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Mark O’Haire’s European Football Tips – Saturday

Roger Schmidt will take charge of his 50th Bundesliga match this weekend but after midweek Champions League disappointment, questions are beginning to be asked about the progress made under Bayer Leverkusen chief.

Bayer Leverkusen v Borussia Monchengladbach, Saturday 12 December 2015 (17.30), BT Sport 1
Die Werkself impressed many last season in their debut campaign under Schmidt despite finishing fourth. But their 2015/16 efforts are falling below expectations and bordering on the line of unacceptability.

A victory over a vastly understrength Barcelona side in midweek would have secured their place in the knockout stages of the Champions League but Bayer could only manage a 1-1 draw. It’s now just one win in eight for Leverkusen who return to Bundesliga action on Saturday for a tough encounter with Gladbach.

The Foals were beaten 4-2 at Manchester City on Tuesday but Andre Schubert’s troops put in another excellent display and deservedly took plenty of plaudits. And Gladbach will relish a return to domestic duties after a sensational start to life under Schubert’s watch.

The visitors are unbeaten in 10 under Schubert (W8-D2-L0) and toppled mighty Bayern Munich 3-1 last weekend – no side has picked up as many points or scored as many goals (29) across those 10 fixtures.

Should the Foals pick up maximum points in the BayArena, Schubert will become the third Bundesliga boss to claim 29 points from his first 11 games in charge – the feat was previously managed by Pep Guardiola and Klaus Toppmöller. Impressive, eh?

Borussia’s Raffael has been rejuvenated – playing a role in 14 of the goals under his new boss – and I’d expect the guests to give Bayer a serious test on Saturday. With Leverkusen leaking 20 goals across their last 11 and being hugely reliant upon Javier Hernandez’s goals (nine in 11), we have to oppose the hosts.

Not since 2006 have Leverkusen picked up fewer points at this stage of the season and their 19-goal tally is the lowest it’s been after 15 games since 1991. The home side have lost each of their last five against top-five rivals and are far too vulnerable to trust.

So take the 7/4 on Gladbach in the draw no bet market.

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Borussia Monchengladbach draw no bet (7/4)

Udinese v Inter Milan, Saturday 12 December 2015 (19.45), BT Sport 1
It could be a decisive weekend in Serie A with the four sides sitting behind league leaders Inter Milan all playing each other on Sunday. So Roberto Mancini’s table-toppers have a fantastic chance to stretch their advantage on Saturday night when they visit a weakened Udinese side.

As we’ve touched on regularly in these columns, the Nerazzurri have been functional rather than flashy and mighty efficient when churning out positive results without totally convincing. However, five wins from their most recent six (all ‘to nil’) has given Inter the belief that they can pull away from the chasing pack.

Udinese have only W2-D4-L6 in their last 12 when welcoming Inter to the Friuli and although they’ve W2-D2-L0 in their last four league outings on home soil, the Zebrette were beaten in their previous six. Three of those most recent four included home clean sheets and with glovesman Samir Handanovic the last line of defence, the hosts have one of the world’s top keepers in tow.

So although Felipe and Danilo are suspended with Alexander Merkel and Duvan Zapata long-term absentees, the Nerazzurri may find breaking down Stefano Colantuono’s side tricky. The Zebrette have seen fewer than three goals in six of their last eight at the Friuli as well as six of their last eight when welcoming top-six teams.

But Inter are attractive 20/21 shots to pick up maximum points and are capable of finding a way through the home defence.

The visitors have notched in each of their last 11 on their travels and can do so again here. But rather than enter the Match Odds market, I’m going to take the 3/1 on Inter to win and Under 2.5 Goals.

The guests have recorded eight of their 10 victories by a 1-0 correct score but taking the Under 2.5 Goals option gives us a little wriggle room in case Inter manage to open up Udinese when the hosts decide to rally.

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Sevilla v Sporting Gijon, Saturday 12 December 2015 (19.30), Sky Sports 2
Sevilla’s 1-0 midweek win over Juventus saw Unai Emery’s men qualify for the Europa League allowing Los Nervionenses the chance to chase a hat-trick of titles in 2016.

But on Saturday night, the Andalusians return to La Liga action with the side looking to equal their best-ever winning streak at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan under Emery. The current streak stands at five and the hosts have taken some notable domestic scalps against Barcelona, Real Madrid and Valencia in recent weeks.

That only emphasises the task facing Sporting Gijon with their hosts losing just three of their previous 34 home league fixtures. Vicente Iborra misses out through suspension for Sevilla but Kevin Gameiro is expected to be preferred to Fernando Llorente in attack with Sevilla expected to churn out another routine victory at the Sanchez Pizjuan.

Sporting have tailed off in the last month or so, losing four of their last five matches, while they’ve been defeated in their last five games on the road. Los Rojiblancos managed to record a 3-1 win over Las Palmas last time out but this trip south is unlikely to reward underdog punters.

Gijon’s last win in Seville came in 1993 and they’ve been beaten in 14 of their last 15 visits. But backing the straight home win won’t make us a pretty packet at 1/3 quotes.

Instead, add Over 2.5 Goals into the equation alongside a Seville success and we’re looking at a 4/5 play.

Sevilla have seen Over 2.5 Goals bank in 11 of their last 13 when welcoming promoted clubs whilst nine of Sporting’s most recent 11 games have delivered three or more goals, as well as five of their seven on the road since promotion.

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*Prices correct at time of publication.