Braga v Porto | Saturday 30th March 2019, 15:30
It is a top three clash in Portugal this weekend as Porto travel to Braga looking to regain top spot in the Primeira Liga standings for 24 hours at least. Although Braga are only five points off the summit, there is still seemingly a reluctance to really accept them as genuine title contenders. A win on Saturday however would change all that, so there is lots riding on this encounter at the picturesque Estádio Municipal de Braga.
Porto lost to rivals Benfica a few weeks back but they’ve responded perfectly since then. Not only did they win both league games, but they progressed in the Champions League past Roma, overturning a first leg deficit. Liverpool are their opponents in a few weeks but it is very much all focus on the league until then.
On paper, Benfica should be winning their next four in the league rather comfortably before they make a tricky trip to Braga, so it is vital Porto keep up the pace until then. It means they probably need a win on Saturday, but they’re more than capable of doing so.
The reason many don’t really class Braga as a genuine title challenger is they they’re generally deemed to be a class below Benfica and Porto. They’ve certainly on a par with Sporting, who sit in fourth, but Braga don’t tend to last a full sustained title tilt across the whole season. In February they lost back-to-back matches against Sporting and then surprisingly to Belenenses, and it is scores like that with places some doubt over them. However, they’ve won their last three, although all were by a one-goal margin.
It could be argued that the time to catch Porto cold is when they’re the away side, even though they’ve only lost the once. They’ve only kept four clean sheets in their last 14 on the road in all competitions. A trip to Braga is very much a banana skin, but it is one journey they tend to have joy from.
Braga have won only once of the last six at home to Porto, who have emerged victorious in eight of the last 14 visits. Also, that solitary win from Braga was the only time they’ve done so in the last 14 overall versus Porto, including with them as the away side. Porto clearly have the upper hand in this battle.
Braga won’t sit back, like the majority of Porto’s opponents tend to do. This is why Porto ultimately have such a good record head-to-head. They’ll get more space in the final third, and whilst defensively they’ll need to be switched on, they ultimately have the best defensive record in the league, by far. It was also only last month that Porto comfortably defeated Braga 3-0 in the Taça de Portugal.
Porto are favourites to win this weekend but the price of 21/20 (Unibet) is well in advance of the price you’ll get most weekends for backing them. They’ve going in search of their 29th league title, whilst Braga are still chasing their first. I’m happy to back the away side on this occasion at appealing odds.
Slavia Prague v Liberec | Saturday 30th March 2019, 16:30
Slavia Prague are not only continually making waves on a domestic level; being well on course to make it a second league title in the last three seasons, but they’ve made their presence felt on the European scene too. They reached the UEFA Cup Semi-Finals back in 1996, but have gone quiet since then, until now.
They’ve now in the last 16 of the Europa League, scoring six against Sevilla over two legs to set up a two-legged affair with Chelsea. They’ll fancy their chances of causing an upset, but they’ll want to maintain their momentum until then. They’re nine points clear at the top, but Liberec present potentially tricky opposition this weekend.
Liberec have made the top four in four of the last six seasons, and whilst it looks as though they may fall short in that regard this time around, making the top six and finishing in the Championship Group is very much within sight. A lack of consistency has generally been their issue, proven by the fact they’ve won three and lost three of their last six league encounters.
Nevertheless, Liberec did win 2-1 on their last league visit to the Sinobo Stadium back in October 2017. A concern is that in the three meetings between these two already this season (including one cup tie), Liberec has failed to score.
The numbers for this game presents something of a 50/50 split. Slavia Prague are a side full of goals and regularly get two, three or even four goals per-game. They’re the top scorers at this level by far, with three teams being the joint-second highest scorers in the division, but have netted 19 goals less than Slavia.
The hosts are also extremely solid defensively, which is again the best in the Czech top-flight. However, Liberec might be inconsistent in terms of the results they get, but one consistent factor about them is goals, for and against. They have the third-worst scoring record, yet the third-best defensive record.
Slavia’s matches average 3.20 goals, yet for Liberec it is a league low of just 1.90. This suggests they’re well-organised and generally tough to break down. This is what will make it a challenge for Slavia on Saturday.
Having said that, Slavia are clearly the best team in the league, and they’re even causing issues for some solid European outfits as well. Liberec have the ability to cause a problem or two, but Slavia’s class should shine in the end.
Liberec have only conceded 2+ in one league clash this season, that coming all the way back in September on another trip to Prague when facing Sparta. Since losing to Bordeaux in a Europa League group contest back in November, Slavia have lost only once more since then, that coming away to second in the table Plzen. They’re evidently tough to beat, but in a much more effective way than Liberec, proven by the fact they’ve accustomed 30 more points.
Slavia Prague to win and Under 3.5 Goals is the play at 11/10 (Sportingbet).
Willem II v Fortuna Sittard | Saturday 30th March 2019, 17:30
Let us set the rather unique scene for this game…
There's only five points between these two in the table; Willem II are only five points off the Europa League play-off places, whilst Fortuna Sittard are just four points greater than the bottom three. Despite only three teams separating them in the standings, Willem II aren’t really in a relegation battle, and Sittard won’t be threatening the top seven any time soon.
This weekend’s battle promises to be an entertaining one, as so many in the Eredivisie tend to be.
Many will look towards Willem II as actually having one of the worst home records in the division. They’ve collected six more points on their travels, with their away form currently rated the fifth-best in the Dutch top-flight. However, three of the four home league wins they’ve attained have come over the last few months. They recently defeated fourth in the table AZ on home soil, so they’re certainly improving.
Sittard’s big issue this season is that when they lose, it tends to be rather heavy. Only bottom side Breda have conceded more, and it is only one more goal as well.
Quite incredibly, the last seven occasions Sittard have lost in both league and cup has seen them ship a minimum of four goals per-game. True, they’ve faced the likes of PSV, Ajax, Feyenoord and AZ in that period, but they also lost 5-1 away to third-from-bottom Graafschap as well. They ship far too many goals, but they’ve only failed to score in 23% of their Eredivisie matches this season.
If the earlier season meeting between these two is anything to go by then another classic awaits on Saturday. September’s contest ended in a 4-4 draw, with the lead changing on four occasions.
Of the 52 games combined that both Willem II and Sittard have contested in the league so far, only nine draws have been produced. Willem II last drew a game all the way back in October, whilst half of Sittard’s opening eight matches of the season ended all-square, so they’ve drew only once more since then.
This suggests these teams tend to fall into the ‘all or nothing’ type of approach. It is also highlighted by the fact Sittard only have 15% clean sheets this season, whilst Willem II only have 17% home clean sheets, too.
The simple fact of the matter is that Willem II are scoring plenty of goals at the moment. They’ve scored at least twice in their last six in the league, but none of their last eight overall has seen them claim a clean sheet. We’ve touched upon the goals Sittard are shipping at present, but they’ve only failed to score away from home on three occasions, those coming versus PSV, Ajax and Heracles.
Willem II and Both Teams To Score looks a very attractive 19/10 (888) option to play this weekend.
Both teams can say their league games fall into the 60s in terms of percentage of BTTS paying out.
Braga v Porto – Porto to win (21/20 Unibet)
Slavia Prague v Liberec – Slavia Prague to win and Under 3.5 Goals (11/10 Sportingbet)
Willem II v Fortuna Sittard – Willem II to win and Both Teams To Score (19/10 888)