Mark O’Haire – European Football Tips – Saturday


The first half of the 2015-16 Bundesliga season hasn’t deviated too much from the wider, familiar story of recent years.

Borussia Monchengladbach v Borussia Dortmund, Saturday 23rd January 2016, 17.30, BT Sport Europe
At the very top, Bayern Munich have again been in a class of their own under Pep Guardiola but Borussia Dortmund have reinstated themselves as one of Europe’s best attacking sides under Thomas Tuchel.

Unfortunately for the Black & Yellows, their swagger and style hasn’t always reaped rewards and a sloppy 2-1 loss at Koln just before the winter break saw them drop eight points behind the immovable Bayern, as the Hinrunde came to a close.

BVB played some breathtaking football at times, scoring more goals than any other side. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s league-high 18 goals is the most of any player at this stage of a season since the days of Gerd Muller.

Dortmund’s 38-point tally is their best return since the title-winning campaign of 2010/11 and some time away in Dubai should have given Tuchel’s troops the impetus to push on and continue challenging for trophies on all three fronts.

Although, a trip to Gladbach will be no walk in the park. Since Andre Schubert stepped up, the Foals have been almost unstoppable. The former U23 coach took the club from rock-bottom to fourth, went unbeaten in his first 10 Bundesliga outings and even downed runaway leaders Bayern.

In fact, Bayern are the only side to pick up more points than Gladbach since he took charge

…and their 32-goal tally across those fixtures make the hosts the most lethal goalscorers across those 12 fixtures.

Stand-in skipper Granit Xhaka is suspended here but Gladbach added highly-rated centre back Martin Hinteregger and Jonas Hofmann to their ranks over the winter and will fancy their chances of grabbing a couple of goals – they’ve netted at least twice in 10 of their previous 12 fixtures.

The Foals have also triumphed in 15 of their last 19 at Borussia-Park, holding a W6-D1-L0 record under Schubert’s tenure and so they look vastly underrated in the markets. With 23/10 available on the hosts in the Draw No Bet market, it’s hard to ignore their claims. After all, the guests haven’t won here since 2009.

But I’m also going to take a goals approach. Gladbach have conceded 30 goals already this term – the worst defensive record of any top-14 club. Tie that return in alongside their superb scoring streak under Schubert and it’s no surprise to see their Bundesliga outings averaging 3.76 goals-per-game. All bar two of their opening nine home encounters have produced at least three goals.

Dortmund can play their part in an open and exciting fixture. Both teams have scored in each of BVB’s most recent eight league games with all eight contests also breaking the Over 2.5 Goals barrier.

Tuchel’s team have suffered defeats in two of their last three away, have kept just two shutouts in nine on the road and only three clubs hold a worse defence record on their travels. So with 11 of their previous 12 trips to top-six teams delivering Over 2.5 Goals, we should stand a great chance of banking on goals.

Over 3.5 Goals is rated a 23/20 chance but I’ll take the 8/5 on Gladbach notching Over 1.5 Goals instead.

Recommended Bets:
Borussia Monchengladbach Draw No Bet @ 23/10
Borussia Monchengladbach to score Over 1.5 Goals @ 8/5

Empoli v AC Milan, Saturday 23rd January 2016, 19.45, BT Sport Europe
Milan opened their 2016 account with a shock and deflating loss to Bologna. Talk across the city was that coach Sinisa Mihajlovic would be relieved of his duties in the coming weeks but the Rossoneri have churned out three decent results to stave off that threat for now.

The 18-time Scudetto champions fought back from a goal down against Roma to dominate proceedings, only to fail to find a winner. Days later, Milan ousted Carpi from the Coppa Italia to reach the semi-finals for the first time since 2012 before last weekend dispatching Fiorentina 2-0 at the San Siro.

The Rossoneri scored early through Carlos Bacca and sealed a 2-0 success just two minutes from time. Milan never looked under pressure against La Viola and were always in control – it was an impressive performance and one that now has fans dreaming of a late run to the top-three.

But first, they must attempt to overcome an Empoli side that’s hit the headlines for their valiant displays this term. I, and most pundits, tipped the Azzurri for a relegation battle following Maurizio Sarri’s departure to Napoli and centre-back Daniele Rugani returning to Juventus.

Marco Giampaolo took over and after losing four of his first six fixtures has guided the Tuscans to W8-D3-L3 from the following 14 matches, and only one loss in eight, against Inter. The hosts are in unchartered territory up in eighth and can leapfrog Milan with a victory on Saturday evening.

In the reverse encounter, Milan claimed a 2-1 triumph but Empoli out-shot their opponents 18-6. Ricky Saponara will again want to make an impression on the club that failed to give him an opportunity after signing and so I’m steering towards the Azzurri.

Milan have only lost twice in their last 13 Serie A games and Mihajlovic finally seems to have a handle on his best XI but they’re yet to convince that their terrible travels are over. Empoli have held Napoli and Fiorentina on home soil so I’ll side with the hosts in the Draw No Bet market at a bulbous 11/10.

Recommended Bet:
Empoli Draw No Bet @ 11/10

Rayo Vallecano v Celta Vigo, Saturday 23rd January 2016, 21.05, Sky Sports Interactive
“Had Valencia actually won it, I would have hung myself in the dressing room” – that was Rayo Vallecano’s head coach Paco Jemez speaking after last Sunday’s 2-2 draw at the Mestalla.

Rayo had dominated Gary Neville’s team from the outset but once again, the capital club failed to take their goalscoring opportunities count and two mistakes allowed their more illustrious opponents to equalise, twice.

Los Franjirrojos went into the weekend in 19th but the point did at least move them up one slot and just one point away from safety. However, the 45 goals they’ve conceded this season is comfortably the worst in Spain’s top-flight and they’re now winless in nine La Liga matches.

I’ve eulogised about Rayo enough in these parts but anyone who has tuned in to see them play will know what great fun they are. With a squad built on freebies and unwanted players, Paco has moulded an adventurous and aesthetically-pleasing outfit.

Last weekend they missed suspended top goalscorer Javi Guerra – scorer of just under half of all their goals this season – but the ex-Cardiff man is back in the fold this weekend and I’d like to count on Rayo again being amongst the goals for the visit of Celta.

The capital club have conceded at least twice in each of their last eight with seven of those matches featuring at least three goals.

Therefore, taking the 4/5 on Over 2.5 Goals looks a decent angle.

Although Celta have struggled without their talisman Nolito, new signing Claudio Beauvue is available and should make his debut in the Celta attack alongside the in-form Iago Aspas and Fabián Orellana.

The Sky Blues have leaked at least twice in their last three matches, were involved in a topsy-turvy 4-3 encounter with rock-bottom Levante last week and are known for their offensive approach under Marcelo Bielsa disciple Eduardo Berizzo.

Recommended Bet:
Over 2.5 Goals @ 4/5

*Prices correct at time of publication