CSKA Moscow v Orenburg | Saturday 13th April 2019, 14:30
We have an exciting battle at the top of the Russian Premier League, with a handful of clubs still having a mathematical shot at winning the big prize. Zenit lead the way on 45 points, then Krasnodar on 41 but CSKA on 40 are still in with a fighting chance of winning their first league triumph since 2016.
Winning at home to Orenburg therefore is a must this weekend. Orenburg are in only their second-ever season at this level, having lasted only one year the last time they had such an honour. They sit in 10th at the moment, but only five points above the bottom four. That means every point is vital going into the remainder of the campaign. Two wins in their last four has helped ease the pressure to a degree.
Viktor Goncharenko’s hosts have been in decent form in recent weeks, which has helped propel their title challenge. They returned from the winter break which an away loss to mid-table Arsenal Tula, but they’re unbeaten in four, three of which has ended in victories. Consistency has generally been their weak point, so having a run of this nature could be perfectly timed.
CSKA still have the likes of Zenit and Krasnodar to play before the season ends. Orenburg are a side they should be defeating, having done so on each of the last three occasions ‘to nil’.
It has actually been CSKA’s home form that has cost them on several occasions this season. They’re got the best away record in the division, but they’ve dropped points in half of their encounters at the VEB Arena. Three wins form their last seven in front of their own supporters, albeit once versus league leaders Zenit, isn’t really good enough. Still, if the league was based on the last 10 matches, CSKA would be top.
Orenburg are certainly fairly placed in the league table at the moment. There is no real hard-luck story; in all competitions, their last six matches reads W2-D2-L2. They should have enough to beat the drop, which would be a terrific achievement, but don’t expect them to overcome the seven-point gap to the fifth and final European qualification spot. They’re winless in their six on the road, but did draw 2-2 at Krasnodar.
Although the form guide does point towards a CSKA victory, I’m happy to swerve them on the 1×2 market in general on this occasion. They’re odds-on to win, and understandably so, but their up-and-down home record does worry me in that regard.
The goals angle is one which does appeal. My selection might surprise some when it is considered CSKA’s league matches average 2.00 goals and Orenburg’s 2.30, but I can picture goals in this one. Over 2.5 Goals is my play and it is a nice-looking 59/50 (Marathon).
For all that CSKA’s home form isn’t as good as they’d like, they do tend to see a few goals here. Their home matches actually average 2.60, with 6/10 beating the 2.5 line. Four of the last five at this destination has also done so.
As for Orenburg, four of their last five overall has contained at least three goals. They’ve only failed to score 18% of the time away from home, plus BTTS has paid out in 64% of their away assignments.
I fancy goals in this for a bit of value.
Viktoria Plzen v Bankik Ostrava | Saturday 13th April 2019, 17:00
Sparta Prague might have won the Czech 1st League more than any other side, but Viktoria Plzen have dominated the division for a while now. They’ve come out top of the tree in 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2018. It is looking increasingly likely that Slavia Prague will secure top spot on this occasion, but the league will separate after the next three matches.
It means Plzen still have a shot of making it back-to-back titles, but three points in games such as the one they’ll face this weekend is therefore a must.
It’ll be no easy going against Ostrava however. They are one of the surprise-packages of the season sitting fifth in the standings as things stand. That is because they only survived against relegation by a solitary point last term, but a European spot this time around looks a real possibility for Bohumil Páník’s side.
However, whilst only Sparta Prage and Jablonec separate these two teams in the table, there is still a big 19-point difference.
This is a battle that Plzen have regularly gotten the better of over the years. It has been a regular meeting season-by-season, but the last time Ostrava won a game inside 90 minutes versus Plzen was 2009. That means Plzen are undefeated in the last 17 encounters with Ostrava. Ostrava did win in extra time versus Plzen last year, but that was technically a draw after 90 minutes.
Nevertheless, this is a one-sided affair. It comes as no surprise to see Plzen as big favourites to win this Saturday, but Ostrava cannot be easily discounted.
Plzen were only knocked out of the Europa League in February, so they’ve been having to juggle that, plus the Champions League, alongside the league throughout the campaign. That has been a bit of a distraction given they’ve got a relatively small squad. They haven’t found things as easy as last season at all, and many of their victories this season, especially at home, have been by a one-goal margin.
Viktoria also W2-D0-L2 of their last four, those two losses coming away to sides in third and 10th. They’ve only lost four league games all season, and two of those came last month. Their only other losses were to teams sitting in first and fourth in the standings, so fifth in the table Ostrava will test them.
Ostrava had been on a poor run of form until recently. They returned from the winter break claiming four points out of a possible six, but then went five without a win. However, over the last week or so they’ve knocked Liberec out of the cup and then beaten Teplice at home to get back on track. Ostrava though are winless in last four on the road, losing three in succession.
Plzen, on the flip side, have the best home record in the top flight (W12-D1-L0). But there is no value backing Plzen here, and they’ve slipped up against sides in the top region of the table this season, so I’m happy to give them a miss. The goal angle is one I am more attracted to, however.
Under 2.5 Goals looks a decent 9/10 (Bet365) shot for this weekend’s encounter. For all that Plzen have dominated this meeting, five of the last eighth have finished below 2.5 goals. Also, we touched upon earlier that Plzen don’t tend to ‘smash’ teams at home against the weaker opponents that their position in the table may suggest they should.
Viktoria's home matches average only 2.30 goals, with 9/13 ending U2.5. That means only Liberec’s home matches has seen U2.5 more often. Ostrava’s league matches overall average only 2.40 goals, which suggests a tight meeting should be played out in Plzen.