Ligue 1 matches in front of their supporters have produced 46 goals. Indeed, a run of five matches of over 2.5 goals at home was ended a fortnight ago when they were defeated 1-0 by Clermont in a shock result.
Lille, meanwhile, come into this match off the back of a 3-3 draw against Lyon. They showcased the good and the bad of themselves in that encounter, with Jonathan David scoring a hat-trick. Late in the game, though, the defence collapsed. LOSC did not have a single member of their regular back four fit to start that encounter, and though Jose Fonte is expected to return for this match, they will be dramatically shorthanded at the back once more. Against a prolific home outfit, that promises to be problematic.
Since a scoreless draw with Clermont at the beginning of February, Lille have scored at least twice in six of their last seven matches in all competitions, so the prospects of finding the net are good.
Lastly, five of the last six between these clubs have seen over 2.5 goals as a winning bet, including each of the last three. It would be very surprising if the trend was bucked here.
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