World Football: Hosts to edge a tight tussle in Portugal on Saturday

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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.

Newcastle Jets v Central Coast Mariners | Saturday 16th March 2019, 06:35 | BT Sport

Set your alarm clock for an early start on Saturday morning, that’s if goals are your thing. That is because bottom of the table Central Coast Mariners, who have lost their last two matches 8-2 and 5-3, travel to play-off chasing Newcastle Jets.

The Mariners only have one win to their name all season, in what has certainly been a season to forget. The Jets, on the other hand, still have a shot at making the end of season party, but they have a four-point gap to overcome with only six games remaining.

As we’ve touched upon already, Central Coast are conceding goals for fun at the moment. Now their season has ended, and with relegation not present in the A-League, there is no pressure on them, and their performances in recent times are reflecting that. They have the worst defensive record in the division, and only have a rather embarrassing seven points to their name across 21 matches.

Newcastle Jets are building momentum at a time when they really needed it. The only issue for them is that they’re ultimately relying on those above them dropping points at some stage. Nevertheless, they’ll expect nothing short of three easy points on Saturday, and they should do so in some style.

Although they’re actually the second-lowest scorers in the league, with Central Coast having the worst, Newcastle have certainly picked that up of late. Last month they recorded a 5-1 and 3-1 victory, plus a great 2-0 triumph away to Melbourne Victory last time out. They’re in good form, and unbeaten in five in the league.

Of the 11 away games the Mariners have had so far, they’re conceded at least twice in eight of those. They only have two road points to their name all season. They’re ultimately conceding an average of 2.67 goals per-game too. Clearly, they’re more than suspect at the back.

Although the numbers for Newcastle aren’t massively appealing, the poor numbers of Central Coast means that my selection has to be a play. Newcastle Jets Over 2.5 Goals is a nice 1/1 (Bet365) shot – if they score early enough, they should have a routine time of things.

Hamburg v Darmstadt | Saturday 16th March 2019, 12:00 | BT Sport

I backed against Hamburg in last weekend’s column and I was certainly made to look pretty stupid to say the least! I still maintain St Pauli were the value pick to come out on top in that local derby, but Hamburg coasted to a 4-0 away success. I think we’ll keep them on side for the time being!

That therefore means Darmstadt could face quite a tricky afternoon on Saturday. Darmstadt are eight points above the bottom three, so they’re comfortable without being too comfortable. Hamburg, on the other hand, are firmly in the chase to win the title, and a win here would take them to the top ahead of Koln for 24 hours at least. If the form guide is anything to go by, then they really should be.

The reason I took Hamburg on last Sunday was their away form of late. They headed into that in some disappointing form on the road, but they soon put that right. There isn’t a real worry about their record in front of their own supporters however, as they haven’t lost there since September. It is also five wins in a row on home soil in all competitions.

Darmstadt will fear this away game even more considering their dreadful record on the road this season. No team in the second tier of German football has fewer points away from home than they do. They only have one victory to their name, and there is clearly a vulnerability about them on opposition turf.

Hamburg might be sitting second in the table but it isn’t really their goalscoring exploits which has seen them jump to this point. When you consider league leaders Koln have scored 64 goals, Hamburg only have 36. Hamburg are actually the lowest-scorers in the top eight. However, they’re more than tough to break down, highlighted by the fact only third in the table Union Berlin have let in fewer than they’ve done.

My selection therefore firmly keeps Hamburg on side this weekend, and for their defence to again do their thing – Hamburg to win ‘to nil’ is priced at 6/4 (BoyleSports).

Hamburg have kept seven clean sheets in their last nine at home in both league and cup. They have a 58% clean sheet home league ratio, which is most impressive. Darmstadt are a side that usually score, but there aren’t too many that are as effective as Hamburg at this level at producing a shut-out.

Vitoria Guimaraes v Boavista | Saturday 16th March 2019, 18:00

Our final Saturday plays comes from a league that I’m a big fan of, and that is the Primeira Liga in Portugal.

As expected, Porto and Benfica are battling it out for the title, but they’re best to swerve this weekend considering they’ve got European action also on the agenda. Vitoria Guimaraes sit sixth in the table, and they’re hoping to finish top of the rest (outside the big four) and make fifth. Boavista are only two points above the relegation zone, so this is another big encounter for them on Saturday.

Guimaraes have only lost twice on home turf this season, so they’re certainly tough to beat in this environment. That is the challenge that faces Boavista at the weekend, even more so considering the fact that Boavista have won just once on the road this season. Only bottom side Feirense have fewer away points in the league.

You’ll get pretty short odds on Guimaraes to win this weekend. It isn’t a great surprise to see them as an odds-on shot given that this is sixth at home to 13th, and taking into account the home and away form of the two. Guimaraes have 13 more points than their Saturday opponents and they ultimately know how to get the job done, and they’ve proven effective at this.

If you were to buy a season ticket at any ground in Portugal as a neutral, then it would be fair to say Guimaraes shouldn’t be that place. That is if you are one to look for goals. Ironically, only Boavista home games have seen fewer goals this season than Guimaraes’ – 1.60 is very low, with only 1/12 beating the 2.50 goal line.

Teams come to Guimaraes happy to sit back, and Boavista are likely to do the same. However, Guimaraes have won 7/12 at home, so they know how to break teams down eventually.

Boavista only have nine away goals to their name this season. Believe it or not, there are three teams with a worse scoring record on the road, but it is still clearly very low. Guimaraes have conceded only six at home, which is by far the best in the division. Benfica have let in 13 times at home, so just over double that of Guimaraes!

We’re fancy a home win on Saturday but clearly not many goals should flow if these numbers are to be upheld. The last five head-to-head in all competitions between these two has ended U2.5.

Guimaraes to win and Under 2.5 Goals is a generous 11/5 (BoyleSports) chance.

Best Bets

Newcastle Jets v Central Coast Mariners – Newcastle Jets to score Over 2.5 Goals (1/1 Bet365)

Hamburg v Darmstadt – Hamburg to win ‘to nil’ (6/4 BoyleSports)

Vitoria Guimaraes v Boavista – Vitoria Guimaraes to win and Under 2.5 Goals (11/5 BoyleSports)

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