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Mark O’Haire’s European Football Tips – Sunday

There’s a stunning array of matches to look forward to on Sunday across Europe, with the Madrid derby arguably topping the bill.

Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid, Sunday 4 October (19.30), Sky Sports 1
Atletico Madrid went W4-D3-L1 in eight meetings with Real Madrid last season. They completed the league double over their bitter rivals for the first time in 64 years and have failed to even allow Los Blancos score in their last four visits to the Vicente Calderon.

If Real fail to record maximum points on Sunday, it will equal their worst ever winless streak in the venue dating back to 1956-63. Atleti may have lost twice in a week and already been beaten by Barcelona on home soil but this fixture is the one they don’t dare to lose.

Diego Simeone’s missing Koke (the Mattress Makers have only won five of 10 games without their talisman) but the defence is performing as well as ever this season. And despite those recent reverses, Los Colchoneros remain a real force. Atletico have W31-D7-L3 at home in recent seasons and also W4-D4-L3 when taking on top-six challengers. Interestingly though, Under 2.5 Goals was a winner in seven of those 11 Calderon clashes.

Only once before have Real only conceded a single goal after six La Liga games but it’s not like Keylar Navas hasn’t had to make crucial saves whilst opponents have missed chances. Madrid scored an offside goal against Granada and twice they have failed to score, against Sporting Gijon and Malaga, albeit when dominating proceedings. They were workmanlike against Malmo in midweek and hardly ran riot in the final third themselves.

Prior to the Malaga game last weekend, Real had only failed to score in one of their last 62 home games (that came at Atletico in 2013/14) and it comes as no surprise that their recent struggle for goals has coincided with injuries to James Rodriguez and Gareth Bale, both of whom are doubtful.

James has missed 14 games since the start of last season and eight of those fixtures featured fewer than three goals – in the 30 he did play, only three failed to produce at least three goals. There was a similarly low-scoring theme in last year’s eight head-to-head matches – five went below the 2.5 line including three of the four at the Calderon.

Throw in the low-scoring nature of Atleti’s showdowns with La Liga’s big guns and Under 2.5 Goals comes into focus at 3/4.

Last season Real’s road record was W14-D0-L5 and with the exception of a defeat in their opening away game of the season against Sociedad, all these defeats came against top-seven sides. Since 2013/14, Los Blancos have fared poorly away to top-six clubs – W2-D3-L5. Throw in the absence of Sergio Ramos and Pepe and there’s enough reason to ward off the visitors at short prices in such a high-stakes encounter.

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Bayern Munich v Borussia Dortmund, Sunday 4 October (16.30), BT Sport Europe
Der Klassiker, the tag given to Bayern Munich’s match-up with Borussia Dortmund, is the Bundesliga fixture that stops the nation and Sunday’s showdown could prove to be as decisive as ever.

Should Bayern continue their 100% start to the new season, the defending champions would move seven points clear of Dortmund and effectively end the title race in October before the players head off for the international break.

No Bundesliga side has ever led by such a stretch so early on in a campaign and it’s highly unlikely a Pep Guardiola side would allow such an advantage to slip.

The onus is on Thomas Tuchel’s troops to turn up the heat on their all-conquering hosts and give the Munich masters a real run for their money. They’re certainly capable of doing so – BVB have W3-D1-L1 in their last five league visits to the Allianz Arena and the Black & Yellows were the last side to beat Bayern during Oktoberfest – FC Hollywood since going on a W4-D13-L0 run dating back five years.

But hey, Pep’s men have made the best ever start to a Bundesliga season and the Catalan head coach is yet to see his side lose during the first half of the league campaign since arriving in Germany. Of course Bayern are heavy favourites to kill the title race off in October but there’s little value in siding with the hosts.

Instead a goals-based bet has more appeal. This encounter features the league’s two highest scoring sides with both outfits netting in each matchday thus far. In fact, the duo are responsible for a quarter of goals in the league this season (44 of 177) and on show are two record-breaking strikers on either side.

Robert Lewandowski’s 10 goals in the first seven BL games equals the record set by Gerd Müller in 1968/69 and 1977/78. His midweek hat-trick against Dinamo Zagreb means he has now bagged 10 goals in his last three appearances. But Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang also packs a punch – he’s become the first player in Bundesliga history to score in each of the first seven games of a new season.

In all competitions, BVB have plundered a huge 43 goals in 14 fixtures under Tuchel and I expect the visitors to notch in the Bavarian capital on Sunday.
Bayern will monopolise possession as per usual. But they’ve looked far from secure at the back this term. Pep’s boys really toiled against Augsburg and Hoffenheim and were behind at the break at home to Wolfsburg before Lewandowski’s second-half heroics.

In 14 previous instances when a Pep-led Bayern entertained top-six opposition, 9/14 (64%) of games featured Over 2.5 Goals and 6/14 (43%) also produced four goals or more.

I’ll take Both Teams To Score at 8/13, it feels like banker material.

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PSG v Marseille, Sunday 4 October (20.00), BT Sport 2
Over in France, the Ligue 1 title race is probably already wrapped up. PSG sit at the summit with a four-point advantage after eight games. The strength in depth of the Parisians makes a challenge for top French honours tough from rival clubs and bitter rivals Marseille will probably find out the hard way in Le Classique.

Last weekend Les Rouge-et-Bleu tore Nantes apart in their own back yard to run out 4-1 winners before dismantling Shakhtar Donetsk 3-0 in Ukraine. The side are confident and playing with a swagger you associate with an all-conquering sides.

The last four encounters at the Parc des Princes between these two old foes have ended in 2-0 victories for the hosts and the previous nine head-to-heads anywhere have resulted in W8-D1-L0 in the capital club’s favour. PSG scored at least twice in each of those nine.

The Parisians 20-point tally after eight games is their best return since 1996, they’ve W15-D2-L0 of their previous 17 Ligue 1 matches and scored in their last 19 outings. Angel Di Maria’s settled in brilliantly, playing a part in five goals in his first five appearances whilst Blanc has W5-D4-L1 of 10 managerial meetings with his old club.

Les Rouge-et-Bleu look primed to hand out more pain to Marseille. Under Blanc’s tutelage, PSG have W32-D8-L1 of their 41 Ligue 1 games as hosts and in 27/41 (66%) of those outings they’ve beaten the one-goal handicap. We should be able to count on the defending champions enhancing that record on Sunday night.

A recent home defeat to Angers has already put new Marseille head coach Michel on the back foot and their one-point return from nine on the road is simply unacceptable. The visitors are languishing in the bottom-half and managed just W4-D4-L9 in their last 17 Ligue 1 away days, losing seven of their previous nine at top-six opposition.

L’OM have collected only eight points from eight games – their lowest total since 2011 and were defeated at Slovan Liberec on Thursday night. Already trailing their bitter rivals by 12 points, morale is low in Les Phocéens camp and it’s likely to get uglier on Sunday night.

I’ll take PSG -1 on the handicap at handsome 21/20 odds.

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*Prices correct at time of publication.