Mark O’Haire’s European Football Tips – SundayStats
Things are looking grim for Sampdoria and especially highly-rated coach Vincenzo Montella.
Granada v Real Madrid, Sunday 7 February 19.30, Sky Sports 1
Real Madrid haven’t won on the road since November but they can end that sorry record with a convincing victory at relegation-haunted Granada on Sunday night.
It’s just four triumphs in 10 La Liga away trips and, although Los Blancos have rattled in 29 goals in their last five at the Bernebeu, Zinedine Zidane will be desperate to translate some of that spell-binding offensive play to Andalusia here.
Lowly Granada are no pushovers at home as their victories over Athletic Bilbao and Sevilla prove but Real are still the league’s top goalscorers on their travels (19).
They also hold the division’s second best defensive record (6) and have landed by far-and-away the most on-target efforts away from home (61) this term.
No Spanish side has enjoyed a better shots-on-target ratio figure on the road than Real’s 62.89% and so with the hosts shipping 18 goals in front of their home supporters already this season and only four clubs posting worst shots-on-target figures, it’s hard to make a strong case against the capital guests.
Since 2010/11 Madrid have won 38/53 trips to bottom-half clubs and nine of their most recent 14 have arrived by a margin of two or more goals. Atletico Madrid, Villarreal, Eibar, Celta Vigo and Real Sociedad have already departed Granada with wins by a similar size so I’ll take the 4/6 on a repeat.
Real Madrid -1 handicap @ 4/6
Roma v Sampdoria, Sunday 7 February 19.45, BT Sport 2
Surprisingly sacked by Fiorentina in the summer, Montella was brought in as the Blucerchiati’s firefighter following a less than impressive stint by Walter Zenga.
I, like many, expected progress, results and a swagger from Samp but their season has taken a real nosedive. Montella’s now lost seven of his 11 matches on the Blucerchiati bench and after four reverses on the spin saw a last-minute leveller deny Samp maximum points on Wednesday night.
Star striker Eder was sold to Inter Milan before the transfer window closed and the gap between the Genoese club and 18th-placed Carpi has been reduced to just five points. The risk of relegation now looks very real indeed.
Club president Massimo Ferrero made wholesale changes in the last few days of January with numerous comings and goings in an attempt to refresh and inspire his troops. Andrea Ranocchia, Jacopo Sala and Fabio Quagliarella joined Samp with Vasco Regini and Ervin Zukanovic joining Eder on the departures list.
However, Ferrero’s biggest coup was managing to keep hold of coveted midfielder Roberto Soriano for the second straight transfer window in which he was expected to leave. He’s already reached a campaign-best of seven goals and four assists this season and must now inspire his teammates in their battle against the drop.
Despite their wretched run, Sampdoria have been scoring goals.
They’ve notched in their last 10 outings and returning forward Luis Muriel has proved his worth with two goals in a week.
If Antonio Cassano can also find a bit of consistency, there’s enough offensive power for Montella to resuscitate the Blucerchiati.
However, Samp’s issues are clearly at the back. That 2-2 draw with Torino in midweek means they’ve shipped at least twice in each of their last six fixtures and kept their sheets clean on only two occasions this term.
Although nine of the Blucerchiati’s 11 away days have been against teams in ninth and below, they’ve still conceded 22 goals and chalked up an embarrassing -10 goal difference (W1-D3-L7).
So Roma, now under the stewardship of the returning Luciano Spaletti shouldn’t have any sleepless nights over Sunday’s encounter. The Giallorossi came away with an impressive 2-0 victory at Sassuolo in midweek, following up their 3-1 win over Frosinone last week.
The Wolves are back in the Champions League qualification hunt and have a fit and in-form Stephan El Shaarawy leading the line. So with seven of Samp’s 11 losses featuring three goals or more, I’ll have a play on Roma to win and Over 2.5 Goals at 11/10.
Roma to win and Over 2.5 Goals @ 11/10
Marseille v PSG, Sunday 7 February 20.00, BT Sport Europe
Runaway league leaders PSG look primed to extend their record-breaking run with another three points on Sunday night in Le Classique, the fiercely passionate fixture with Marseille.
PSG’s 66 points from their first 24 Ligue 1 games of the season is a new French record. PSG’s 33-match unbeaten streak (W30-D3-L0) in Ligue 1 is also a new French record. PSG’s tally of 11 goals conceded at this stage of a season is also a new French record. Sensing a theme here?
Only complacency and misfortune are likely to cost Laurent Blanc’s men points now. They’re expecting a host of their big guns back for this match and having already won by at least a two-goal margin at Monaco, Nice, Caen, Nantes and St Etienne, you’d want them onside to repeat the feat on Sunday night.
PSG’s form is so strong, so impressive and so dominating that the Parisians could have Ligue 1 all wrapped up as early as March. They’ve won 15 on the spin in all competitions and beaten their sworn enemies in each of the last eight encounters – another on Sunday will set another new record, for consecutive victories over L’OM.
Marseille are currently undergoing their longest ever streak without a home victory.
Michel’s men have lost once since October but at their Stade Velodrome home they’ve W0-D7-L2 in Ligue 1 action since September, failing to get the better of the likes of GFC Ajaccio, Montpellier, Guingamp and Lorient on the French Riviera.
Marseille haven’t actually beaten their hated guests from the capital in the Velodrome since 2011 and trail the table-toppers by a staggering 32-points. Supporters are starting to get restless and manager Michel is also feeling the heat from the vociferous home fans.
Nicknamed ‘Fashion Week’ by L’OM fans because of his sharp look in suits, the Spaniard has struggled to win over the Marseille faithful and a heavy beating here will only heighten the catcalls and pleas for Marcelo Bielsa to return.
PSG are a class apart right now. They’ll want to put on a show and with Chelsea in the Champions League also on the horizon, they should be ready to show their teeth. I’ll back the capital club with a -1 handicap at 15/8.
PSG -1 handicap @ 15/8
*Prices correct at time of publication.