Mark O’Haire’s European Football Tips – Saturday
British football paused for breath on Wednesday afternoon with the news that Gary Neville had accepted a role as head coach of Valencia until the end of the season.
Valencia v Barcelona, Saturday 5 December 2015 (19.30), Sky Sports 2
On Thursday, the British football media focussed almost entirely on the Mestalla as the star of Sky Sports’ punditry was unveiled.
Gary won’t take charge of his first game until next week’s Champions League action but his new club are in desperate need for points and an upturn in performances. As predicted in last weekend’s column, Nuno Espirito Santo lost his job (some say sacked, some say resigned) following a limp 1-0 loss in Sevilla.
Los Che failed to fire a single shot on-target and accusations they’ve lost their quality, organisation, character and identity over the summer is a more than fair assessment. Valencia have been awful in 2015/16; poor results, even worse displays and the dynamism and charisma that came alongside their run to fourth in La Liga under Nuno last time out has long dissipated.
Unluckily for the Bats, their next game presents quite a problem. Not only are they facing the European champions and might of Barcelona, but Valencia are without Joao Cancelo, Antonio Barragan, Javi Fuego and Shkodran Mustafi meaning Ruben Vezo may be forced to play at right-back with Aderllan Santos partnering Aymen Abdennour at centre-half.
Los Che are unbeaten in 18 at the Mestalla but they’ve lost seven of their last 10 when welcoming Barca or Real Madrid and managed just a solitary victory in 16 La Liga battles against the Catalans (W1-D4-L11); failing to land three points in any of their last eight in front of their home supporters.
The Bluagrana arrive on the back of six consecutive league wins (all by at least a two-goal margin) notching at least three goals on five occasions, have scored 23 goals in their last five competitive matches and come out on top in 13 of their most recent 16 La Liga trips.
Lionel Messi is back fit and firing while Neymar and Luis Suarez have been tormenting teams in recent weeks. The trio are the best three players on the planet right now and have netted 30 of Barcelona’s 33 goals in league action this season. When all three are fit and firing, they’re almost unstoppable.
Neymar’s scoring on average every 76 minutes and has found the back of the net on each of his last four La Liga appearances.
Brazil’s captain looks a decent bet to score in yet another Barca victory at 3/4.
Barcelona to win and Neymar to score (3/4)
Wolfsburg v Dortmund, Saturday 5 December 2015 (17.30), BT Sport Europe
Dortmund put back-to-back defeats behind them as they crushed struggling Stuttgart 4-1 last Sunday. It was the Black & Yellows’ 10th win in 14 Bundesliga matches, confirming their place in second before this weekend’s intriguing contest at fellow high-flyers Wolfsburg.
Thomas Tuchel’s troops trail table-topping Bayern Munich by eight points but hold a seven-point cushion over the Wolves, who only managed a 0-0 draw at Augsburg. BVB have been head and shoulders above their domestic rivals bar Bayern this season but should be in for a real test of their credentials on Saturday evening.
The hosts are unbeaten in 29 home league games, dropping just two points at the Volkswagen Arena this season. Whilst Dieter Hecking’s charges have been almost unstoppable in Lower Saxony, they’ve really struggled on the road. So they’ll be glad of their home comforts.
Wolfsburg have a vital Champions League tie with Manchester United to consider on Tuesday but I still expect them to be on song this Saturday. The Wolves have notched at least two goals in eight of their last nine at the Volkswagen, scoring 87% of their Bundesliga gaols in front of their home supporters.
A huge 13 of their most recent 16 domestic dates when welcoming league opposition have featured three goals or more, including 10 of their previous 12 against top-six clubs. So punters should be advised to look towards the goals markets in what should be an entertaining encounter.
Both teams have scored in the last eight duels with those fixtures producing a whopping 34 goals. Throw in the fact Dortmund have scored in every league game this term with 10 banking in the Both Teams To Score column and we should have the perfect recipe.
Over 2.5 Goals looks a banker at 4/7.
Over 2.5 Goals (4/7)
Inter Milan v Genoa, Saturday 5 December 2015 (19.45), BT Sport Europe
Inter Milan travelled south as Serie A league leaders on Monday night but came back with their tails between their legs. Napoli were 2-1 winners, leapfrogging their guests to top spot having taken a lead inside the first 64 seconds.
Roberto Mancini’s visitors saw Yuto Nagatomo sent off before the interval and fell 2-0 behind before launching a wonderful offensive to claw a goal back. And inside the final minute, the Nerazzurri twice hit the woodwork. It was a thrilling and ballsy fight back that ultimately fell short.
So Inter will be desperate to return to the summit on Saturday night when they entertain Genoa. Most pundits have correctly labelled Mancini’s men dull, dour and boring this season with a side that’s been built from the back. They’re consistent, solid and stable but most importantly, adept at picking up points.
Inter have only won once by more than a single goal – their last San Siro outing against Frosinone– and scored exactly once in 11 of their 14 games. In contrast, they’ve conceded just nine goals and shutout six of their seven visitors to Milan.
Mancini’s altered his formation constantly to match that of his opponent, no matter who that might be. And it’s been working to a tee. We should expect a similar case on Saturday night as the Nerazzurri bid to enhance a wonderful record when welcoming Genoa (W6-D3-L0) since 1994.
Gian Piero Gasperini’s travellers have fallen well below the standards that saw them push for a European place last season with the Rossoblu down in 13th and bagging just one win from their past six (W1-D3-L2).
Genoa haven’t recorded an away victory since May (W0-D3-L4), a clean sheet on the road in 15 and have managed just 15 goals in total this term. Last weekend’s 2-1 reverse at home to lowly Carpi was a major blow and we should be safe to assume Inter will squeeze their way to yet another three points.
We can back Inter at 11/4 to win with Under 2.5 Goals…
and that looks a cracking price considering it’s proven profitable in seven of the hosts’ nine league wins and five of Genoa’s six Serie A losses.
Inter Milan to win and Under 2.5 Goals (11/4)
*Prices correct at time of publication.