EUROPEAN football fanatic Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) heads to Switzerland on Sunday for his first best bet on the continent since lockdown.
Sion v St Gallen | Saturday 20th June 2020, 19:30
The Swiss Super League returns to action this weekend and I’m keen to focus my attention on Saturday night’s showdown between crisis club Sion and table-topping St Gallen. I’d normally tread a little lighter in these circumstances, although it’s hard to ignore the scale of mayhem that’s borne out around Sion over the past three months.
The 1997 champions entered lockdown just four points off the bottom with only six victories to their name across their opening 23 league outings. However, the hosts had won just once since mid-September (W1-D4-L11) and madcap owner Christian Constantin hit the panic button during the enforced break (and not for the first time, either).
Nine players were sacked after supposedly refusing to take pay cuts and earlier this month head coach Ricardo Dionisio was also dismissed. Paolo Tramezzani has since returned for a second stint in charge of Sion, despite claiming only four triumphs in 16 during his first spell in 2017; the former Spurs flop is the 49th managerial change at Les Sedunois since 2000.
Of the nine players axed – Seydou Doumbia, Pajatim Kasami, Johan Djourou, Alex Song, Mickael Facchinetti, Birama Ndoye, Ermir Lenjani, Christian Zock and former captain Xavier Kouassi – only Zock and Kasami appear to have reached agreements to return and play for the club. Meanwhile, Kouassi and Djourou have already signed deals elsewhere.
Constantin has attempted to plug the gaps with additions of his own, although the Swiss league has denied his appeals to allow new signings permission to play this season. Again, not for the first time, the Sion supremo has threatened legal action against the authorities as he scrambles to keep his club on an even keel.
Les Sedunois therefore enter this weekend in a state of disarray. Preparations have been a farce and availability of a host of players remains unknown, and so league leaders St Gallen should sense an opportunity to enhance their position at the top of the Super League standings.
Espen have enjoyed a two-week training camp and enjoyed a couple of warm-up matches to help transition into competitive action. As expected, the visitors odds have tightened significantly over the past few weeks, although there’s still value to be had by backing St Gallen to succeed in a fixture featuring Over 1.5 Goals (20/23 Coral).
Peter Zeidler’s guests have produced some thrilling football this season with the division’s youngest squad. St Gallen have been scoring goals by the gallon, and generating sackfuls of opportunities. Indeed, Espen have tabled seven wins in 11 away days this term, striking twice or more on eight occasions – 10 of those contests featured Over 1.5 Goals.
Sion have shipped twice or more in six of their seven meetings with the breakaway top-three this term, whilst all 10 of their fixtures at the Stade Tourbillon have broken the Over 1.5 Goals barrier, and I’m happy to support Saturday night’s showdown following suit.
Sion v St Gallen – St Gallen to win and Over 1.5 Goals (20/23 Coral)