Sydney FC v Melbourne Victory | Saturday 6th April 2019, 09:50 | BT Sport
Second meets third in the Australian A-League this weekend and it is certainly a game of some significance. Whilst it seems unlikely either side will deny Perth Glory from the first position and the top seed spot in the end of season play-offs, second place will also guarantee a semi-final position, rather than entering at the quarter-final stage.
Three points therefore is vital for both Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory this weekend. Sydney have a narrow one-point advantage as things stand, and there is only four matches of the regular season remaining.
Sydney are the home team, so naturally they are the favourites. On that basis, it is understandable. However, they have been anything but convincing this season, despite sitting second in the standings. They’ve very much been the team to beat in the Australian top-flight for a few seasons now, but their very high standards have certainly dropped in this campaign.
Graham Arnold left to become the Australian head coach before the season began, with former Leicester, Wolves and Walsall midfielder Steve Corica experiencing his first season in professional management this campaign.
Sydney fans are somewhat frustrated by his approach a lot of the time. Corica is seemingly one of those coaches that likes to win 1-0, and playing in that manner has certainly cost them points across the season. Four wins, two draws and four defeats from their last ten in all competitions highlights their inconsistency at present.
Melbourne Victory were going through a tough patch themselves not so long ago. A six game winless run in all competitions placed some pressure on Kevin Muscat and his side, but they’ve given themselves a shot at potentially earning second spot at the very least. After all, they are the reigning A-League winners, so they are a team to be shot at.
Victory have suffered from some injuries across the season which certainly had an impact across those run of draws and defeats, but Muscat has no real concerns of that nature anymore. The Victory look a much, more stronger side when Keisuke Honda and Ola Toivonen are on the pitch, so it is no shock to see them back in-form, winning their last two. They included a fine 2-0 away success at league leaders Perth Glory, meaning spirits couldn’t be any higher.
These two teams haven’t convinced at times over the season, but the momentum currently seems to be with the Melbourne side. They’re something of a bogey team to Sydney too, with the last two head-to-head meetings going the way of The Victory, both by a 2-1 margin.
Even though Sydney have second spot in their possession going into this encounter, it is they who are surely feeling the pressure that bit more. Recent performances haven’t given the fans much to be excited about, and they’re the ones probably dreading this fixture more than Melbourne.
Therefore, I’m more than happy to see odds of 14/5 (Unibet) on a Melbourne Victory…victory. They’ll certainly give us a good run for our money and Sydney aren’t doing enough to really convince me to back them at around evens.
Ludogorets v CSKA Sofia | Saturday 6th April 2019, 15:15
The Bulgarian top-flight has now separated into two and the Championship Group gets underway this weekend. We have a mouthwatering contest to get things going as the top two meet, as league leaders Ludogorets entertain CSKA Sofia.
It will be the second time this week that this fixture has occurred, after CSKA were 1-0 winners in the Bulgarian Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday. However, it is very much all matters focusing on the league on Saturday.
Ludogorets have won the title in the last seven seasons, but they’ve got something of a battle on their hands this time around. CSKA Sofia are the most successful club in Bulgarian football in terms of winning the top league, and they’re going in search of their 31st title; their last one coming in 2008.
There is no love lost between these two sides and the midweek cup meeting will only ignite this occasion even further. The league is very much the priority for these two, and this weekend’s game will go a long way to determining the eventual title winner.
Ludogorets haven’t been themselves in recent times. Since returning following the winter break they haven’t been as consistent as they would have liked. Of course they’ve been knocked out the cup, and just three wins in their last seven in the league is not really the form of champions, even if one of those was a 6-0 home triumph over Septemvri Sofia.
CSKA lost two of their first three since coming back from the winter break, but that was seemingly just them getting back into the swing of things. This is because they’ve won the next five in a row since then, keeping clean sheets in their previous three. Whilst they won a few days ago against this opponent, it was quite a rare victory over Ludogorets for Sofia. It is only two wins from the last 22, but they’ll take obvious heart from their latest success, knowing it could possibly be a sign of things to come.
Picking a winner from this game is anything but easy. There is precious little to separate the two outfits. Ludogorets only have three more points, have scored five more goals and both have conceded the same amount in the league.
Ludogorets perhaps have the advantage given their H2H record, despite losing earlier in the week, plus they’ve got home advantage. They’ll obviously be determined to right the wrongs of their cup setback too. Nevertheless, I’ll happily swerve the 1×2 market.
The goals line looks to be the way to go however, and Under 2.5 Goals at 16/25 (Unibet) is the way we’re going to go.
Despite being the top two in the league, this fixture in generally quite a tight one, as the midweek cup tie further enhanced. The last four has finished U2.5. In fact, only five of the last 26 fixtures between these two has witnessed a minimum of three goals scored overall. It really is something of a grudge match, and how often have we seen the top sides in a league cancel one another out when facing-off.
Clearly these are two evenly-matched outfits, and seemingly know what needs to be done to make life difficult for the opponent.
Ferencvaros v Paks | Saturday 6th April 2019, 16:00
Ferencvaros have won the Hungarian top-flight more than any other side, but they’ve gone a couple of seasons without securing the title. They currently have an eight-point lead in the number one position as things stand, so things are looking good for Serhiy Rebrov to secure the clubs 30th success at this level.
They welcome an out of form Paks outfit to the Groupama Arena this weekend, and all things really point to a comfortable three points for the home team.
It is five straight league victories for the Green Eagles, but they’ve been negotiating the domestic Hungarian Cup between those as well. They were knocked out at the Quarter-Final stage on Wednesday to MOL Vidi, but the league is very much their priority, whilst still being disappointed to lose during the week. If anything, it should spur them on to really find their level again in front of their own supporters on Saturday.
Paks, known rather intriguingly as the Nuclearteam, weren’t on a bad run of form all that long ago. They returned from the winter break going unbeaten in five, but things have certainly gone downhill since then. It is five without a win, including being knocked out of the cup. In those five encounters, they’ve conceded at least twice in every single game.
Four other sides actually have a worse defensive record in the league compared to them, but they’re still conceding 1.42 goals per game. Compare that to the 0.73 Ferencvaros concede, plus they score 2.15 compared to Paks’ 1.12 per game, it again highlights the likely outcome this weekend.
Whilst there is plenty to suggest Ferencvaros should be winning this game, Paks will take a degree of comfort from the recent head-to-head record. Ferencvaros might have won the last meeting 3-0 away from home, but they’ve only won two of the last eight overall. This suggests that Paks very much have the ability to make life tough. They could be something of a bogey team in some respects, but the reality is that Ferencvaros have 27 more points to their name.
For all that Ferencvaros should be winning here, there is still the nagging concern of their head-to-head record in this battle. Also, Paks haven’t been beaten heavily all that often this season for a side in the position they’re in. They’re six-points above the relegation spots, but they’re still relatively comfortable enough.
Only two of the last eight meetings has witnessed over 3.5 goals. Just one of Paks’ last 13 in the league has ended over this line as well. Their away league contests average only 2.10, which again highlights how they can be quite stubborn.
Ferencvaros have the ability to score goals in any game, especially as they netted seven at home to a similar opponent a few weeks’ ago. However, they may need time to get back into their stride after losing in the cup. They should still win, but perhaps not as spectacularly as their slim odds may suggest.
Ferencvaros to win and Under 3.5 Goals is a nice 21/20 (Boylesports) selection.
Sydney FC v Melbourne Victory – Melbourne Victory to win (14/5 Unibet)
Ludogorets v CSKA Sofia – Under 2.5 Goals (16/25 Unibet)
Ferencvaros v Paks – Ferencvaros to win and Under 3.5 Goals (21/20 Boylesports)