Soccer – UEFA Champions League – Final – Juventus v Barcelona – Olympiastadion

Mark O’Haire’s European Football Tips – Saturday

Poor Rayo Vallecano. The penniless club from the Spanish capital have been punching above their weight for numerous seasons under the astute leadership of Paco Jemez.

Barcelona v Rayo Vallecano, Saturday 17 October 2015 (19.30), Sky Sports 2
The charismatic coach encourages his side to play passing and possession-based football that’s easy on the eye. For seasons it’s worked wonders.

Jemez is reasonably rigid in his approach and that occasionally has its downfalls. Unwilling to remodel his style when faced with La Liga’s big guns, Rayo often get pummelled when taking on the likes of Barcelona or Real Madrid. It’s brave but often head-banging seeing Los Franjirrojos’ collection of free transfers and loans attempting to go toe-to-toe with the world’s best.

Rayo were slaughtered 6-1 at the Camp Nou last season and their past nine matches with Barca have resulted in nine defeats by an aggregate score of 2-40. The minnows have leaked at least three goals in all bar one of those contests and been trailing at the interval in each defeat. Jemez’s troops have actually seen L-L double results in all of their past eight visits to the Catalans and Real Madrid.

Another trip to the Camp Nou is a daunting prospect, even without Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and potentially Luis Suarez. The hosts might be thin on the ground but it’s almost unthinkable to see them failing to grab a goal (the Bluagrana have been shutout just twice in 74 home league fixtures) and collect maximum points.

Neymar has stepped up in Messi’s absence, netting four in his past five La Liga matches and with Barca notching at least twice in 18 of their last 21 La Liga home encounters, it shouldn’t require too much effort to repeat the feat.

Rayo are without the suspended centre-half Antonio Amaya but grabbing a goal themselves is more than possible. The hosts have kept just two clean sheets in 12 games this term and in La Liga they’ve already leaked nine goals in seven outings – the most at this stage since 2005/06.

Rayo netted in this clash last season and can do so again despite falling to defeat.

A Barcelona win and Both Teams To Score is 13/10.

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Torino v AC Milan, Saturday 17 October 2015 (19.45), BT Sport Europe
Torino are the only side to beat Serie A pace-setters Fiorentina this season and the Granata can keep their 100% home record intact on Saturday night when an unconvincing Milan comes to town. Torino are backable at 29/20 and I’ll be getting involved at those quotes.

Giampiero Ventura’s men have pocketed wins in seven of their past 10 at the Stadio Olimpico in Turin and continue to joyfully surprise Serie A watchers. Their achievements are all the more remarkable when you consider the players they’ve sold in the past 18 months but even so, the Granata continue to make positive strides.

Only three teams – Juventus, Fiorentina and Lazio – have collected more points in Serie A since the start of this calendar year and their progress is testament to the tactical nous of Ventura and the thoughtful squad construction that he has helped to orchestrate with sporting director Gianluca Petrarchi.

The hosts are genuine European challengers once more and should have enough to dispatch Sinisa Mihajlović’s underperforming big guns. The Rossoneri were tonked 4-0 at home to Napoli just before the international break and their away form has been poor with three defeats to nil in their first four league trips of the campaign.

Milan are undefeated in 15 battles with Torino (W9-D6-L0) but that will count for nothing come Saturday night.

The Italian giants are yet to record a clean sheet this term, have lost six of their past eight at top-six clubs and their goal difference of -5 this season is the worst return for the Rossoneri after seven match-days since 1938/39. Ouch.

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Eintracht Frankfurt v Borussia Monchengladbach, Saturday 17 October 2015 (17.30), BT Sport Europe
Eintracht Frankfurt had been famed for their high-scoring games in recent seasons but Armin Veh’s return has coincided with a downturn in the Eagles’ goals-per-game ratio. Just three of Eintracht’s first eight Bundesliga matches this term has broken the two-goal barrier and so opposing a goal-heavy game when Gladbach arrive looks a decent ploy.

Frankfurt may have failed to record a clean sheet this term on home soil but Veh’s men have seen Under 2.5 Goals bank in each of their past four outings and a repeat at 21/20 appeals. The Eagles are unbeaten in 14 at their SGL Arena home (W8-D6-L0) but their W2-D2-L2 when hosting top-six clubs last season saw two goals or fewer in all bar two matches.

The normally free-scoring hosts have failed to net in three of their last four and managed just two wins this term and are coming up against a rejuvenated Gladbach. The Foals signed off for the international break with an impressive 2-0 success at home to big-spending Wolfsburg and can recall influential defender Tony Jantschke.

Granit Xhaka remains highly doubtful but even so, interim boss André Schubert has enough tools at his disposal to frustrate Eintracht. Schubert is the only Gladbach manager to have won each of his first three and with Raffael in outstanding form going forward, the visitors will have their admirers.

But looking back on last season’s efforts, six of their eight away days at top-half Bundesliga clubs saw Under 2.5 Goals prove profitable and at odds-against quotes this weekend, it looks a decent option.

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*Prices correct at time of publication.