WLB boss Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) continues his brand new weekend column, sharing a selection of his favourite fancies form from across a range of major markets.
Game Of The Weekend
Manchester City are the shortest price they’ve ever been for a Manchester derby, but even so, it’s difficult to make a strong case against the Citizens at minuscule quotes for Saturday’s showdown. The 1/3 (SkyBet) available on a home success suggests the Blue Moon have a 75% chance of taking top honours here and that’s a fair reflection of their dominance.
True, City are trailing table-toppers Liverpool by 11 points, and Pep Guardiola’s group are already in last-chance saloon territory if they’re to hit a century of points this term (City averaged 99 points in the previous two campaigns). Recent results also pour scorn on the idea that the Citizens are bulletproof, however, they’re still streets ahead of United.
Tuesday night’s 4-1 triumph at Burnley was yet another reminder of the quality this team possess in attacking areas. City weren’t rewarded for a controlled display at Newcastle last weekend but the defending champions remain a real force at The Etihad and should be well capable of landing the spoils, even without injured Sergio Aguero and Aymeric Laporte.
Performance data shows little movement between City’s 2018/19 exploits and this term, whilst no club in Europe’s top five leagues is generating an Expected Goals (xG) output from open play as high as the Citizens' 1.96. Football is a low-scoring sport and therefore has the tendency to throw out a few freak results, such as when Spurs draw 2-2 here in August, and it's fair to say City have been a little unlucky.
Of course, Pep’s posse have appeared far from watertight in defensive areas without Laporte, nor the departed Vincent Kompany, and that’s made their matches far more interesting from a neutral perspective. Marcus Rashford and Dan James will hope to profit from those vulnerabilities on the counter-attack, however, Anthony Martial is a major miss.
Still, it wouldn’t be a huge shocker to see the Red Devils grab a goal at The Etihad and therefore I’m keen to exploit the 3/4 (Coral) available on Man City to win and Over 2.5 Goals. The hosts have an extra day to prepare, and have seen this bet land in nine of their 10 triumphs this term, as well as in eight of 12 ties when welcoming Big Six opposition.
United were victorious in midweek against a poor Spurs side but that shouldn’t mask what’s been a deeply disappointing 2019/20. The Red Devils have pocketed 21 points from their opening 15 fixtures, meaning Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must win his next two games to surpass the 26-point tally Jose Mourinho accrued when sacked after 17 games just 12 months ago.
The visitors have recorded only two Premier League shutouts in 26 since mid-February and that’s an alarming return for a team facing a City side that have scored 33 goals in their 11 Etihad encounters thus far. The duo are poles apart on the field right now and I fully expect Guardiola’s group to rule the roost with room to spare on Saturday evening.
Manchester City v Manchester United (Saturday 5.30pm, Sky Sports)
Juventus remain unbeaten across all competitions under Maurizio Sarri but it’s fair to say, the swashbuckling, attacking football we were promised at his unveiling in the summer has failed to materialise. The Old Lady largely remain a robust winning machine, dropping points on only three occasions in Serie A this season.
Nevertheless, the Bianconeri are under intense pressure in the Scudetto race. The emergence of Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan team as serious title challengers mean Juventus head into Matchday 15 off the top in Italy following a sloppy 2-2 draw at home to Sassuolo last weekend where Sarri said his players “didn’t use their brains” enough.
Defensively, Juve haven’t looked assured or solid out of possession and there’s an expectation that backline will be tested when Lazio entertain the Bianconeri in the capital on Saturday evening. With eight of the Old Lady’s 14 fixtures this term featuring Over 2.5 Goals – including trips to Atalanta and Inter – a repeat looks likely at the Stadio Olimpico.
Lazio are the form side in Italy – winning six on the spin – and were mightily impressive when dispatching Udinese last time out. The Biancocelesti are the league’s top goalscorers and in Ciro Immobile have a forward in phenomenal form, ably backed up by Luis Alberto, Joaquín Correa and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic; Le Aquile are packed with forward threats.
Simeone Inzaghi’s side are second only to Atalanta in terms of Expected Goals (xG), xG from open play and shots from inside the penalty area attempted, and the Eternal City outfit have also notched in all bar one Serie A showdown this season. It would therefore be a surprise to see Lazio fail to trouble Juventus this weekend and I fully expect the hosts to strike.
Matches involving the Biancocelesti are rarely boring. Over 2.5 Goals has landed in almost 80% of their outings with 3.36 goals per-game scored on average; 10 of Lazio’s 16 ties when welcoming top-six opposition have paid out for Over 2.5 Goals backers under Inzaghi and so taking Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score (10/11 Bet365) should give us a good run for our money.
Lazio v Juventus (Saturday 7.45pm, Premier Sports)
It makes sense to fill this segment with my European NAP which features Eibar and Getafe in La Liga on Sunday morning. I'm taking Getafe double chance, Getafe to collect Over 1 Card and Over 0 Goals at 7/5 (Bet365. )Here's an extract from the piece.
“Los Azulones have lost only 25/91 (27%) of games since promotion – 15 of which came against Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico, Valencia or Sevilla. Exclude the big five and, Getafe have lost only 10/67 (15%).
The aforementioned aggressive nature does come at a cost, mind. Remarkably, all bar two of their 45 away days since returning to La Liga have seen the Madrid men collect at least two cards.”
Eibar v Getafe (Sunday 11.30am, Premier Sports)
First Goalscorer Fancy
The past two First Goalscorer selections this column has picked out have earned each-way pay-outs, however, I’m desperate to land the main prize sooner than later. This time around I’m following a familiar theme to last weekend’s angle of attack by again finding value in a player opposing Paderborn.
Why? Well, SCP were in the third tier 18 months ago and boast an annual budget of just €11m. Steffen Baumgart’s boys are already six points from safety and have lost 10 of their opening 13 games, conceding at least two goals on 10 occasions. Paderborn are allowing almost 1.94 xG per-game – 1.38 via open play – with over 10 shots conceded per-game from inside the penalty area.
Werder Bremen welcome Paderborn to the Weser Stadium on Sunday after ending an eight-match winless run (W0-D5-LD3) with a fine 3-2 victory at Wolfsburg last time out. Like their visitors, Die Werderaner have been held back by their disastrous defensive efforts – particularly from set-pieces – although Florian Kohfeldt’s group have offered plenty in offensive areas.
Bremen have only once failed to score this season, racking up two goals or more in eight of their 13 fixtures. Go back to the beginning of last term and the Green-Whites have notched in all bar one Weser Stadium outing – averaging 1.87 goals here – and their 1.02 xG from open play average puts Werder amongst the top teams for chance creation in Germany.
Kohfeldt prefers to play 4-3-2-1 with Yuya Osako leading the line. But it’s Milot Rashica (6/1 Bet365) – who is best categorised as either a ‘false No.9' or ‘forward' – that holds most appeal at the prices; backing the Kosovan each-way would ensure a nice pay-out should the in-demand 23-year-old grab a goal that wasn’t the opener.
Rashica has scored six goals in nine Bundesliga appearances for Bremen in 2019/20, two of which arrived against Wolfsburg. The €50m-rated attacker also found the net eight times in 17 outings during the second half of 2018/19 and so is currently averaging a goal every 123 minutes in 2019.
Of all non-No.9 forwards across Europe's top five leagues, only Kylian Mbappe (83 minutes) and Lionel Messi (86 mins) have a better goals-per-minute ratio this calendar year.
Rashica averages over four attempts at goal per-game this season, half of which are on-target, with an xG per-game figure around the 0.49 mark. The Kosovan is also on penalty duty for Bremen and deserves to be a few ticks shorter in the First Goalscorer market here.
Werder Bremen v Paderborn (Sunday 5pm, BT Sport)
The Bundesliga has been fantastic fun this season and Saturday evening’s match-up between table-topping Borussia Monchengladbach and perennial champions Bayern Munich promises plenty. The visitors are four points behind their hosts pre-game and know a slip-up at Borussia-Park would leave the Bavarians with a proverbial mountain to climb.
Gladbach are enjoying their longest run at the Bundesliga summit since they last lifted the German domestic title back in 1977 and the North Rhine-Westphalia outfit are there on merit. The Foals currently top the Expected Goals (xG) from open play ratio rankings from Bayern and are only marginally second-best when viewing the standard xG ratings.
Yet Marco Rose’s men have been dismissed as 5/1 (Matchbook) no-hopers in the betting – make no bones about it, Bayern have been marked up on reputation. This is FC Hollywood’s bogey ground and caretaker coach Hansi Flick heads here with concerns over his defence with Niklas Sule and Lucas Hernandez on the treatment table long-term.
Bayern have been forced to field a makeshift back four featuring Alphonso Davies, David Alaba, Javi Martinez and Benjamin Pavard in recent weeks. Unsurprisingly, the German giants have only four shutouts to their name in Bundesliga action this term and that’s one of the main reasons why the Bavarians are such poor value in the pre-match markets.
Gladbach have adapted superbly to the appointment of Rose in the summer with his tried-and-tested 4-3-3 bringing the best out of young and talented squad of players. The Foals have so many different ways to get at opponents (so much so that the veteran Raffael, marginalised through injury, has barely been missed) and they’re certainly no easy meat.
Rose’s charges have built their excellent start upon a divisional-best home record and their interchanging frontline has seen all four attackers – Marcus Thuram, Breel Embolo, Alassane Plea and Patrick Herrmann – score at least four Bundesliga goals. Defensively the back door isn’t completely shut but they’ll give as good as they get as an attacking force.
Gladbach have W2-D1-L2 in their last five meetings with Bayern here since the start of 2014/15 and the Foals look well capable of outperforming their bulbous pre-match odds considering the guests have won only seven of their past 16 trips to top-six clubs. It’s the original Klassiker and I’m counting on Monchengladbach men at a massive price.
Borussia Monchengladbach v Bayern Munich (Saturday 5.30pm, BT Sport)
Play Your Cards Right
The cards part of this column has been in flawless form and this weekend I'm focussing on the Football League with a selection on Northampton to collect 20+ Bookings Points at 4/5 (SkyBet) away at Exeter. It was included in my standard EFL piece so I'll share an extract for you here:
“Few EFL teams have proven as consistent at compiling the cards than Northampton on the road. Town have delivered in this market in all nine away League Two games this term, as well as 30/32 (94%) since the beginning of 2017/18.
Looking purely at the current campaign, Keith Curle’s charges have averaged 24.21 Bookings Points per-game and are amongst the top-six for fouls committed. And the Cobblers play outside of Sixfields, the visitors average 2.89 cards and 32.32 Bookings Points. Meanwhile, all nine of Exeter’s guests have accumulated at least 20 Bookings Points this season.”
Exeter v Northampton (Saturday 3pm)
Manchester City v Manchester United – Manchester City to win and Over 2.5 Goals (3/4 Coral)
Lazio v Juventus – Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score (11/10 Bet365)
Eibar v Getafe – Getafe double chance, Getafe to collect Over 1 Card and Over 0 Goals (7/5 Bet365)
Werder Bremen v Paderborn – Milot Rashica to score first (6/1 each-way Bet365)
Borussia Monchengladbach v Bayern Munich – Borussia Monchengladbach to win (23/5 Marathon)
Exeter v Northampton – Northampton 20+ Bookings Points (4/5 SkyBet)