Mark O’Haire’s European Football Tips – Sunday

At the start of October, Villarreal were sitting pretty at the top of the La Liga table having taken 16 points from a possible 18 in their first six encounters of 2015/16.

Villarreal v Rayo Vallecano, Sunday 6 December 2015 15.00, Sky Sports 3

But since, a serious case of vertigo has hit the Yellow Submarine, who head into the weekend clinging on to a top-six spot by a solitary point.

A return of just W1-D2-L4 wasn’t what head coach Marcelinho had ordered but the Yellows have a decent chance of getting back to winning ways on Sunday afternoon. Having managed merely two goals in their last four games, Roberto Soldado and Jaume Costa return from suspension as Villarreal prepare to welcome Rayo Vallecano.

It’s a fixture the Yellow Submarine tend to saviour.

They’ve come out on top in their last four when hosting the capital club, scoring at least four goals on each occasion.

And Marcelinho’s men tend to do their best work in front of their adoring home fans, dispatching 10 of the last 12 bottom-half dwellers at El Madrigal.

In fact, the Yellows have triumphed in all bar two of their home La Liga matches this term (W4-D1-L1) but have kept just one clean sheet in the process. Looking further back, the Yellow Submarine have run out winners in 20 of their last 28 contests at home across all competitions, keeping just six shutouts in their most recent 18.

Taking purely La Liga games into account, Villarreal have W14-D2-L4 as hosts but only kept their sheets clean in three of the most recent 13 when welcoming La Liga opposition. With Mario Gaspar sidelined, Antonio Rukavina may be rushed back to start at right-back, weakening their prospects of enhancing that below-par record.

Rayo are winless on the road in four (W0-D1-L3), have lost each of their last eight visits to top-six sides (trailing at the interval in each) and will be without their talisman Roberto Trashorras on Sunday. But they have managed to score in 18 of their 25 away days in the Spanish top-flight since 2014/15 and can do so again this weekend.

Former Cardiff striker Javi Guerra has already scored eight goals in La Liga this season and is most definitely capable of making his mark at El Madrigal. Rayo have been involved in 13/25 (52%) of successful Both Teams To Score bets since the start of last season and should play their part in another goal-heavy game.

Whilst Paco’s Jemez’s troops have mastered a sumptuous possession-based game, they still remain hugely vulnerable at the back. No La Liga side has conceded more goals from inside the penalty area and ultimately their defensive woes are likely to catch-up on them again. So rather than a straight play on the BTTS market, I’m going to include a Villarreal win alongside it for a handsome 9/4.

Recommended Bet:
Villarreal To Win and Both Teams To Score @ 9/4

Sampdoria v Sassuolo, Sunday 6 December 2015 17.00, BT Sport 1
Sinisa Mihajlovic got one over his former employers as Milan smashed Sampdoria 4-1 at San Siro last weekend. It was Samp’s third consecutive defeat and made it back-to-back defeats for Vincenzo Montella in his new gig in charge of the Blucerchiati.

It was hard to tell whether Milan were brilliant or if Sampdoria just put in a desperately disappointing performance – arguably a bit of both – and on Sunday Montella’s troops are hoping to avoid a fourth consecutive reverse for the first time since November 2012.

In their last Stadio Luigi Ferraris outing, Fiorentina became only the third visitor in 26 since the start of last season (W11-D12-L3) to leave Samp’s Genoese home with maximum points and I’m expecting a response. Before that loss the Blucerchiati had gained 14 points from a possible 18 in home games, albeit nine came against the current bottom-three.

Sassuolo are Sunday’s guests, fresh from a 1-1 draw when welcoming Fiorentina on Monday night in an enjoyable end-to-end clash.

Like their hosts, the Neroverdi do their best business at home and their previous four road trips have garnered just a solitary point and clean sheet.

Eusebio Di Francesco’s travellers are also without their star man Domenico Berardi through suspension. The starlet scored a hat-trick in his last encounter with Sampdoria but without him, Sass have won just twice in 19 Serie A games, scoring an average of 0.6 goals-per-game.

I do fancy Montella to get his first win under his belt but neither team are particularly fast starters so it might be worth entering the Half-Time/Full-Time market with Draw/Sampdoria trading at a cool 9/2.

Sampdoria have seen three or more goals in only four of their last 18 at the Marassi and been level at the interval in nine of their last 13 as hosts. Since the start of last season, a huge 15/26 (58%) of their home fixtures have ended in half-time draws.

It’s a similar story for Sassuolo, who’ve had 45-minute stalemates in 10 of their previous 15 away days whilst their tally of just five goals scored in the second-half is the lowest in the Italian top tier. Combine the two trends and the Draw/Sampdoria option looks a decent ploy at a nice price.

Recommended Bet:
Draw-Sampdoria Half-Time/Full-Time @ 9/2

Stuttgart v Werder Bremen, Sunday 6 December 2015 14.30, BT Sport Europe
Both Stuttgart and Werder Bremen are shrouded in relegation toils coming into Sunday’s six-pointer and it’s fairly easy to see why. The Swabian hosts are second from bottom after their 4-1 smashing from Dortmund and are without a permanent head coach following the sacking of Alex Zorniger a fortnight ago.

VFB actually hold the dubious honour of Europe’s worst defensive record across the top-five divisions. Interim boss Jurgen Kramny is hoping to put a halt to their backline blues but it won’t be easy – Stuttgart have conceded 35 goals across 14 games, losing 10 and leaking at least four in each of their last three matches, all of which ended in defeat.

Bremen haven’t been faring much better, to be fair. Without a clean sheet to their name in 2015/16, Viktor Skrypnyk’s side have plummeted down the standings thanks to a run of eight losses in 10. Werder are only above the relegation zone by three points and have conceded 28 goals.

The River Islanders enraged fans with a limp derby defeat to Hamburg last time out and coming off a 6-0 battering by Wolfsburg, confidence is at rock bottom in the Bremen camp. Still, the northerners have shown a willingness to play away from the pressures of their Weserstadion home, picking up three of their four Bundesliga victories on their travels.

But rather than attempt to take sides, our best option is to explore the goals markets.

Stuttgart have delivered at least three goals in 20 of their past 24 Bundesliga battles…

…with Over 3.5 Goals proving profitable in seven of their last 12 at the Mercedes Benz arena.

Only Bayern Munich, Dortmund, Leverkusen and Gladbach are averaging more on-target attempts than the Swabians whilst only Koln and Hannover have faced more this season. And it’s worth noting, VFB have smashed 29 goals past Bremen in their last nine home meetings.

Werder have delivered Over 2.5 Goals winners in 10/14 (71%) of their 2015/16 fixtures, as well as in eight of their past 11 road trips. Three of Bremen’s seven away days this term have featured at least four goals, as have exactly half (12/24) since the start of last season as they’ve kept just one clean sheet in that time.

Recommended Bet:
Over 3.5 Goals @ 11/8

*Prices correct at time of publication.