Mark O’Haire’s European Football Tips – SaturdayStats
The game of the weekend in La Liga arguably takes place in Andalusia as Sevilla look to overtake sixth-placed Athletic Bilbao with a victory over the Basques on Saturday evening.
Sevilla v Athletic Bilbao, Saturday 9th January 2016, 17.15, Sky Sports 3
Unai Emery’s hosts stand a decent chance at doing so too. Los Nervionenses have bagged seven successive victories at their atmospheric Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan home, keeping four clean sheets in the process. Barcelona, Real Madrid and Valencia have all left Sevilla pointless this season.
It’s been a common theme when following the Andalusians under Emery’s watch.
Since the start of 2014/15, Sevilla have recorded a staggeringly strong W20-D5-L3 on home soil – in 19 of those 28 games they struck at least twice, keeping clean sheets in exactly half.
In midweek a much-changed Sevilla side beat bitter local rivals Real Betis 2-0 in Copa del Rey action meaning last weekend’s surprise defeat at lowly Granada was their only reverse in 10 outings. Adil Rami might be suspended here but historical trends suggest the hosts are a decent bet at even-money for another three points.
Los Nervionenses have lost just once in 16 against Athletic and although the Basques are unbeaten since mid-December, racking up recent wins against the likes of Levante and Celta Vigo, they’ve struggled to churn out convincing performances away.
The travellers did succeed at Celta but the hosts were without star performer Nolito and that was Les Leones’ only triumph in five at top-eight rivals in La Liga (W1-D1-L3). Indeed, it’s not pretty reading when delving into Ernesto Valverde’s road record at top-half teams.
Since his appointment in the summer of 2013, Bilbao have W3-D7-L8 at the top-10 when excluding results against Barcelona or Real Madrid. And most alarmingly, the northerners failed to notch at all in 10 of those 18 away days.
Sevilla to win @ Evens
Fiorentina v Lazio, Saturday 9th January 2016, 17.00, BT Sport Europe
Fiorentina have been chalked up as 5/6 shots to see off Lazio on Saturday night and I’m seduced. Just like I have been by La Viola over the past 12 months.
Only Juventus have accumulated more points than the Florence boys in 2015 and 2016 started with a bang too as the Tuscans came away with a compromising and confident away victory at Palermo in Sicily in midweek. That result keeps the club just a point off the Serie A summit – they’re serious contenders.
Free-flowing Fiorentina are playing some cracking football under Paolo Sousa, dominating all the major performance data topics and it would be a surprise if they tripped up at their Artemio Franchi this weekend.
The form of Nikola Kalinic and Josip Ilicic has been a major factor in their outstanding season and both will be out to cause more problems for an underperforming Lazio side that’s looked lost without the steadying hand of injured centre-half Stefan de Vrij.
A 2-1 win away at leaders Inter before Christmas was a rare positive performance in a big game from Lazio, who failed to register a shot on target in Wednesday’s 0-0 bore draw with Carpi in the capital.
Stefano Pioli is coming under increasing pressure in the hot seat having guided the Romans to just a solitary success in nine and with six defeats in seven games against currently teams above them, it’s hard not to see anything other than a routine home win for Fiorentina here.
Fiorentina to win @ 5/6
Roma v AC Milan, Saturday 9th January 2016, 19.45, BT Sport Europe
With Juventus claiming four Serie A titles on the spin before this season, nobody foresaw the Old Lady making their worst ever start to a league campaign.
Max Allegri’s men have recovered magnificently though and eight consecutive victories have lifted the Bianconeri back into contention at the top of the table. At the same time, Roma have slumped.
The capital club were thought of as the most obvious beneficiaries of Juve’s slow start having finished runners-up in the Scudetto race in each of the previous two campaigns. And having opened their campaign with seven successes from 10, the Giallorossi looked well placed.
Fast-forward 10 weeks and head coach Rudi Garcia is clinging onto his position. Roma have now bagged just one victory in their last nine outings to slide down to fifth and six points behind table-topping Inter Milan.
In midweek the Wolves let slip a 2-0 lead to draw 3-3 at Chievo but they’ll be looking forward to returning home to the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday evening.
On home soil, Garcia’s charges have picked up six wins from eight and in 46 previous Serie A home outings under the Frenchman, the Giallorossi have returned a very strong W37-D12-L5.
Looking at the Wolves’ record when hosting top-half teams, their W15-D5-L3 exploits suggest they’re a resilient bunch against the league’s elite. With that in mind, I’m willing to put my faith in a home victory by backing Roma at even-money for the visit of Milan.
The guests are going through a state of transition under manager Sinisa Mihajlović and arrive on the back of a frustrating 1-0 loss at home to Bologna in midweek. Although it was just their first reverse in five and only their second defeat in 13, the Rossoneri’s road record leaves a lot to be desired.
Since the start of last season, Milan have W10-D12-L15 away from home with their return at top-half teams an unimpressive W1-D4-L8.
Delve a little deeper and we can see the visitors have lost all four games against clubs above them in the standings this season and I don’t expect those away day blues to be cured this weekend.
Roma to win @ Evens
*Prices correct at time of publication