Mark O’Haires European Football Tips – Saturday’s Matches


Valencia recorded their first La Liga win last weekend and although they suffered a surprise 3-2 loss at home to Zenit in their return to Champions League duty in midweek, it’s difficult to see past Nuno’s men on Saturday evening.

Valencia v Real Betis, Saturday 19 September 2015, 17.15, Sky Sports Red Button
Los Che have W11-D8-L1 in their past 20 league fixtures – the only loss coming against Barcelona back in April. The hosts made a slow start to their season with draws against Rayo Vallecano and Deportivo before squeezing previously unbeaten Sporting Gijon out 1-0 in their most recent Liga encounter but the Bats boast a formidable Mestalla record.

Since Nuno’s appointment at the beginning of 2014/15, Valencia have W15-D4-L1 of their 20 fixtures when welcoming La Liga opposition and despite third-choice goalkeeper Jaume being forced into action, there’s plenty of reason to believe that excellent return will be enhanced this weekend.

Andre Gomes is back to full fitness and should play a part whilst Antonio Barragan is back from a ban to line-up at right-back. Nuno’s an almost full-strength squad to pick from and they’re keen to put Wednesday night’s performance behind them with a decent display against Betis.

Pepe Mel’s men recorded their first win since getting back into the top flight last time out, with a 1-0 victory over goal shy Real Sociedad. However, the travellers have Cristiano Piccini out injured and Petros suspended for the journey east and the visitors have suffered defeats in each of their last 10 trips to Valencia.

Betis stopper Adan has faced more shots-on-target than any other La Liga rival and whilst Jorge Molina and Ruben Castro provide the ammunition for the Verdiblancos to stay in games, it’s difficult to make a case for the Seville-based side holding Valencia at bay.

The visitors were hammered 5-0 at Real Madrid and with Valencia winning by two or more goals in 12/20 (60%) games since Nuno arrived at the Mestalla, backing Valencia with a -1 handicap appeals at 7/5 quotes.

Recommended Bet:
Valencia -1 @ 7/5

Milan v Palermo, Saturday 19 September 2015, 19.45, BT Sport Europe
It’s been a rough week for Milan. Sinisa Mihajlović’s men were beaten 1-0 in the derby against Inter and although improvements were made, the Rossoneri still aren’t clicking.

Mario Balotelli’s introduction with 20 minutes to play provided fresh impetus in that defeat but overall there are still problems that require addressing.
The hosts have now started the campaign with a W1-D0-L2 record and that sole success at the San Siro against Empoli was incredibly underwhelming. I’ve no doubts that Mihajlovic will find the winning formula but for the time being, I’m staying clear of the Rossoneri.

Milan have mustered the fewest shots on target in Serie A so far and whilst they’ve managed six wins in their past 10 starts on home soil, opening the scoring in 11/15, I just can’t find them convincing as 7/10 shots.

Palermo have had their travel problems in the past but the Islanders have returned W2-D1-L0 figures from their opening three games against Genoa, Udinese and Carpi and deserve a bit more respect in the markets. Sure, Giuseppe Iachini’s side were fortunate in their road success at Udinese and leaked twice against little Carpi but they’re exactly the kind of team to cause Milan problems.

The Rosanero have only shipped one goal in their past four Serie A road trips and will sit deep in a bid to expose Milan’s creative problems in midfield.

Iachini is an excellent tactician who’ll have the visitors organised supremely for counter-attacking football and having netted in their previous seven on the spin, should be good enough to avoid defeat.

Odds-against quotes of 23/20 on Palermo in the Double Chance market looks just the ticket for Saturday night’s showdown.

Recommended Bet:
Palermo or Draw Double Chance @ 23/20

Bastia v Nice, Saturday 19 September 2015, 19.30, BT Sport 1
Bastia v Nice might not leap out as a classic but trust me, this Derby de la Mediterranean meeting always delivers with goals, cards, rivalry and entertainment. Saturday night’s duel should follow suit and I think there’s strong claims to go against the grain of low-scoring Ligue 1 games.

Bastia put in an unusually disappointing performance in Sunday’s 4-1 defeat at Marseille. Brandao netted his first goal for the club since arriving 13 months ago but head coach Ghislain Printant was understandably upset by his team’s performance.

The Corsicans return home this weekend and tend to deliver in front of their passionate home support. Since Printant was appointed, Bastia have W9-D4-L2 at the Stade Armand Cesari, scoring at least twice in 8/15 (53%) and only failing to net on three occasions.

Their 60% win record at home would equate to a 4/6 shot and they’ll fancy their chances to see off a Nice side they did the double over last season. The visitors have also suffered losses in 29/59 (49%) of their away days under Claude Puel’s tutelage and so backing Bastia at 6/5 to win makes perfect sense.

However, it’s worth pointing out that Alexander Djiku and François Kamano remain suspended, Jean-Louis Leca and Yannick Cahuzac are doubts and new signing Medhi Mostefa isn’t fit enough to start from the off. It’s a similar story for Nice, mind. Les Aiglons are still without Niklas Hult, Simon Pouplin, Mahamane Traoré and Romain Genevois with Puel yet to be able to field the same four-man backline twice in a row.

Les Rouge et Noir failed to score for the first time this season in Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat to Guingamp and their experimental defence has been costing the side dear in 2015/16. Nevertheless, I do fancy the visitors to grab a goal and so the even-money on Both Teams To Score also stands out as a strong selection.

None of the 46 Ligue 1 between these two sides have ended with a 0-0 draw and Nice’s record of just two shutouts in 23 trips to Bastia should aid the bet with Les Aiglons also offering up a dour W3-D5-L15 head-to-head record away to the Islanders. But rather than having a play on two singles, I’ll combine the two picks for a play on Bastia to win and Both Teams To Score at a huge 4/1.

For those who like feisty fixtures, this game has featured five red cards in the previous four meetings and it wouldn’t be a great surprise to see things boiling over again this weekend.

Recommended Bet:
Bastia To Win and Both Teams To Score @ 4/1

*Prices correct at time of publication