Mark O’Haire’s European Football Tips – SaturdayStats
Roma v Inter Milan
Roma’s quest to claim a top-three finish in Serie A should be cemented on Saturday night when the Giallorossi take on Champions League-chasing rivals Inter Milan from the Stadio Olimpico.
Roma v Inter Milan, Saturday 19th March 2016, 19.45, BT Sport Europe
The capital club had fallen off the radar under Rudi Garcia’s tutelage, picking up just two wins over a 10 week period before and after the Christmas break. The Frenchman was dismissed and Roma rolled out the red carpet for returning head coach Luciano Spalletti.
The veteran boss has put the Wolves back on the right path and a stunning run of eight successive Serie A victories, scoring 24 goals, has put Saturday night’s hosts back in firm control of the third and final top-three position.
Roma may have exited the Champions League last week following a 4-0 aggregate defeat to Real Madrid but the Giallorossi created enough chances to win the tie three times over. Back in Serie A, the Giallorossi have proven themselves anything but profligate.
Only Napoli are firing in more shots-on-target per-game in Italy’s top tier and it’s no major surprise to see the Wolves top the scoring charts (61) with the best shot-conversion rate (19%) in Serie A. The Wolves can also lay claim to netting the most first-half (28) and second-half (33) goals this season.
Roma have saved their best performances for the Stadio Olimpico this season and although they’ve shipped goals in five of their last six Serie A contests in the capital, it’s worth noting this side have churned out nine wins from their past 12 home league outings and 20 from 26 going further back.
This weekend Spaletti’s will be able to field almost a full-strength XI as both Daniele De Rossi and Radja Nainggolan have been confirmed fit. Edin Dzeko could sit out of the Giallorossi’s preferred 4-3-3 with the pace and ingenuity of Diego Perotti, Stephan El Shaarawy and Mohamed Salah leading the line.
Roma have W4-D2-L0 in their last six when welcoming Inter to the Olimpico since 2008 and I fancy the hosts to extend that streak with a victory here at 4/5.
Fifth-placed Inter make the journey having recorded back-to-back victories but the Nerazzurri remain five points adrift of their hosts and must contend with a series of unavailable attacking players here.
Roberto Mancini’s men are already without Stevan Jovetic and the suspended Rodrigo Palacio whilst Mauro Icardi is unlikely to be fit having limped out of last weekend’s bland 2-1 success over Bologna. That leaves Eder to lead the line but the ex-Sampdoria striker has failed to score or impress in seven games since signing.
The Nerazzurri are already the joint-lowest scorers in the top-six (39) and their road record leaves a lot to be desired with Inter picking up just two points from a possible 15 as guests recently. In four of those encounters Mancini’s men shipped at least two goals and their solid foundations have begun to crumble.
Inter have recorded a solitary shutout in 11, conceded the first goal in eight of their last 11 at top-six teams and been beaten in six of their past eight trips to the top-six.
Against a rampant Roma, leaking the first goal could really rock the Nerazzurri boat and I fancy the visitors to flounder when the going gets tough.
Roma to win (4/5)
Eintracht Frankfurt v Hannover, Saturday 19th March 2016, 17.30, BT Sport Europe
A fortnight ago Eintracht Frankfurt sacked Armin Veh just 249 days into his second spell in charge of the club. Having guided the Eagles back to the top-flight during a successful first spell, Veh was unable to turn a sinking shop around with a 1-1 draw against Ingolstadt the final nail in his coffin.
Frankfurt have picked up just four points (W0-D4-L4) from a possible 24 to slide into the Bundesliga relegation play-off place – their 24 point-tally after 25 matchdays is their third worst return in Bundesliga history and 17th-placed Hoffenheim have closed the gap to just goal difference.
SGE notched just once in their last five fixtures and only created four clear-cut chances in those 450 minutes. There’s a huge overreliance on veteran skipper Alex Meier in attack and new head coach Niko Kovac may have to cope without their leading marksman again here.
However, Eintracht have talismanic centre-half Carlos Zambrano and playmaker Marc Stendera to call upon again for a crucial relegation showdown with beleaguered rock-bottom Hannover.
This fixture pits the two worst performing German sides in 2016 together. Between them, Frankfurt and H96 have managed to collect just 10 points from a possible 54 and this really is do-or-die.
Thomas Schaaf’s travellers have just 17 points to their name after 26 games and are seven points off the relegation play-off position currently occupied by SGE. No side has ever survived being so far adrift or with such a low points-tally at this stage.
The Lower Saxony club have lost 11 of their last 12 league fixtures (W1-D0-L11) and last weekend’s 2-0 loss to Koln was the sixth occasion in eight in which Hannover had failed to score. Die Roten are going down but I reckon they’ll land a few punches if they go swinging on Saturday.
The last six head-to-heads in Frankfurt have landed winning Over 2.5 Goals selection and it’s telling too that eight of Eintracht’s last nine when welcoming bottom-six sides have featured at least three goals – six of those nine matches produced Over 3.5 Goals.
Looking back to the beginning of last season, the duo have both recorded 17/30 (57%) winners in the Over 2.5 Goals market when playing home/away respectively, implying odds of 3/4 on a repeat.
We can back Over 2.5 Goals here at 20/23 – a value price with both clubs knowing they must land a blow sooner than later if they wish to preserve their Bundesliga status.
Over 2.5 Goals (20/23)
Lyon v Nantes, Saturday 19th March 2016, 20.00, BT Sport 1
It’s taken time but Lyon finally appear to have found their groove and despite dropping points in a thrilling 2-2 draw at Rennes last Sunday night, Les Gones can return to winning ways when Nantes arrive this weekend.
Bruno Génésio’s guided the hosts to a 16-point haul from a possible 21 since the start of February – including dishing out PSG’s first domestic defeat of the season – to move Lyon back to within a point of the top-three and Champions League qualification.
Les Gones have W5-D1-L1 in their last seven having returned just W1-D2-L7 in their previous 10 and their move to a brand new stadium at Parc OL certainly hasn’t put the brakes on, either.
Lyon have scored 19 goals in their six outings (W5-D1-L0) in their new surroundings – as many as they managed in their final 13 games at the Stade Gerland.
Alexandre Lacazette is now relishing his more expressive role in Les Gones attack whilst Rachid Ghezzal and Maxwell Cornet have flourished under Génésio’s leadership so I’d fancy the home side to show their mettle again here.
Lyon have W11-D4-L1 in their last 16 encounters with Nantes. As hosts, the fallen French giants have W11-D2-L0 in 13 Ligue 1 meetings with the Canaries and we can back Les Gones to extend that streak by taking the 7/4 on offer for Lyon -1 in the handicap market.
Since the start of last season, Lyon have W23-D6-L5 when welcoming league opposition – 17/34 (50%) of those games featured wins by at least a two-goal margin – making the 7/4 available a handy value price.
Nantes comfortably saw off Angers in the derby last time out with Emiliano Sala grabbing a double to extend the Canaries’ impressive recent run (W5-D10-L1). Only PSG have accumulated more clean sheets than Michel Der Zakarian’s men’s tally of 14 but the visitors have a number of defensive concerns here.
Injured trio Valentin Rongier, Adryan and Koffi Djidji all miss the trip whilst centre-half Lorik Cana is also expected to struggle in his battle for fitness. The travellers have W1-D5-L3 away and been beaten in 10 of their past 12 visits to top-six clubs and this should be another.
Lyon -1 handicap (7/4)
*Prices correct at time of publication