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
Leicester lock horns with Everton in arguably the Premier League's standout showdown this weekend so I'm heading abroad for my Game of the Weekend with Atletico Madrid's contest with Barcelona on Sunday evening comfortably taking top billing Europe.
Barcelona head the table in Spain (W9-D1-L3) but Ernesto Valverde’s team have been anything but trustworthy, particularly on their travels. The Catalans came close to dropping points at Leganes last weekend and have underwhelmed when visiting Osasuna and Getafe, as well as being beaten on trips to Levante, Granada and Athletic already this term.
The Blaugrana are without Sergi Busquets through suspension on Sunday night and have only managed to shutout three La Liga opponents thus far. There’s no doubt Barca’s standards have slipped in 2019/10 with Valverde’s charges dropping to third across all the major performance data metrics and quite a distance behind both Madrid giants.
Barcelona have lost just one of their last 17 encounters against Atletico but make for unappealing 17/10 (Betfair) favourites at the Wanda Metropolitano. Just three of the past 22 match-ups between the pair have been settled by more than a solitary strike and a similarly attritional tussle wouldn’t be a huge surprise with so much at stake.
The duo have played out back-to-back 1-1 draws (23/4 Sportingbet) here since Valverde arrived at Barcelona and a repeat looks the most likely scenario considering it’s banked in four of the Catalans’ 10 away days at top-six finishers under the current boss, whilst nine of the previous 12 meetings between the two teams have seen both side score.
Atletico were unfortunate to depart Turin empty-handed against Juventus in midweek and head into this contest with a sole success in six (W1-D3-L2). Los Colchoneros have been let down by profligate finishing – scoring more than once in just four of 14 La Liga fixtures – whilst Diego Simeone’s been left frustrated by a few uncharacteristic defensive errors.
The hosts welcome Thomas Partey and Saul back from suspension to bolster the ranks, whilst Joao Felix is expected to start after recovering from injury. Stefan Savic and Jose Gimenez's injuries in central defence aren’t ideal but Atleti’s process out of possession remains strong, restricting opponents to just 0.31 Expected Goals (xG) from open play.
Simeone’s side have suffered only two losses in 44 league outings at the Wanda (W30-D12-L2), although eight stalemates have been played out in 12 matches against top-six visitors. The hosts have shared the spoils in half of their 14 La Liga games already this term and with four of the past eight against Barcelona following the same path, a repeat appears our best option of attack.
The draw is just shy of 12/5 with Marathon but I’m happy to take the value available on the 1-1 (23/4 Sportingbet). The odds imply this selection has just a 15% chance of landing but all the evidence above suggests quotes closer to 9/2 would be a more accurate reflection.
Atletico Madrid v Barcelona (Sunday 8pm, Premier Sports)
I've already outlined this selection on my Insights column over at Matchbook – Over 2.75 Goals (4/5 Matchbook) in Hertha Berlin against Borussia Dortmund on Saturday afternoon in the Bundesliga. The selection makes a half-stakes profit should three goals be scored with a full pay-out landed if at least four goals are plundered in the capital. Here’s an extract from the piece posted on Wednesday:
“Collectively, the duo have delivered at least three goals in 20 (83%) of their combined 24 Bundesliga battles with a further 15 (63%) fixtures breaking the Over 3.5 Goals barrier. Fourteen of those contests rewarded Both Teams To Score backers with the average goals-per-game figure standing at a bulbous 3.59.”
Hertha Berlin v Borussia Dortmund (Saturday 2.30pm)
It makes sense to fill this berth with my European NAP that went online on Thursday evening – Athletic Bilbao to beat Granada in a game featuring Under 4.5 Goals at 11/10 (Coral). Here’s an extract from the piece:
“Sunday afternoon’s hosts have returned W13-D5-L1 when entertaining La Lia opposition in Bilbao – that’s a 68% win rate – and that has arrived alongside a superb 10 clean sheets in 19 outings”
Athletic Bilbao v Granada (Sunday 1pm, Premier Sports)
First Goalscorer Fancy
Paderborn almost pulled off the unthinkable last Friday night when racing into a 3-0 first-half lead at Dortmund. SCP were in the third tier 18 months ago and boast an annual budget of just €11m but Steffen Baumgart’s boys impressed before running out of steam in the second-half, chucking away their advantage in stoppage-time.
Already six points from safety, the newly-promoted outfit have lost nine of their opening 12 games and conceded at least two goals on nine occasions. Paderborn are allowing almost 2.00 Expected Goals (xG) per-game – 1.39 of which have arrived via open play – with almost 10 shots faced from inside the penalty area on average per-game.
Despite last week’s exploits, Baumgart’s charges already appear doomed to rock-bottom in the Bundesliga and their task doesn’t get any easier when RB Leipzig arrive. The visitors are a point off top spot, have won three on the bounce domestically, scoring at least four goals in each recent triumph. On the road, RB have already plundered 16 goals in six outings.
Head coach Julian Nagelsmann has a host of defensive injuries to contend with although Die Rotten Bullen have the attacking swagger to overcome such strife at the compact Benteler-Arena. Only Bayern Munich can better Leipzig’s underlying attacking metrics this term with the pair are tied at the top for goals scored – averaging 2.75 per-game.
Timo Werner (12) trails Robert Lewandowski (16) in the Torjägerkanone race with seven of his 12-goal tally coming in RB’s last three fixtures. Despite owning penalty duty for RB, the German international has racked up 11 non-penalty league goals this term – again second only to Lewandowsi in Europe’s top five leagues – whilst returning some sky-high figures.
The 23-year-old averages a non-penalty goal every 94 minutes, averages 0.68 xG per-game and gets almost four shots away each match – more than half of which are on-target. Werner enjoys more than six touches in the box – the second-highest figure in Europe’s major leagues – yet is available at almost 4/1 to notch first against beleaguered Paderborn.
Compare Werner’s FGS price (13/4 Unibet) against the league’s worst defence to Lewandowski – who’s as short as 6/4 to break the deadlock against Leverkusen – and it’s clear where the best value First Goalscorer price is on Saturday.
Paderborn v RB Leipzig (Saturday 2.30pm)
I had lined Strasbourg up as my Outside Shout this week. The Alsace outfit were trading at 21/10 midweek but a move for Le Racing overnight on Thursday as seen the Ligue 1 side clipped in to around 15/8 (Marathon) and that’s a smidgen too short for this segment of the column.
For the record, the reasoning was simple. In-form Strasbourg host a Lyon side that was in Champions League action as recently as Wednesday night in St Russia; Les Gones lost that match against Zenit, face a long journey home before taking part in the early Saturday match away from home. It’s a tough schedule.
What’s more, Lyon and could potentially still be without their two leading attacking lights Memphis Depay and Houssem Aouar, as well as suspended left-back Marcal.
Elsewhere, I can make a strong case for supporting Newcastle against Manchester City, but only with a hefty +2.25 Asian Handicap start at 4/5 (Unibet). So I’ve had to head elsewhere for a more appetising price…
To Serie A on Sunday then as Milan head to Parma. It was another false dawn for the Rossoneri who failed to follow up their promising performance at Juventus against crisis-ridden Napoli last time out and the Italian giants come into this weekend only four points above the drop zone having lost seven of their opening 13 fixtures. So quite how Milan deserve to be favourites here is beyond belief.
Stefano Pioli – a curious replacement for Marco Giampaolo – has been unable to turn the alarming tide around San Siro, winning just one of his opening six games in charge (W1-D2-L3) which came against struggling Spal. The Rossoneri’s efforts have largely underwhelmed and the underlying numbers also point towards complete and utter mediocrity.
Milan are returning negative supremacy figures for both Expected Goals (xG) ratio, as well as xG from open play yet are still being priced up by reputation. The visitors boast just a 36% win ratio on the road in Italy since the start of last season and Pioli’s posse are without identity and playing without purpose, precision or pace.
A trip to Ennio Tardini is no easy meal for Milan, either. The hosts welcome back Gervinho and Hernani this weekend and have recently dispatched Roma with consummate ease here in front of their home supporters, suggesting 14/5 (Marathon) quotes on Parma pocketing a fifth win as hosts in six shouldn’t be turned down.
Head coach Roberto D'Aversa recently complained that not enough people in Italy were talking about Parma, despite them “sitting in eighth in the table and without important players” ahead of their trip to Emilia-Romagna rivals Bologna last weekend. The Gialloblu went on to earn a creditable 2-2 draw that could easily have been more.
As well as downing Roma, Juventus were fortunate to take top honours here on the opening weekend, whilst the Gialloblu have also held Inter at the San Siro. The home side won’t fear a visit from under-fire Milan and should really be targeting maximum points; from a punting perspective they’re a great value proposition at a disrespectful price on Sunday.
Parma v Milan (Sunday 2pm, Premier Sports)
Play Your Cards Right
On Sunday evening, La Liga’s most card-happy side are back are being overseen by one of Spain’s most stringent officials. A match made in heaven?
Yes, Getafe – 3.57 domestic cards per-game average – come under the jurisdiction of Javier Estrada Fernandez – 6.41 cards per-game since the start of last season – and it’s hard not to imagine this whistleblower flashing a few cautions the way of the Madrid minnows.
Jose Bordalas’ boys are experts in the dark arts, comfortably topping the standings across Europe’s major five leagues for fouls committed (18.40 per-game), as well as bookings. In 11 of Getafe’s 14 league outings this term the hosts have been brandished at least three cards, whilst Estrada Fernandez has dished out at least five cautions in each of his seven outings.
In fact, the 43-year-old referee has delivered Over 4.5 Cards in all bar three of his 27 La Liga matches since the beginning of last season, using his red on seven occasions. During that sample he’s officiated Getafe on four occasions, giving the capital club 21 cards.
With that in mind, I’m happy enough taking the 4/5 (Bet365) on Getafe collecting a card in the first-half and second-half against Levante on Sunday via the Bet Builder.
Getafe v Levante (Sunday 5.30pm, Premier Sports)
Atletico Madrid v Barcelona – 1-1 correct score (23/4 Sportingbet)
Hertha Berlin v Borussia Dortmund – Over 2.75 Goals (4/5 Matchbook)
Athletic Bilbao v Granada – Athletic Bilbao to win and Under 3.5 Goals (11/10 Coral)
Paderborn v RB Leipzig – Timo Werner to score first (13/4 Unibet)
Parma v Milan – Parma to win (14/5 Marathon)
Getafe v Levante – Getafe to collect Over 0 First-Half Cards and Over 0 Second-Half Cards (4/5 Bet365)