EUROPEAN football fanatic Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) shares his favourite fancies from Wednesday night's continental card.
Nimes v Guingamp | Wednesday 26th September 2018, 18:00
A chastening 3-1 defeat at fellow strugglers Bordeaux on Sunday saw Guingamp slide to their sixth successive Ligue 1 loss at the start of the 2018/19 season, and leave the Brittany boys four points adrift of their divisional rivals.
With four of the five previous clubs to make a pointless return after six games suffering relegation, EAG know they must find their best form sooner than later.
Antoine Kombouare’s men have been the poster boys for French football underdogs. Despite heralding from a tiny Breton town, with little history or pedigree, the top-flight upstarts have won the Coupe de France twice and made the knockout stages of the Europa League in the last decade.
Guingamp are well accustomed to punching above their weight, fighting adversity and operating off a miniscule budget. But has time run out on Las Costarmoricains’ dream? Possibly so, after a less than impressive transfer window.
EAG lost lynchpin Clement Grenier, leading goalscorer Jimmy Briand and premier creator Yannis Salibur without making the necessary reinforcements. It’s left Kombouare fielding an inexperienced side from a squad that lacks top-class talent or balance.
The Brittany outfit have conceded 17 goals – their worst tally at this stage in the top-flight and the worst tally for a Ligue 1 team after six games since 2005/06. Las Costarmoricains have leaked at least twice in all six outings and now face a tricky task away at newly-promoted Nimes on Wednesday night.
Performances probably haven’t been quite as bad as results suggest – Guingamp certainly aren’t anywhere near rock-bottom across the major data metrics – although their lack of quality in both boxes has hurt badly. But we’re not here to sympathise and instead following the early-season goals theme is advised.
The visitors have seen Over 2.5 Goals collect in each of their six encounters this term and their wretched road record is there to be attacking. Under Kombouare, Guingamp have W6-D9-L26 on their travels, recording only five shutouts. In fact, EAG have shipped twice or more on 27 (66%) occasions.
I’ve covered Nimes more often than any European side this season so I won’t go into major detail on Les Crocodiles here. The hosts were second-best at Monaco on Friday night but earned a welcome point to keep Bernard Blaquart’s troops in the safety of mid-table following an impressive opening stanza (W2-D2-L2).
Five of those six matches have seen Both Teams To Score bank, while four have surpassed the Over 2.5 Goals mark. Both selections have plenty of merit in midweek with Nimes’ goals per-game average at 4.33 but my preferred play is to support the hosts to score Over 1.5 Goals at even-money with Betfair.
The home side have scored five goals in their first two Stade des Costieres encounters since promotion against PSG and Marseille and notched eight goals in away trips to Monaco, Bordeaux and Angers, highlighting their offensive threat.
Sevilla v Real Madrid | Wednesday 26th September 2018, 20:00 | Eleven Sports
After watching Sevilla slump to a third consecutive goalless game when welcoming Getafe last weekend, supporters greeted Los Rojiblancos players with whistles and waved white handkerchiefs as they made their displeasure clear.
Just four La Liga fixtures into the 2018/19, new head coach Pablo Machin was feeling the pressure. Sevilla weren’t finding fluency in his preferred wing-back system and fans were demanding immediate results and improvements having finished below city rivals Betis for the first time since 2012/13.
Club president Jose Castro publically asked followers to give Machin time and promised the Sevilla project was on track. Fortunately, things clicked seamlessly and immediately into place last week as the Andalusians hammered Standard Liege (5-1) in the Europa League before smashing Levante 6-2 on Sunday.
Wissam Ben Yedder grabbed five goals across those two fixtures and should again be given the role of leading Sevilla’s attacking line, while Pablo Sarabia has enhanced his own reputation with a series of eye-catching attacking displays. Meanwhile, Roque Mesa is set to be recalled into Los Rojiblancos’ midfield.
Defender Gabriel Mercado remains sidelined and with last season’s best centre-half Clement Lenglet departing in the summer, the hosts aren’t yet completely convincing at the back. Indeed, on paper at least, Sevilla are noticeably weaker at the heart of defence.
Nevertheless, the Andalusians remain a mighty tough prospect at their Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan base. The home side have suffered only four defeats here in 21 La Liga outings since the start of last season, including a 3-2 win over midweek visitors Real Madrid, and 2-2 draw with champions Barcelona.
In fact, Sevilla can boast a W5-D2-L3 league record when entertaining Spain’s Big Two here since 2013/14, a run of results that includes four victories over Real. You have to go back to May 2015 for the last time Los Blancos took top honours here, a game that saw Cristiano Ronaldo net a hat-trick.
The Champions League winners haven’t enjoyed their trips to Europe’s hottest mainland city and there’s therefore scope to support Sevilla with a +1 Asian Handicap (8/11 188BET) start on Wednesday night. This selection would see our stake returned should Real win by exactly one goal.
The away side required a scrappy, VAR-checked Marco Asensio goal to overcome Espanyol at the Bernebeu on Saturday night in a display that boss Julen Lopetegui admitted saw Los Merengues lose control of. Gareth Bale and Toni Kroos were both rested for the contest and will return to starting berths here.
Nevertheless, Madrid’s road record has been sketchy for some time in Spain. Los Blancos were held in Bilbao last time out and have now managed only seven victories in their last 17 on their travels, whilst silencing just one of their last 14 hosts in La Liga – relegated Las Palmas.
With a derby date against neighbours Atletico Madrid on the horizon this coming weekend, Lopetegui may opt to make further changes to his XI, and that should encourage the hosts in what’s expected to be a high-scoring contest.
The hosts have scored at least twice in their last six when welcoming Real, while the past 11 meetings between the two have paid out for Over 2.5 Goals backers. Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score has banked in all 10 of Sevilla’s home games against Barca and Real since 2013/14 with six featuring Over 3.5 Goals.