Mark O’Haire’s European Football Bets – SaturdayStats
Inter Milan v Sampdoria
You have to go back to December 1996 for Sampdoria’s last victory over Inter Milan at San Siro.
Inter Milan v Sampdoria, Saturday 20th February 2016, 19.45, BT Sport Europe
Vincenzo Montella scored twice in that 4-3 success and now the former striker returns with a Samp side desperate for points.
Montella carved out an excellent reputation at Fiorentina in his most recent coaching gig but turning the ailing Blucerchiati bus around is proving a much sterner test of his credentials. No side has picked up fewer points than Sampdoria’s nine since he was appointed 13 games ago.
Saturday night’s visitors now sit just three points above the drop zone and need to turn the tables on their dreadful road record fast. The guests have accumulated just six points on their travels this term (W1-D3-L8) with nine of those 12 matches seeing them ship at least two goals.
With eight defeats in their last 10 trips to top-six sides in Serie A and Pedro Pereira, Lorenzo De Silvestri and Jacopo Sala all expected to be out, you’re inclined to believe this should be a walk in the park for Inter. But I disagree and I think the odds are a touch harsh on Samp.
The arrival of Fabio Quagliarella may have pushed Luis Muriel back to the bench, but it’s also enabled Montella to field Antonio Cassano once again, in a more balanced line-up. And if any top-six side is capable of self-destruction, it’s most certainly Inter.
Roberto Mancini’s men began the campaign with W5-D0-L1 from their first six and the Nerazzurri even topped the table coming into 2016. However, a run of W1-D3-L3 has seen the hosts slide down the standings as they now lead city rivals AC Milan by just two points.
Excluding the game against newcomers Frosinone, Inter failed to score more than a single goal in any of their 11 Serie A games at San Siro and former Sampdoria striker Eder’s failed to find the back of the net since arriving.
What’s more, the Nerazzurri are missing three key players in midfield through suspension. Gary Medel, Geoffrey Kondogbia and Alex Telles are all absent so the home side look vulnerable on Saturday night.
Despite their travel woes, Sampdoria have scored in 24/31 (77%) of away league games since the start of last season and are certainly capable of enhancing that record here.
So with Inter returning just W11-D7-L7 as hosts under Mancini, I’m keen to explore the options in opposing them.
The 7/5 on offer for Samp with a +1 handicap makes most appeal – we’ll be paid out should the visitors avoid defeat.
Sampdoria +1 Handicap @ 7/5
Real Betis v Sporting Gijon, Saturday 20th February 2016, 19.30, Sky Sports 3
Real Betis are odds-on favourites to clinch a vital victory in this six-pointer but I wouldn’t be willing to back Los Verdiblancos with stolen money on Saturday night.
Juan Merino’s men collected their first win in 14 (W1-D6-L7) a fortnight ago when a ramshackle Valencia outfit arrived at the Benito Villamarin. But that triumph represented just Betis’ second home success since promotion (W2-D4-L5) with their 10-point tally in front of their home supporters a divisional low.
The weekend’s hosts have suffered just one loss in five (W1-D3-L1) and did hold Real Madrid to a creditable draw towards the end of January here but they’re yet to score more than a single goal in 13 and rank rock-bottom in La Liga’s shots-on-target ratings.
Coming into Saturday’s showdown, Merino will be without both Cristiano Piccini and Heiko Westermann though injury. Fortunately, German Pezzella returns from suspension and should start alongside Bruno at centre-half but even so, there’s little reason to believe they’re worthy of their odds-on status.
No goalkeeper has been forced into as many saves at home as Antonio Adan and Sporting Gijon should keep him busy having targeted this fixture. Head coach Abelardo Fernandez made nine changes to his XI for their midweek encounter with Barcelona, leaving his big-hitters fresh for the trip to Seville.
Los Rojiblancos put in an entertaining show against the all-conquering Catalans on Wednesday and that 3-1 reverse marks their only reverse in five (W2-D2-L1).
Feared young forward Antonio Sanabria is unlikely to make the matchday squad and eight defeats in 13 may put a few punters off but Sporting have returned W3-D1-L1 when visiting clubs outside the top-eight positions and have the ability to cause Betis plenty of problems.
I just have to oppose the hosts here so Sporting Gijon in the Double Chance market looks just the ticket at 5/6.
Double Chance: Sporting Gijon or Draw @ 5/6
Angers v Montpellier, Saturday 20th February 2016, 19.45, BT Sport 1
I do wonder who’s in charge of BT Sport’s scheduling for Saturday night. The decision to screen Angers v Montpellier seems a little peculiar and I’d discourage anyone who’s thinking about tuning in to do so. It’s going to be ugly.
For starters, Angers’ Jean-Bouin Stadium has seen the fewest goals in Ligue 1 – just 18 in 13 games with both sides netting in only two of those fixtures and 11 matches featuring fewer than three goals.
But don’t discount Montpellier from the low-scoring books, either. The visitors make the journey having seen Under 2.5 Goals backers collect in 15 of their previous 20 road trips. A hunky 10 of their most recent 18 Ligue 1 away days have produced one goal or fewer.
Only rock-bottom Troyes (14) have failed to score more often than these two. Between them, Angers (10) and Montpellier (11) have fired blanks in 21 of their 52 matches in 2015/16 – that’s a ridiculously high 40%.
Anyhow, after an outstanding start back in France’s top tier, Stéphane Moulin’s hosts have hit a wall. Having lost just twice in 13, Le SCO have now returned W2-D0-L6 from their most recent eight outings as they slide back into mid-table.
Of course, Angers have exceeded expectations and deserve plenty of plaudits for their encouraging campaign but on Saturday they’re without their three most important performers for the visit of Montpellier.
Influential midfielders Cheikh Ndoye and Thomas Mangani plus striker Gilles Sunu are suspended, as well as Romain Saiss. With Romain Thomas and Yoann Andreu also doubtful, Moulin might be without half of his favoured starting XI.
The hosts may have only lost twice on home soil all season but they were dominated from the off at Rennes last time out and look very vulnerable against a Montpellier side fighting for their lives.
Frédéric Hantz guided La Paillade to a second win in four (W2-D1-L1) since taking charge when welcoming fellow strugglers Toulouse last weekend but they were a little fortunate to take maximum points. Nevertheless, they’ve now been beaten just twice in eight road trips (W2-D4-L2) and look primed to avoid defeat here.
Third-choice goalkeeper Jonathan Ligali will be between the sticks for Montpellier with both Laurent Pionnier and Geoffrey Jourdren injured whilst playmaker Jonas Martin is banned. Ryad Boudebouz has been off-colour in recent weeks too but even so, La Paillade possess the quality to get something at the Jean-Bouin, so are worth siding with Draw No Bet at 4/5.
Montpellier Draw No Bet @ 4/5
*Prices correct at time of publication