Mark O’Haire’s European Footy Tips – Friday’s Matches
Domestic league action returns across Europe this weekend after the international break, and there’s some intriguing ties on Friday to get stuck into.
Borussia Monchengladbach v Hamburg, Friday 11 September (19.30), BT Sport Europe
Nobody saw this coming. Gladbach, having finished in a lofty third-place last term, have made their worst start ever to a Bundesliga season. The Foals are pointless from three fixtures and are currently propping up the German top tier.
Defeat at rejuvenated Dortmund on the opening day wasn’t a huge shock but a home reverse to mediocre Mainz before a sloppy 2-1 loss at Werder Bremen has put Lucien Favre’s men on the back foot. With Champions League football on the horizon, Gladbach fans are desperately hoping their side turn the corner on Friday night.
The hosts actually finished the 2014/15 Rückrunde (the second-half of the season) a full four points clear of the pack with defence the bedrock to their success. Last term, the Foals leaked just 26 goals but already they’ve conceded eight with opponents scoring at least twice in all three fixtures – never before have Gladbach conceded as many goals at this stage of a Bundesliga campaign.
Still, they simply don’t become an awful team overnight. Favre is a shrewd and talented tactician and although the losses of Max Kruse and Christoph Kramer have hit hard, I’m sure the Foals will find their feet sooner rather than later. Their Borussia-Park date with Hamburg gives the home side the perfect opportunity to put points on the board.
HSV are notoriously useless on the road and after two away games of 2015/16 the Dinosaur are already pointless with a goal difference of -6. Hamburg have now lost eight of their most recent nine road trips and are unlikely to be given many favours against a Gladbach side that had won nine home matches on the spin before defeat on the final day of last season.
The Red Shorts rarely trouble the Foals in Monchengladbach (W1-D4-L4 in their last nine visits) and their haul of 25 defeats in 36 Bundesliga outings as guests since the start of 2013/14 is pretty horrendous. With Gladbach recording 23/35 (66%) of victories at Borussia-Park across the same timeframe and with Emir Spahic suspended for the visitors, the 4/6 on the hosts looks too good to turn down.
Bruno Labbadia’s most certainly improved Hamburg – they’re undoubtedly a more attack-minded unit – and so with home club captain Martin Stranzl still struggling for full fitness and the Foals fielding an inexperienced and patched up backline,
backing Both Teams To Score alongside a home win makes could net us a healthy return at 12/5.
Monchengladbach to win (4/6)
Monchengladbach to win and Both Teams To Score (12/5)
Levante v Sevilla, Friday 11 September (19.30), Sky Sports 2
Sevilla have failed to score in their first two top-fight games of a season for the first time since 1967/68 but I fully expect Unai Emery’s charges to get back on track this Friday night when they visit lowly Levante.
The Rojiblancos were held to a goalless draw in Malaga on the opening day but the visitors were a threat before Steven N’Zonzi’s needless sending off. And their 3-0 loss at home to Atletico Madrid before the international break slightly flattered their guests too.
Sevilla have seen plenty of big name players leave the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán this summer but recruitment has been impressive and they look well equipped for another charge at home and abroad. Emery’s men return to the Champions League on Tuesday night but there’s enough depth and quality to see off a poor Levante at 8/11 quotes.
The Rojiblancos are in the midst of their best road run since 2008 in La Liga (W5-D3-L0) and although they’re goalless, only Real Madrid have fired in more shots than their 35 attempts in two games. The visitors have come out on top in 10 of their previous 16 trips to bottom-half teams and I’d be surprised if they failed to enhance that record on Friday evening.
Levante have posted the lowest average possession figure (31.5%) from the opening two rounds following a 2-1 loss at home to Celta and 0-0 draw at newly-promoted Las Palmas. It means the Frogs have W0-D3-L3 in six La Liga games including the back end of 2014/15, failing to even net in four of those fixtures.
Lucas Alcaraz’s troops showed next to no ambition in that Las Palmas stalemate; opting to sit back in an ultra defensive approach.
Levante’s only threat came from set-plays and with Simao still suspended, it’s hard to imagine they’ll have the tools to hurt a solid Sevilla side.
Sevilla to win (8/11)
PSG v Bordeaux, Friday 11 September (19.30), BT Sport 2
Last season PSG swept all before them in France and the treble-winners have made an irresistible start to their 2015/16 campaign. The capital club have won their first four Ligue 1 games and the Trophee des Champions without conceding a goal in the five matches.
Laurent Blanc’s team have now managed 13 successive league victories and three points on Friday against Bordeaux would equal the Ligue 1 14-match winning streak record set in 2009 by… Bordeaux under Blanc’s charge. It’s an interesting subplot for the Parc des Princes showdown but it would be a touch surprising if Les Girondins were able to ruin the Paris party.
Willy Sagnol’s men have made a mixed start to the new season. They successfully navigated their way through Europa League qualifying and won in their last outing against Nantes, but that was their first victory from the opening four league matches.
The visitors are without influential former PSG midfielder Clement Chantome through suspension, while Cedric Yambere is also banned. Cheick Diabate, Jaroslav Plasil, Diego Contento, Gregory Sertic and Ludovic Sane have all been injury concerns for Bordeaux in recent weeks and so Sagnol’s side is unlikely to be anywhere near to full-strength.
Before the international break, the Parisians were convincing 3-0 winners at Monaco with record £44.3m signing Angel Di Maria making an excellent debut from the bench. Zlatan Ibrahimovic may well be missing for the hosts but Blanc’s men just have too much flair and too much class to be stopped.
Since the former Bordeaux boss took charge of the capital club, PSG have recorded W31-D7-L1 in 39 home Ligue 1 games – 26 of those matches ended in a victory by a two-goal margin or bigger and the same number saw Les Rouge-et-Bleu lead at half-time and full-time. Les Girondins were rarely outclassed during 2014/15 but the 2009 champions were well-beaten 3-0 at the Parc des Princes and may struggle to keep in touch with their bang in-form hosts.
I’m going to take PSG to win and Under 3.5 Goals at 4/5.
It’s bigger than a Handicap or Half-Time/Full-Time play and makes plenty of appeal when seeing Bordeaux have delivered Under 2.5 Goals in nine of their previous 11 away days, only breaking the three-goal barrier in two of Sagnol’s 21 road trips. PSG have been involved with 21/39 (54%) of Under 3.5 Goals matches as Ligue 1 hosts.
PSG to win and Under 3.5 Goals (4/5)
*Prices correct at time of publication.