Mark O’Haire’s European Football Tips – SaturdayStats
Villarreal are the current league leaders in La Liga but Barcelona know a victory in Seville will send the Catalans back to the summit.
Sevilla v Barcelona, Saturday 3rd October 2015, 15.00
Only, Luis Enrique’s wafer-thin squad makes the journey to the formidable Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan without two of their most important figures.
The world’s greatest, Lionel Messi, is joined on the sidelines by skipper Andres Iniesta, severely hampering the defending champions. Barca were put under all sorts of pressure by an enterprising Bayer Leverkusen in midweek and make the journey to Andalucia on the back of a defeat and draw in their last two road trips at Celta Vigo and Roma.
Normally I’d be all over opposing Barcelona at short prices when visiting Sevilla but Unai Emery’s hosts are enduring their own injury problems and have been a shadow of the side that finished fifth last term. Timothee Kolodziejczak and Marco Andreolli will again be asked to deputise at centre-half as Los Rojiblancos hunt only their second league success in seven outings.
There’s probably an ounce of value in siding with Sevilla to avoid defeat but this fixture is synonymous with goals and backing another high-scoring encounter looks the best solution on Saturday afternoon. The last seven duels between the two teams have broken the Over 2.5 Goals barrier and also seen Both Teams To Score backers collect. In total, those seven meetings featured a huge 37 goals.
Back in August these two played out a thrilling 5-4 UEFA Super Cup final that ended in Barca’s favour in extra-time and whilst a repeat is unlikely, backing Over 2.5 Goals at 4/6 looks nailed on. The Catalans have scored at least twice in their last eight showdowns with Sevilla as well as their previous 15 trips to the
For the hosts, Los Rojiblancos have welcomed the big-two of Spain on four occasions under Emery’s watch and all four have featured three to five goals with BTTS banking on each occasion.
Even without Messi and Iniesta, the visitors have enough craft, guile and superstar quality to unlock a patched up Sevilla backline whilst Sevilla will fancy their chances against a Barca defence that’s leaked four goals on three separate occasions and kept only two clean sheets in 11 matches in 2015/16.
Over 2.5 Goals @ 4/6
Chievo v Hellas Verona, Saturday 3rd October 2015, 19.45, BT Sport Europe
The seventh Verona derby in Serie A arrives on Saturday night and whilst it might not get the same attention as a Milanese, Turin or Rome equivalent, the stakes, passion and ferocity is just as intense between Chievo and Hellas.
The two teams arrive in vastly different form. For Chievo, their 11-point return from six matchdays represents their best ever start to a top-flight campaign. Rolando Maran’s side have no injury concerns and are playing some of the best football the club has seen in years, if not ever.
Last weekend, the Flying Donkeys took a point off Sassuolo on the road but it’s their Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi record that deserves maximum respect. Since Maran arrived, Chievo have W6-D8-L5 on home soil with losses coming against Genoa, Inter (twice), Fiorentina and Napoli. More recently that record reads W5-D5-L1.
In contrast, Hellas are winless after their opening six fixtures in Serie A for the first time since 1989, a season in which they were eventually relegated. The Mastiffs have been hampered by injury to last season’s top scorer in Serie A, Luca Toni, as well as fellow forwards Giampaolo Pazzini, Luca Siligardi and Juanito Gomez, meaning winger Bosko Jankovic will be asked to play as the team’s main striker.
Andrea Mandorlini’s men are haemorrhaging goals and have now gone 13 games without keeping their sheets clean, including last season. This is Verona’s third campaign back in the top tier but their road record reads a worryingly poor W10-D12-L19 with only 6/41 (15%) shutouts recorded across those matches.
Of course, a derby encounter sees form and fitness go out the window so instead of playing a Chievo win at 21/20, it might be wiser to back another tight, low-scoring derby encounter. After all, the ‘must not lose’ mentality and high-pressured environment could easily take hold.
Three of the last four head-to-heads have been settled by a solitary goal and the duo are in the bottom four for shots attempted in Serie A this season.
Under 2.5 Goals has been a winner in eight of Chievo’s last 10 Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi dates and so backing the Draw and Under 2.5 Goals looks large at 29/10.
Draw and Under 2.5 Goals @ 7/10
Malaga v Real Sociedad, Saturday 3 October 2015, 21.05, Sky Sports 2
Malaga are the first ever side to start a La Liga season with six successive blanks. Javi Gracia’s now under intense pressure to turn the tables on their poor start (W0-D3-L3) but a point achieved at Real Madrid deserves plenty of respect.
The Anchovies were however hit by more bad news in midweek when creative force Nordin Amrabat was ruled out through injury for a considerable amount of time. The hosts are on their longest winless streak for five years and despite Real Sociedad’s obvious weakness when on the road, it’s difficult to find faith in backing Malaga in their current plight.
David Moyes’ visitors played out a goalless draw in the Basque derby with Athletic last weekend but did manage to run out 3-0 winners at Granada in their previous away day. Like their hosts, goals have been thin on the ground but consecutive clean sheets have provided welcome relief.
La Real have W4-D3-L1 in their most recent eight games against Malaga with the most recent four each featuring fewer than three goals. The two sides have already been involved in three 0-0s each already in 2015/16 and so another dull as dishwater encounter could be on the cards.
In total, 13/22 (59%) of La Roselada games under Gracia’s watch have gone below the 2.5 Goals line whilst 12/17 (71%) of Moyes’ boys away days have followed suit. Under 2.5 Goals is just 8/13 so have a play on selecting ‘No’ in the Both Teams To Score market at a much more attractive 5/6.
Both Teams To Score – No @ 5/6
*Prices correct at time of publication