Central Coast v Melbourne Victory | Sunday 12th January 2020, 07:00 | BT Sport
We did tease in our Saturday blog that we’d be making two trips to Australia this weekend and Sunday morning provides exactly that as Central Coast Mariners entertain Melbourne Victory. Whilst this game does pit together two teams outside of the top-six play-off positions, only goal difference is keeping a resurgent Victory out of those spots going into the weekend.
I say resurgent as The Victory have secured back-to-back wins, with the away win at City rivals Melbourne City possibly proving to be a big turning point in their season.
Victory then backed that up with a fine 4-0 home win over bottom side Newcastle Jets last time out, a score made all the more better knowing that they achieved it without suspended star striker Ola Toivonen. The Swede will return on Saturday to boost their attack even further.
It was no major shock to see Melbourne have a bit of a sluggish start to the season. Consider the fact that they waved goodbye to manager and former Millwall hard-nut Kevin Muscat in the off-season after 14 years with the club in some capacity.
Marco Kurz, the 50-year-old German, was brought in the club to replace the club legend, and implanting his tactics and methods has taken time. They started the league season with one win in seven, but he’s won three of their last five, losing one.
Central Coast have unfortunately been strugglers towards the wrong end of the league standing for a few seasons now. This again looks primed to be another season trying to jump off the bottom for the Mariners, but going into the weekend they’re only five-points off the last play-off spot, although consistency has generally not been their strong suit.
What is in their favour however is they’ve won two of their past three at home, but on the whole they’ve lost six of their past eight in league action, whilst failing to score in three of their previous five in A-League action. However, they’ve scored only ten league goals all season, and the Victory won 4-0 in their last game and it has taken the Mariners seven matches to notch up their most recent four.
At the start of the week the price on a Melbourne Victory win was higher than it should have been, at odds-against. That number has unsurprisingly began to drop down, so well done is you got on early enough.
Nevertheless, the price on an away win is still 1/1 (Betfair) in some places and that is still enough to interest us. The last four head-to-head encounters has all gone the way of Melbourne Victory, by an aggregate score of 14-6.
Quite incredibly, the Mariners haven’t won any of the past 18 head-to-heads, last beating The Victory in 2013. Away win.
Braga v Tondela | Sunday 12th January 2020, 20:00
Our final play of the weekend comes from the Portuguese top-flight, a league where gaining a profit is never too far away. The reason I say that is that there is obviously a league within a league in this case, with Porto, Benfica, Sporting and Braga quite often being ahead of the rest.
The likes of Famalicao and Guimaraes are looking to gate-crash this particular party this season, whilst Tondela have flirted with the top half themselves.
Braga have been involved in Europa League action this season and it is quite possibly that this has had an effect on their league form. Whilst they progressed in Europe, their disappointing league form saw Ricardo Sá Pinto lose his job last month, and now former player Rúben Amorim is at the helm.
Amorim has had one game in charge, which was last weekend’s 7-1 away win at Belenenses. Not a bad start! The Archbishops last scored seven in a game back in 2015, which was also against Belenenses!
Whilst we can argue that the only way is down after winning 7-1, it at least shows that the team are in a good place right now. They can forget about the European knockout stages for a little while now and focus all of their energies into climbing the league table. They’ve now scored 11 in two games, including the 4-1 cup win at Ferreira, so confidence shouldn’t be an issue.
They’ll be relatively pleased to be back at their picturesque Estádio Municipal de Braga base as they’ve only lost twice here in all competitions this season. One of those did come in their last home game to Ferreira, which was probably the final nail in the coffin in relation to making a managerial change. Over time they’ve made this a fortress and they’ll look to resume winning ways on Sunday.
Tondela had been something of a surprise package in the early part of the season having lost only two of their first eight league matches of the campaign. That is enough to really climb the table, as we’ve mentioned how the top-five is generally set in stone before a ball is even kicked, and the rest of the league generally takes points off one another.
Tondela has digressed recently, losing five and winning two of their past eight overall. Being hard to beat in generally the tactics of Tondela, but that is always a risk when facing the better sides in the division.
However, it is against the weaker teams they’ve struggled this season, with half of their losses coming against the current bottom-four. Whilst only four other teams have gained more clean sheets in this league than Tondela going into the weekend, they’ve only scored more than once in one of their previous 11, so the goals are starting to dry up.
As we know, Braga smashed seven in their last game and four in the match before, so now is probably the time to ride their bandwagon for now, whilst the iron is still out and they have no immediate Europa League distractions.
Braga are short odds to win this weekend, but Braga Half Time/Full Time is available at 10/11 (Coral) and looks worthy of some interest. Only the big three of Porto, Benfica and Sporting CP have a better first-half record in the Primeira Liga this season, whilst they’ve haven’t been outscored across any 15-minute period in the game when adding up the times of goals scored or conceded.
For Tondela, they’ve only outscored opponents in the last quarter of the game, but Braga should have the game wrapped up beforehand. Also, Braga has won the last five head-to-head meetings, and it will extend to six.