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Mark O’Haire’s European Football Tips – Saturday

Germany’s top two clubs go head-to-head on Saturday with hosts Borussia Dortmund bidding to ignite the Bundesliga title race by further trimming the lead of Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich.

Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Munich, Saturday 5 March 2016 (17.30), BT Sport Europe
Bayern seemed to be running away with a fourth straight league title, and enjoyed an eight-point lead over second-placed Dortmund, until Mainz slammed on the brakes with a shock 2-1 win at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday.

It was only Bayern’s second league defeat of the season and should BVB take that tally to three in Der Klassiker this weekend, their lead at the summit of Germany’s top tier will have been slashed to just two points with nine games to play.

The Bavarians are understandable favourites having destroyed Dortmund 5-1 in Munich last October and Guardiola’s team have also taken top honours in four of their last five league meetings, including two triumphs in the past two seasons at Signal Iduna Park.

In fact, Dortmund’s single Bundesliga victory over Bayern in the last four years was a 3-0 thumping in Munich in April 2014 when Guardiola’s side had already won the league title with a record seven games to spare.

But for the first time in his three seasons, Pep has a league rival breathing down his neck with pressure mounting.

Guardiola also has a meaner list of casualties than Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel, who’s only missing centre-back Sokratis from his first-choice line-up.

Injuries to Jerome Boateng, Javi Martinez and Holger Badstuber have forced the Bayern boss to convert left-back David Alaba into a centre-back alongside Mehdi Benatia. It’s certainly not ideal when coming up against the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Marco Reus.

Tuchel insists he won’t change the Black & Yellows’ approach and will be buoyed by Bayern’s recent toils against well organised, counter-attacking teams. Juventus, Mainz, Leverkusen and Gladbach have all enjoyed pressuring Bayern in possession and breaking with menace when the ball has been turned over.

Indeed, FC Hollywood haven’t convinced against the biggest Bundesliga clubs on the road during Pep’s tenure. When visiting top-six sides under the Catalan, Bayern have W7-D3-L4 and since the start of last season, those figures return a rather soft W4-D2-L3 – remember Gladbach rolling them over before Christmas with an inspiring, all-action performance?

For the first time in his Bayern career, Manuel Neuer was forced into making eight saves in a Bundesliga match (at Wolfsburg last weekend) whilst last month Leverkusen could and probably should have beaten the all-conquering visitors in the BayArena.

There’s no question the Bavarians are the better team on paper but momentum, form and key factors are in Dortmund’s favour here. Tuchel’s troops have performed admirably to dispatch Leverkusen, Porto and a galvanised Hoffenheim lately and they’ll cause a patched-up Bayern backline problems.

With that in mind, I’ll happily take the 13/10 available on determined Dortmund in the Draw No Bet market, knowing the draw is onside and money to be made should the Black & Yellows produce the goods on home soil.

A secondary sub-plot to this showdown is the list of goalscorers on show. The three top Bundesliga marksmen – Robert Lewandowski (23 goals), Aubameyang (22 goals) and Thomas Mueller (17 goals) – will all be in action and with this encounter featuring the league’s two highest scoring sides, goals should follow.

Between the two teams, Over 2.5 Goals has proven profitable in 33/48 (69%) Bundesliga matches this term as the giant duo have only failed to score on three occasions between them.

With four of the last five league head-to-heads producing three or more goals, taking the 3/4 on offer for Over 2.5 Goals looks a decent ploy in what should be a thrilling encounter.

Recommended Bets:
Borussia Dortmund draw no bet (13/10)
Over 2.5 Goals (3/4)

Hellas Verona v Sampdoria, Saturday 5 March 2016 (17.00), BT Sport 2
Rock-bottom Verona are surely in the ‘last chance saloon’ bracket as they prepare to welcome Sampdoria for a crucial six-pointer.

Hellas are nine points adrift from 17th-placed Palermo, having won just twice all season. However, with relegation looking all too likely, Luigi Delneri’s charges have begun playing with reckless abandon and that’s led to a number of high-scoring encounters.

The Gialloblu’s five February fixtures featured a total of 22 goals – 4.40 goals-per-game – and so I’m keen to get involved in another high-scoring match when Sampdoria pitch up at the Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi.

The hosts have failed to record a shutout in any of their last 20 home league fixtures and are welcoming a Blucerchiati outfit that’s notched 13 goals against them in their last four showdowns. The past five meetings between these sides have produced a total of 21 goals and I reckon we’ll be in for more.

Over 2.5 Goals has been chalked up at 5/6 and that looks good enough to me.

Underperforming Samp moved up to 15th with an overdue victory over fellow strugglers Frosinone last time out but they’ve yet to record a clean sheet as guests, shipping two or more goals in 10 of their 13 away days.

Only one of Vincenzo Montella’s troops’ road trips have produced fewer than two goals with their most recent five in 2016 returning a grand total of 20 goals – an average of 4.00 goals-per-game. Lovely.

Despite recording just three wins in 18 league games, Sampdoria have fired blanks on only three occasions in that spell so I’ll happily get the stats onside and take a goals approach to Saturday night’s crucial clash at the bottom.

Recommended Bet:
Over 2.5 Goals (5/6)

Getafe v Sevilla, Saturday 5 March 2016 (19.45), Sky Sports 5
Is now the time to finally invest our faith in Sevilla ending their dreadful away record in 2015/16? I think so.

Ordinarily I’d ridicule odds-on quotes on a side to record their first victory on the road in 14 (W0-D8-L5) but Getafe’s dire run of results makes Sevilla’s lousy away record look almost respectable.

I’m an admirer of Fran Escriba but the home side’s head coach has an enormous task on his hands in stopping the rot that’s set in amongst the Deep Blues since mid-January. Getafe have lost each of their last seven La Liga fixtures, failing to even score in six.

So it’s no surprise to see the capital club plummet down the standings. Escriba’s men are now just a place above the relegation zone having sat comfortably in the top-half only seven weeks ago. Even their solid form at their Coliseum home has deserted them in recent weeks.

Athletic Bilbao, Atletico Madrid and Celta Vigo have all silenced Getafe whilst leaving with maximum points with the hosts managing just an average of 2.60 shots-on-target across their 10 outings in 2016. Sevilla look primed to repeat the trick on Saturday night.

Unai Emery’s charges have performed admirably in tough away trips to Barcelona, Celta Vigo, Atletico Madrid and Rayo Vallecano since a dreadful showing at Granada back in early January and now might be the time for the Andalusians to cut loose.

Los Nervionenses edged out Eibar 1-0 on Wednesday night to make it W12-D6-L4 in La Liga action since mid-September. Timothee Kolodziejczak returns from suspension here to partner Adil Rami at centre-back as Sevilla bid to shutout Getafe.

The visitors bagged 10 wins on the road in the league last season and sitting fifth in the table, are well overdue a slice of success on their travels.

Therefore, I’m willing to wager Saturday night being ‘the night’ Sevilla celebrate an away win.

Recommended Bet:
Sevilla to win (20/21)

*Prices correct at time of publication.