Mark O’Haire’s European Football Tips – Sunday
Ordinarily, this fixture would take top billing in Serie A this weekend but due to the mammoth Juventus v Napoli contest taking place on Saturday evening, the Sunday night showdown between Fiorentina and Inter takes a back seat.
Fiorentina v Inter Milan, Sunday 14 February 2016 19.45, BT Sport Europe
Inter began 2016 at the top of Serie A following a fantastic W12-D3-L3 start to 2015/16. But six points from a possible 18 has seen Roberto Mancini’s men slide to fourth in the Scudetto chase, a full 11 points behind league leaders Napoli.
The Nerazzurri built their challenge upon a strong and sturdy defence but last weekend Inter conceded three goals for the third time in four games. Title-chasing Juventus and bitter city rivals Milan piled on the pain but rock-bottom Verona also fired three goals past the fallen giants, all from set-piece situations.
Inter’s inability to stem the set-piece bleeding is beginning to grate on demanding Nerazzurri supporters – nine of the 20 goals conceded by Inter in this campaign (45%) have been from dead-ball plays.
The early season momentum has gone and Inter need to buck their ideas up fast, especially with a trip to Florence to face fellow Champions League-chasing hosts Fiorentina next.
La Viola are a point and a place ahead of Inter but Paolo Sousa’s side have delivered victories in 12 of their previous 15 games at their Stadio Artemio Franchi base, 10 of which arrived by a margin of at least two goals.
Fiorentina spanked Inter 4-1 in the San Siro earlier this season and whilst a repeat result looks a little unlikely, getting La Viola onside this weekend appears the most logical solution.
Inter were convincingly beaten in their only two previous trips to top-six rivals this season whilst all five of their league defeats have come against Serie A’s top-half. Only two of Inter’s 13 league triumphs this term have arrived by a margin of two goals or more, suggesting they’re not as dominant as their league positions implies.
This fixture is traditionally full of goals with six of the seven meetings between these two teams since 2012/13 seeing at least three goals and since four of Inter’s last six on the road had more than two goals, as have seven of Fiorentina’s last nine at home, lets be bold and back Fiorentina to win and Over 2.5 Goals at 13/5.
Fiorentina To Win and Over 2.5 Goals @ 13/5
Barcelona v Celta Vigo, Sunday 14 February 2016 19.30, Sky Sports 1
A late goal from teenager Wilfrid Kaptoum gave Barcelona’s reserves a 1-1 draw in the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg with Valencia on Wednesday night and in doing so, set a new club record of 29 matches unbeaten.
The Bluagrana surpassed the record set by the 2010/11 team, coached by Pep Guardiola, despite leaving 11 first-teamers behind in Catalonia including Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.
The cavalry will return on Sunday night for the La Liga encounter with Celta Vigo at the Camp Nou with the Catalans keen to return to winning ways after seeing their 10-game streak ended at the Mestalla.
Not for the first time in recent weeks, Barcelona were below-par in league action last weekend. Taking on rock-bottom Levante, Luis Enrique’s side went ahead with a fortunate own-goal and were made to work extra hard before sealing the points in stoppage-time.
Still, they’ll be expected to brush aside a Celta side that saw their dreams of a first ever trophy extinguished in the driving rain on Thursday night by Sevilla in the Copa del Rey.
The Sky Blues head to the Camp Nou hoping to pull off another shock – in November 2014 the Vigo-based visitors departed with a well-earned 1-0 win. However, history is against the guests who’ve managed just W2-D10-L37 in their 49 trips to the Catalans.
The Galicians have lost each of their previous three road trips – their worst run of results on their travels for over 12 months.
And with five losses in six at Barcelona or Real Madrid, each by a two-goal margin or larger, the prospect of another upset looks slim.
The all-star hosts are likely to reunite the M-S-N trident and between them,
Luis Suarez (20), Neymar (16) and Messi (12) have scored 48 La Liga goals – more than all of their divisional rivals have managed in total, bar Madrid.
With 17/31 (55%) of Barcelona’s Camp Nou encounters in league format under Luis Enrique seeing the Bluagrana win by a margin of at least three goals, the handicap market comes into play. Even more so seeing Celta have shipped at least two goals in seven of their last 11 away days.
The hosts have notched three or more goals in 20/31 (65%) outings in the Catalan capital but a wiser avenue might be to back Barca to win ‘to nil’ at 7/10.
The Sky Blues arrive without their three first-choice attackers. Between them, the missing trio of Iago Aspas, Nolito and Fabian Orellana have scored 23 of the Galicians’ 34 Liga goals this season – tie that alongside Barcelona’s recent record of winning ‘to nil’ in five of their previous seven Camp Nou La Liga outings and it’s an appealing prospect.
Barcelona to win ‘to nil’ (7/10)
Nice v Marseille, Sunday 14 February 2016 20.00, BT Sport 1
Nice are sitting in Ligue 1’s top-three at this stage of the season for the first time in 13 years but Claude Puel’s young bucks are enduring a bit of vertigo.
Les Aiglons have lost two of their previous three league fixtures – as many as in their previous 10 – and appeared to have lost their rhythm, confidence and identity when meekly going down to 10-man Monaco last weekend.
Nice’s opponents lost Fabio Coentrao to injury and Nabil Dirar to a foolish early red card and, bar Vincent Koziello’s effort that cannoned back off the crossbar, Puel’s men performed poorly. To make matters worse, star man Hatem Ben Arfa left the field injured.
The French international is expected to be out of action for at least a month and whilst Les Aiglons’ squad is stocked with talented young starlets and the quality to hurt any Ligue 1 opponent, they’ll miss their rejuvenated 11-goal man.
A derby fixture should certainly stir the home emotions, especially as the hosts come into this contest on the back of a four-match winning streak at their Allianz Riviera home – their best run of results in front of their home supporters for 12 months.
But visitors Marseille arrive in decent nick too. Michel’s men banished their Le Classique defeat to PSG last Sunday night by comfortably seeing off minnows Trelissac 2-0 in the Coupe de France in midweek despite resting and rotating their squad.
Les Phoceens were unbeaten in 11 (W4-D7-L0) before sliding to that 2-1 loss against the runaway league leaders but will be buoyed by their performance. L’OM put their bitter rivals under plenty of pressure and rued their missed opportunities post-match.
Marseille continue to languish around the middle of Ligue 1’s table but their progress has been stunted by their poor displays at the Stade Velodrome. On the road, playing without pressure and expectation, Michel’s men have flourished.
The visitors are unbeaten in eight away Ligue 1 games (W6-D2-L0) and have scored in each of their previous 10 road trips.
However, with eight league losses in 11 at top-six teams and a W1-D0-L4 head-to-head record with Nice, it’s hard to justify the guests as 13/10 favourites. So instead, lets get stuck into the goals markets with Both Teams To Score looking enticing at 4/5 quotes.
Since the start of last season, Nice have seen at least three goals netted in 18/31 (58%) of their home Ligue 1 encounters with the same figure featuring both teams scoring.
Admittedly, Marseille’s trends aren’t quite as strong with 13/31 (42%) of their away days breaking the 2.5 Goals barrier and 15/31 (48%) rewarding Both Teams To Score punters. But a healthy 22/31 (71%) of those road trips have reached at least the two-goal threshold meaning a winner shouldn’t be too far away.
Both Teams To Score @ 4/5
*Prices correct at time of publication