Mark O’Haire’s Friday Night Football Tips
You have to go back to 1950 for Wolves’ last win at Middlesbrough.
Middlesbrough v Wolves, Friday 4 March 19.45, Sky Sports 1
Teesside has been anything but a happy hunting ground since with Friday night’s visitors returning W0-D9-L15 in their following 24 trips to the north-east.
Kenny Jackett’s men make the journey on the back of a gritty 2-1 victory at home to promotion-chasing Derby last weekend. That success ended a seven-game winless streak (W0-D3-L4) but I’m not convinced inconsistent Wolves are ready to repeat the feat at the Riverside.
The away side arrive with winger Michal Zyro and experienced defender Mike Williamson as major doubts and although James Henry’s return should bolster their offensive threat, Wolves’ road record gives travelling fans little encouragement.
Wolves have fired blanks in each of their last three away days, picking up a solitary point and scoring just once in their five road trips in 2016 (W0-D1-L4). Jackett’s troops were taken to the cleaners by Brentford just 10 days ago and the young and inexperienced squad may struggle to keep their sheets clean having conceded 47 goals already this season.
With the Black Country boys going nowhere fast – Wolves are 12 points shy of the top-six and 11 points clear of the relegation zone – they should be prime prey for a Middlesbrough outfit that’s gone off the boil in recent weeks.
Aitor Karanka’s charges begin Friday night in third having clinched just two wins from their last eight Championship encounters (W2-D3-L3). However, their 2-1 Tuesday night defeat at Blackburn saw them spurn numerous golden opportunities in a game they could and should have won comfortably.
The Spanish boss was in spiky mood post-match as fidgety Boro fans beg him to move away from his established 4-4-1-1 or 4-3-3 formation in favour of consistently starting two players in attack, one being big-money signing Jordan Rhodes. Whether Karanka obliges remains to be seen.
Nevertheless, the Teessiders come into this clash with an outstanding record at their Riverside home, which should be extended.
Boro have W11-D3-L2 as hosts and have conceded just five goals across those 16 games, keeping 11 clean sheets.
Goalkeeper Dimitrios Konstantopoulos has been in fine form again with 16 shutouts from 32 fixtures this season and an eye-watering 35 from his previous 72 league appearances in Middlesbrough’s colours.
With that in mind, backing Boro to do the business alongside a clean sheet appeals. Wolves have scored just five goals in six league matches since top scorer Benik Afobe left for Bournemouth and the January transfer window closed. However, I’ll play it safe with the even-money on offer for a Middlesbrough win and Under 3.5 Goals.
This covers a possible 3-0 whitewash as well as an unlikely away goal from the visitors in a 2-1 win. A huge 15 of Middlesbrough’s 19 league wins this term have proven profitable in this market.
Middlesbrough to win & Under 3.5 Goals @ EVS
Roma v Fiorentina, Friday 4 March 19.45, BT Sport Europe
Roma and Fiorentina are locked on 53 points in their battle for Champions League qualification, making Friday night’s encounter potentially decisive as the two teams bid for a place in the top-three in Serie A.
Having taken just a point from his first two games in charge (1-1 v Verona and 0-1 at Juventus), Luciano Spalletti has guided Roma to six successive league triumphs, including last weekend’s breathless 3-1 win at Empoli.
Star midfielders Miralem Pjanic and Radja Nainggolan both picked up knocks in that Empoli encounter but have been passed fit for this contest, giving the Wolves an almost fully fit squad to choose from.
Those aforementioned six victories have been recorded by an aggregate score of 19-6 but it should be noted only two triumphs came against top-half teams (0-2 at Sassuolo and 3-1 at Empoli). Indeed, five of those matches have featured at least three goals and I’m expecting another goal-filled game here.
Roma have notched a joint league-high tally of 55 goals and are expected to start in Spaletti’s tried-and-trusted 4-2-3-1 formation. Their biggest conundrum is whether to feature Edin Dzeko up top alongside Mohamed Salah and Diego Perotti or to bring Stephan El Shaarawy into the equation in place of the Bosnian.
Clearly the capital club have a number of attacking options as they look to protect a seven-match unbeaten streak at their Stadio Olimpico home. Since the start of last season, Roma have returned W9-D3-L1 when welcoming Serie A sides and that makes the Giallorossi understandable favourites.
Fiorentina have lost on each of their last three trips to Roma, leaking at least twice in each defeat.
Paolo Sousa’s side have also picked up just a solitary success in five on their travels and might still be ruing their failure to see off Napoli on Monday in front of their home supporters.
La Viola failed to turn their chances into goals, contriving to draw 1-1 in a game in which they twice hit the woodwork. Striker Mauro Zarate remains sidelined through suspension but his absence is covered by the good form of Federico Bernardeschi and Cristian Tello up front.
The visitors have avoided defeat in seven (W4-D3-L0) but 16 of their 21 points on the road have come at clubs 14th and below and their away record against sides above that position reads W1-D2-L4. So whilst Fiorentina have the offensive tools to hurt Roma, they may come up short.
With that in mind, backing Roma to win alongside Over 2.5 Goals makes plenty of appeal at 2/1 quotes. Seven of the Giallorossi’s nine wins as hosts have come alongside a winning Over 2.5 Goals bet whilst nine of their 13 home outings have seen both sides score.
Fiorentina have only failed to net twice this term as five of their six defeats have come in a game featuring at least three goals. Eight of their 10 contests against top-eight clubs have also produced Both Teams To Score winners.
Roma to win & Over 2.5 Goals @ 2/1
Caen v Monaco, Friday 4 March 19.30, BT Sport ESPN
Monaco have suffered just one loss in their past 14 outings (W7-D6-L1) having been held to a 0-0 draw at in-form Nantes last weekend. The principality club were reasonably shy for large parts; lacking in attacking ideas but solid and confident in defence.
Leonardo Jardim’s men boast a comfortable lead over third-place and securing Champions League qualification now looks a given for Les Rouges et Blancs. And the visitors are capable enough to make it six wins from their last eight games on Friday night in Normandy.
Fabinho and Joao Moutinho returned to reinforce Monaco’s midfield last week and the travellers head north with the second-best road record in Ligue 1 this term (W6-D6-L2). Because of that high draw percentage, and the fact the guests’ shots-on-target ratio – Monaco’s share of the total shots-on-target – in away fixtures is below 50%, taking the Draw No Bet option at 4/6 is the wisest option.
Caen have taken just one point from a possible 12 against top-three clubs (W0-D1-L3), conceding 12 goals.
And although Patrice Garande’s hosts snatched a cracking win against the odds at St Etienne last weekend, their counter-attacking style may not suit a contest against a defensively resolute Monaco.
Centre-back Damien Da Silva and defensive midfielder Nicolas Seube return from suspension to bolster Stade’s backline but top scorer Andy Delort is banned here and partner Ronny Rodelin bang out of form.
Only four sides have posted a worse shots-on-target ratio figure when hosting Ligue 1 action and Caen’s failure to score in five fixtures on home soil makes them easy to oppose here. I’ll count on Monaco continuing their hot streak with a possible stalemate seeing my stake returned.
Monaco draw no bet @ 4/6
*Prices correct at time of publication.