Mark O’Haire’s European Football Tips – Sunday
Claudio Ranieri might be ridding his ‘Tinkerman’ tag in the Premier League but over in Serie A, another Italian with experience of the English game is just getting started.
Inter Milan v Lazio, Sunday 20th December 2015, 19.45, BT Sport 1
Roberto Mancini has constantly adapted his formation – often mirroring those of Inter Milan’s opponents – this season and in his constant search for success and the Nerazzurri are reaping the rewards for their adaptability.
Inter are top of the table and have now kept 11 clean sheets in their 16 league fixtures following their 4-0 success at Udinese last weekend.
Such dependability has been no accident as astute planning plus the fine form of Samir Handanovic in goal – he boasts the best saves-to-shots percentage of any goalkeeper in Europe’s top five leagues – has given the table-toppers the belief they could push on and claim the Scudetto.
Mauro Icardi notched twice at the Stadio Friuli and there’s hope his double will spur him on to the goalscoring exploits that saw the youngster conclude 2014/15 as joint-capocannoniere. Inter haven’t been too flashy but they’re functional and effective, especially when taking on the league’s lesser lights.
The Nerazzurri have taken 35 of their 39 points (W11-D2-L0) against clubs currently outside the top-four compared to just one (W0-D1-L2) against Napoli, Fiorentina and Juventus. So they should be well capable of putting away a dreadfully out-of-form Lazio side at the San Siro on Sunday.
The Romans had lofty ambitions to secure another Champions League qualifying berth this term but the capital club are in free-fall with just two points taken from a possible 21. In early October Stefano Pioli’s troops were riding high in third, now they’re close to the relegation zone than the top-three.
Their last-gasp heartache at home to Sampdoria saw Lazio fail to record three points in four consecutive home games for the first time since March 2010 and the Biancocelesti are being hampered by their awful defensive problems.
Stefan De Vrij’s absence has been a constant thorn and it’s now just one shutout in nine for the Romans. They’ve lost all eight duels against top-half teams this term to an aggregate score of 3-21 and have to be avoided.
Inter to win at 3/4 quotes look fantastic value.
Inter Milan to win @ 3/4
Malaga v Atletico Madrid, Sunday 20th December 2015, 19.30, Sky Sports 4
It was a strange weekend in Spain last weekend. Malaga scored twice and won away from home for only the third time in 2015 and Atletico Madrid conceded just their first goal in five La Liga outings.
Still, the Mattress Makers made it eight victories on the spin in all competitions when coming from behind to beat Athletic Bilbao. That three points enabled Diego Simeone’s men to move level with league leaders Barcelona, who let slip a 2-0 lead at home to Deportivo 24 hours earlier.
Atletico now have the chance to be top dogs at Christmas should they avoid defeat on the Costa del Sol on Sunday and it would take a brave punter to bet against them. The capital club have now W11-D2-L0 in their last 13 and they’ve won all 11 fixtures against clubs sitting outside the top-six.
The guests have faced the fewest shots-on-target in Spain (40), have leaked just seven goals in 15 league fixtures (the lowest across Europe’s top five leagues)
…and have scored the opening goal most often (12) this term.
I have to admit; I took a double take when seeing Atleti were available to win at 3/4 here. In the full seasons since Simeone took charge, as well as 2015/16, the Mattress Makers have won 36/64 (56%) of their La Liga road trips, including five of seven this season. A huge 31 of those fixtures saw the visitors keep their sheets clean.
Malaga will no doubt be buoyed by their win at Rayo Vallecano but Javi Gracia’s charges have only W3-D4-L9 when taking on top-six sides since the start of last season. The hosts have fired blanks on four occasions at La Roselada already this term and won’t be given too many favours from an Atleti side hell-bent on being Christmas number one.
Atletico Madrid to win @ 3/4
Bordeaux v Marseille, Sunday 20th December 2015, 20.00, BT Sport/ESPN
On more than one occasion already this season, Bordeaux boss Willy Sagnol’s effectively been fighting to keep his job. Fans have turned but Sagnol’s stayed strong despite an abundance of selection problems alongside the added extras of Europa League involvement.
But Les Girondins almost pulled a rabbit from the hat last weekend to end a 12-match winless streak on the road (W0-D6-L6). Bordeaux led surprise package Angers until the closing stages when a late equaliser foiled their hopes of maximum points.
But Sagnol’s side were impressive performers even though they were missing centre-backs Nicolas Pallois, Lamine Sane and Pablo. A makeshift backline stood up to the challenge well and Sunday’s hosts are now looking stronger and more confident about a challenge from Marseille.
Unlike the bulk of Ligue 1 performers, Bordeaux are aggressive and adventurous in their approach but Marseille under Michel are a more streetwise prospect and it’s the illustrious guests that look the better value this weekend.
L’OM are unbeaten in seven and boast the best forwardline outside of the capital. Georges-Kevin Nkoudou, Romain Alessandrini, Remy Cabella and sought-after striker Michy Batshuayi give Les Phoccens a devastating cutting edge in attack and it’s worked a treat away from the pressures of the Stade Velodrome.
Marseille have won five consecutive away games in all competitions and in Ligue 1 they’ve W4-D4-L1 and W2-D3-L0 in their most recent five – their best run of the campaign. I’m inclined to believe they’re capable of sustaining that form on Sunday and the 5/6 on the visitors in the Draw No Bet market stands out.
Marseille Draw No Bet @ 5/6
*Prices correct at time of publication