Mark O’Haire’s European Football Tips – Sunday
Atletico Madrid’s 1-0 win over city rivals Real at the Bernabeu last weekend was their 10th away win of the season in La Liga and they’ve conceded only five goals in those 14 matches on their travels.
Valencia v Atletico Madrid, Sunday 6 March 19.30, Sky Sports 2
Diego Simeone’s side have now shipped just 11 goals in league action this season – that’s a record for a La Liga side after 27 games – and the Mattress Makers have faced the fewest shots (261) and shots-on-target in the Spanish top tier too.
Los Rojiblancos’ 1-0 victory at Real in their most recent road trip marked their fifth success in six as visitors with Barcelona’s 2-1 triumph at the Camp Nou the only occasion in which Atleti’s backline has been breached. Astonishingly, Simeone’s men have kept their sheets clean in 15 of their last 22 away.
So we can expect another typical Atletico performance on Sunday night as they head to Gary Neville’s Valencia. The hosts have seen their own form pick up with three wins in four La Liga fixtures but Los Che have failed to shutout any opponent since the end of October.
At the Mestalla, Valencia had suffered just a solitary reverse in 30 but two defeats in three and just W1-D5-L2 from their past eight have seen confidence knocked. In all eight of those recent encounters, Los Che have seen their visitors score.
If you include away games, Neville’s troops have leaked in each of their past 17 league matches.
In 12 of their 13 fixtures under the Englishman they’ve also conceded the opening goal, while in three of their past six they’ve failed to find the net themselves.
On their day, the Bats can be vibrant and effective in the final third and both Barcelona and Real have faced tough contests when travelling to the Mestalla. But all too often their defensive inadequacies have caught up and left Valencia chasing games.
Atletico have scored first in 12 of their 14 away matches this season and I can see Los Rojiblancos’ stifling defence setting them up for another narrow triumph. No top-half side has scored fewer goals than Valencia and although Denis Cheryshev’s arrival has given them added clout in the final third, you just can’t ignore the visitors’ defensive stats.
I’ll back Atletico Madrid to win and Under 3.5 Goals at 11/8 – it covers the correct score up to 3-0 (which Athletic Bilbao achieved in Valencia’s last Mestalla meeting) as well as the potential for a home goal.
But I’ll have a wee dabble on Antoine Griezmann scoring in a 1-0 away win at 16/1. The French forward has notched in back-to-back games and is always Atleti’s most potent attacking weapon.
Atletico Madrid to win and Under 3.5 Goals @ 11/8
Antoine Griezmann to score and Atletico Madrid to win 1-0 @ 16/1
Inter Milan v Palermo, Sunday 6 March 19.45, BT Sport Europe
Inter Milan’s valiant Coppa Italia fight-back against Juventus in midweek eventually ended in penalty shoot-out heartache but Roberto Mancini’s men should have drawn plenty of positives from that performance.
The Nerazzurri took the game to the Old Lady from the off and their 3-0 success after 90 minutes was quite comfortably their standout success of 2015/16. Now Inter fans will be hoping to see their heroes push-on in the hope of salvaging their ailing Serie A season.
Mancini troops began their campaign with W5-D0-L1 from their first six and the Nerazzurri even topped the table coming into 2016. However, a run of W2-D3-L4 has seen the hosts slide down the standings as they now lead city rivals Milan by just a solitary point.
Excluding the game against newcomers Frosinone and struggling Sampdoria, Inter failed to score more than a single goal in any of their 12 Serie A games at San Siro and January’s signing Eder is still yet to get off the mark with a goal.
Supporters will hope Mancini will have learnt from Inter’s Coppa Italia clash with Juve and set about favouring just the one defensive midfielder in future. Marcelo Brozovic should be given a start ahead of one of Gary Medel and Felipe Melo with the Nerazzurri opting for a more offensive-minded approach.
Palermo head to San Siro with their heads just about above water.
But the Rosanero are winless in six (W0-D3-L3) and have shipped 13 goals across those fruitless fixtures.
With only one success in nine away from their Sicilian base (W1-D3-L5), failing to even score in five, it’s hard to see the visitors put an end to that run here.
The guests have struggled against the stronger teams in Serie A this season, taking just one point from a possible 24 when going head-to-head with the top-six. That point came in a 1-1 draw in the reverse match-up but repeating the feat in Milan looks a tall order.
Inter still boast the third stingiest defence in the division and with eight clean sheets across their 13 games as hosts, another narrow victory may be on the cards. Mancini’s men have only seen four of those 13 matches creep above the 2.5 Goals line so an Inter win alongside Under 2.5 Goals should again give us a good run for our money at 29/10.
Inter Milan to win and Under 2.5 Goals @ 29/10
Lyon v Guingamp, Sunday 6 March 2016 20.00, BT Sport 2
Paris Saint-Germain lost their first domestic match in 47 outings last Sunday as Lyon shocked the capital club with a 2-1 victory at their new Parc Olympique Lyonnais home.
PSG had not lost for 36 games in Ligue 1 – a run stretching back almost 12 months – but the French champions’ hopes of an invincible season were destroyed by first-half goals from Maxwel Cornet and Sergi Darder.
Les Gones could and should have won by a more handsome margin as Bruno Génésio’s produced a rampant, polished, all-action performance.
The hosts forced the Parisians into mistakes by pressing high and launching devastating counter-attacks and made amends for their four previous defeats already suffered to the runaway league leaders this term.
It was Lyon’s fourth win in five and takes Les Gones back into the Champions League places. Now, they’ll be looking to pocket three more points and enhance their unbeaten streak (W4-D1-L0) at their new home when Guingamp arrive.
The hosts have been victorious in nine of their last 10 when welcoming bottom-six sides to the city.
They have also won eight of their 14 fixtures when Ligue 1 opposition has come to town this term.
Six of those eight successes have been achieved by a two-goal margin and going back further, 16 of their most recent 22 home wins have also been secured by at least two goals. With that in mind, backing Lyon off a -1 start makes plenty of appeal at 5/4 quotes.
Lyon’s shots-on-target ratio figure on home soil – their share of the total shots-on-target – is well above 61%, the third best in the division. And Les Gones’ average of over six shots-on-target per-game as hosts isn’t too far behind PSG’s league-best tally.
Guests Guingamp have been beaten in 18 of their 33 road trips since the start of last season whilst their record at top-half teams in that time reads W2-D2-L12, as they’ve failed to score on seven occasions.
EAG are likely to suffer similar fate here with only Troyes, Gazalec and Lorient facing more on-target efforts on their travels despite previously only visiting PSG from the current top-three.
Jocelyn Gourvennec’s group are unlikely to be able to cope with the goalmouth bombardment and having failed to net in eight of their 14 away days already in 2015/16, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if they slumped to a two-goal defeat.
Lyon -1 handicap @ 5/4