World Football: Belgian battle can produce Saturday goals

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WORLD football fanatic James O'Rourke (@JamesOR1) looks to continue his fabulous form with a selection of hand-picked best bets from across the planet on Saturday.

Besiktas v Bursaspor | Saturday 9th February 2019, 16:00

With 14 games remaining in the Turkish Super Lig, Besiktas has an 11-point gap to overcome if they are to secure their 16th league title. 2017 was the last time they achieved that honour, but differing form in October, November and December squandered the decent position that they did find themselves in.

Bursaspor, on the other hand, have a different kind of agenda, which is very much to preserve their status in the division and avoid relegation. They are four points above safety, but incredibly they’ve only lost four times, which is actually one more than Besiktas who sit in third. Bursaspor are draw specialists.

Besiktas have claimed seven points out of a possible nine since returning from the winter break. They’ve also managed to score 10 goals in those three outings as well, including when smashing six past Antalyaspor away from home last time out. Considering they are a top-half side then that was a great result for Şenol Güneş and his players. Bursaspor however will be something of a stubborn force to break down.

Under Samet Aybaba, who has previously managed Besiktas, Bursaspor have certainly proven hard to beat. For all of their issues in scoring goals, they don’t tend to ship too many in the other goal either. In fact, only league leaders Basaksehir have a stronger defensive record. Then again, only five sides have scored fewer.

It highlights the fact that Aybaba wants Bursaspor to be organised – 12 of their 20 matches to date has ended in a draw, including when these two sides met earlier in the season.

Besiktas are the joint-highest scorers in the division, but only five other sides have let in more goals than they’ve done. Again, this highlights their clear strengths and weaknesses. Losing Pepe recently, who has since joined Porto, won’t necessarily aid their defensive hopes in the near future. However, they have recruited Frenchman Nicolas Isimat-Mirin from PSV Eindhoven to boost them at the back.

Also, the clever signing of Shinji Kagawa on loan from Dortmund can only improve Besiktas further in attack. He scored twice off the bench when making his debut last weekend.

We do fancy Besiktas to get the job done this weekend, but job done is very much the impression we are getting. Whilst their games tend to include goals, it is the complete opposite for Bursaspor. Their matches has averaged only 1.90 across the season, and they travel to the Vodafone Park very much looking to be strong at the back once again.

We like the look of Besiktas to win and Under 3.5 Goals. This is available at 7/5 (Coral).

Heracles v Ajax | Saturday 9th February 2019, 17:30

A five-point gap has opened up at the top of the Eredivisie table again.

The main reason for this was Ajax’s shock 6-2 loss to Feyenoord a few weeks ago. Whilst it is never easy travelling to Rotterdam, Ajax boss Erik ten Hag would not have seen that coming. That was only their second defeat of the league season however, so the alarm bells won’t be ringing just yet.

However, they will be should they fail to claim three points this weekend, as that could open up an eight-point gap to league leaders PSV Eindhoven. Heracles sit eight in the standings and it is never an easy place to go, but they are in something of a freefall at this moment in time.

Heracles had been in the European spots for pretty much the entire season, but that is no longer the case. They have dropped out of the top seven and that cannot be a surprise considering their dramatic decrease in form. They had hoped the winter break would have given them a chance to correct some of those wrongs, but that has not proven to be the case.

After defeating Groningen 4-1 at home back in October, Heracles have only recorded a further two victories in the Eredivisie. Over their last 14 in both league and cup, they’ve won three, drew one and lost an incredible 11 times. Since returning from the winter break, they’ve lost all three, all versus sides lower than them in the table and they’ve failed to score in any of them.

Every game is vital for Ajax now as they look to close that gap again at the top of the table to rivals PSV. Three points this weekend is a must, but next week Real Madrid are in town in a Champions League first leg tie, and they need to put that to the back of their minds for now. Which is easier said than done. The 6-2 defeat in Feyenoord was responded with a 6-0 home win over Venlo, so mentally they should be in a better place.

Ajax actually lost on their last visit to the Polman Stadion, so they very much cannot take this encounter lightly. Heracles have lost four of their last five at home, whereas Ajax have the strongest away record in the division and they remain the highest-scorers as well.

Ajax’s defensive record deserves plenty of credit as well. They’ve earned 60% clean sheets across the campaign; conceding only 18 times. Heracles are actually the joint sixth-highest scorers in the Eredivisie, but they’ve certainly gone cold in recent times. Across their last 14 games, they’ve failed to score in eight of those, including four of their last five at home.

Ajax to win ‘to nil’ is priced at 6/4 (BetVictor).

St. Truiden v Waasland-Beveren | Saturday 9th February 2019, 19:00

St. Truiden continues to be the surprise package in the Belgian top-flight this season – 24 games in and they sit fifth in the table, sitting proudly above the likes of Gent and Anderlecht.

Work still needs to be done to ensure they finish the season in the Championship Group before the league separates into two, but they are going well at this moment in time. That did however endure a very tricky spell recently. They didn't win any of their five games prior to the winter break and they also lost their first one back. However, they have recovered, earning back-to-back league victories to reinstall the good feeling.

Waasland-Beveren find themselves second from bottom but they have demonstrated some shoots of recovery in more recent times. They have become harder to beat, as over their last seven in the league, they’ve lost only twice, which isn’t bad at all for a side near the bottom of the table.

Waasland won three-in-a-row during December, so the winter break probably came at a bad time for them. One thing that they are managing to do is score goals. For all that only three sides in the league has scored fewer than they’ve done, they’ve only failed to score in three of their last 12.

St. Truiden really are the fifth best team in the league. Not only is that their league position, but their league position in relation to most goals scored and fewest goals conceded would also place them in fifth. They’ve also got the fifth-best home record in the league. Five really is the magic number.

These two sides haven’t met that other over the years, but St. Truiden has emerged victorious in five of the six home meetings between the two. Since September, St. Truiden has kept just the one clean sheet at home, yet only twice this season have they failed to score in front of their own supporters, too.

Waasland-Beveren are something of an enigma this season. They’ve failed to score away versus the likes of Lokeren and Cercle Brugge, but they netted twice away at league leaders Genk and also scored away in Club Brugge and Gent, as well as winning 2-0 away to third in the table Antwerp. They seem to enjoy it as the underdogs away from home as they get more counter attacking opportunities. We probably now have to class St. Truiden in the category as ‘one of the big clubs’, purely based on league position.

Both Teams To Score is our play on this occasion – it is a 4/5 shot (Bet365). St. Truiden has been involved in 71% BTTS games in the league this season. For Waasland-Beveren, it stands at 62%. Chances are those numbers will increase slightly again this weekend.

Best Bets

Besiktas v Bursaspor – Besiktas to win and Under 3.5 Goals (7/5 Coral)

Heracles v Ajax – Ajax to win ‘to nil’ (6/4 Bet Victor)

St. Truiden v Waasland-Beveren – Both Teams To Score (4/5 Bet365)

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