EUROPEAN football fanatic Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) shares his favourite fancies from Tuesday night's continental card.
Werder Bremen v Hertha Berlin | Tuesday 25th September 2018, 17:30 | BT Sport
Werder Bremen overcame a disastrous start (W0-D5-L6) last season to table an 11th-placed finish, six points above the Bundesliga relegation zone. The upturn in fortunes came after reserve team boss Florian Kohfeldt was promoted to the top job as the Green-Whites ditched Alexander Nouri in late October.
Kohfeldt was understandably kept on in the summer and has since guided the group to an unbeaten start from their first four fixtures for the first time in 13 years. However, results don’t necessarily tell the full story for Bremen, who’ve flattered to deceive in the early stages of the new campaign.
Tuesday’s hosts were uninspiring in their opener – a 1-1 draw with Hannover, with a late leveller required to pick up a point, while a 2-1 triumph over 10-man Eintracht Frankfurt was only secured in stoppage-time. Thereafter, Werder were held here by Nurnberg before Saturday’s entertaining encounter with Augsburg.
The Green-Whites ran out 3-2 winners at the weekend, but only because of home goalkeeper Fabian Giefer’s gaffe. Augsburg actually won the shot count 19-11 and dominated the Expected Goals metric too, suggesting Bremen have been on the right side of things thus far this term.
Now, the River Islanders remain unbeaten at their Weser Stadium base under Kohfeldt (W6-D8-L0) but that high draw count, plus the widespread feeling that the northern outfit haven’t quite justified their early season results, mean there’s potential to oppose the hosts here.
Hertha Berlin arrive after making their best ever start to a Bundesliga campaign (W3-D1-L0) and are defending champions Bayern Munich's closest pursuers after coming from behind to beat Borussia Monchengladbach 4-2 in a barnstorming encounter on Saturday.
Hungarian head coach Pal Dardai is renowned for his defensive organisation with the capital club, although early signs indicate the Berliners are looking to move towards a more fluid system. The visitors were a last-gasp equaliser at Wolfsburg away from posting a 100% record, and have in 12 on-target efforts across their last two outings against Gladbach and Wolfsburg combined.
Slovakian playmaker Ondrej Duda is the Bundesliga’s top scorer in 2018/19 with four goals and veteran striker Vedad Ibisevic already has three to his name, and I’m happy to count on the guests’ in-form marksman to get on the scoresheet and earn Dardai’s men at least a share of the spoils.
Liverpool loanee Marko Grujic faces three months out following a weekend injury but Per Skjelbred is an able replacement and considering Hertha have lost just four of their 11 away encounters this calendar year, while boasting the second-best defensive record on their travels last term, there’s plenty of scope to support the Berliners breaking Bremen hearts here.
I’ll back Hertha Berlin +0.50 on the Asian Handicap line at 9/10 (188BET). This selection has paid out in 13/19 (69%) of the visitors’ away days since the start of last season, while four of Bremen’s six home triumphs under Kohfeldt came against clubs finishing in the bottom-six last season.
Real Sociedad v Rayo Vallecano | Tuesday 25th September 2018, 20:00
Real Sociedad secured their second La Liga success of the season on Friday night but the Basques had to work hard for it against Huesca. Asier Garitano’s group scored the only goal of the game through summer signing Mikel Merino and had their backs to the wall late on following red cards to Theo Hernandez and Juanmi.
Both will now miss Tuesday’s tussle with Rayo Vallecano at Anoeta, although La Real should have enough in reserve to pick up a second consecutive victory. The hosts will be relatively happy with their seven-point return (W2-D1-L2), knowing it could easily have been more.
Four of Sociedad’s five fixtures have come away from home thus far, and the Basques were the better side when losing at Eibar. What’s more, Garitano’s men put champions Barcelona under serious pressure in their only encounter at their newly renovated Anoeta home.
La Real have posted four top-half finishes in the past six campaigns –Europa League commitments hampered last season’s progress – and during that time, the hosts form in San Sebastian has remained strong. The Basques ended 2017/18 with seven wins from eight and have W13-D4-L2 in their last 19 when welcoming bottom-half clubs to Anoeta.
Goals have been a regular feature of those 19 outings with 13 (68%) rewarding Over 2.5 Goals backers and nine (47%) surpassing the Over 3.5 Goals line. Indeed, against all opposition, Sociedad have seen their past 12 matches at Anoeta produce at least three goals.
With star striker Willian Jose again, and Rayo unlikely to present a defensive-first challenge, I’m happy to get behind a home win in a contest that includes Over 1.5 Goals at 10/11 (Ladbrokes).
Rayo won only eight times on their travels during their victorious title-winning Segunda season and Michel’s men averaged over 1.10 goals per-game conceded over the campaign as a whole. Those defensive weaknesses have already been exposed by Sevilla (1-4) and Alaves (1-5).
The capital minnows saw centre-half Abdoulaye Ba sent off against Alaves on Saturday and will now call upon Emiliano Velazquez to partner Jordi Amat at centre-half, while central midfielder Gorka Elustondo picked up an injury and is rated a major doubt to be involved, limiting Michel’s options.
Nevertheless, Rayo’s attack will be led by Raul de Tomas, scorer of 24 goals in the second-tier in 2017/18. The visitors’ hitman has already found the net in his two appearances and seen another ruled out by VAR, and should ensure the guests at least make a game of things on Tuesday night.
These two have already combined to provide Over 2.5 Goals profit in 6/9 (67%) La Liga games, as well as 6/9 (67%) successful Both Teams To Score selections. Take Sociedad to pick up all three points in an enjoyable, high-scoring encounter.