FC Copenhagen v Esbjerg | Sunday 9th December 2018, 15:00
A top five encounter takes place in the Danish Superliga on Saturday afternoon. Copenhagen have made their way to the summit in recent weeks thanks to a run of seven wins in their last 10 in the league, overtaking long time leaders FC Midtjylland.
Esbjerg, on the other hand are having a fine campaign considering they just won promotion last season. They sit in fifth, although they are winless in four.
Esbjerg, who had Rafael van der Vaart on their books as recently as last month, did enjoy quite a remarkable run of form not that long ago. They started the season a little sluggishly, and they’ve gone off the boil recently, but between that they were one of the teams to beat. Between August and November they lost just twice, including in a home meeting to Copenhagen in September.
Copenhagen, managed by former Wolves boss Stale Solbakken for the second time, are having to juggle a Europa League group stage alongside their league fixtures. Defeat away in Zenit a few weeks ago means they head into the final game of Group C with their progression destiny no longer in their control.
FCK's league form however has not necessarily dipped despite having another competition to deal with. They’ve won six of their last seven, the other being an away draw to sixth in the table Aalborg.
This has been a meeting that FCK have dominated for a very long time. They are the most successful team in Danish football, so it is perhaps no surprise that is the case. However, they’ve won the last eight head-to-head meetings, the last four in fairly convincing fashion. May 2013 was the last time Esbjerg emerged victorious against their seemingly superior opponents.
Copenhagen have scored 20 more goals than Esbjerg and they are certainly the side to stick with on Saturday. However, we’re only getting slim odds-on quotes on an outright victory, so there has to be another value angle to consider.
To bump up the odds a little, we’ll add Over 2.5 Goals to a Copenhagen victory, priced at 10/11 (Coral).
Thirteen out Copenhagen’s 18 league games has endedOver 2.5, meaning there is an average of 3.40 goals in their Superliga contests so far. Also, games at their Telia Parken base also has a 100% record in the league when it comes to beating the 2.5 line.
The one concern is that when it comes to Esbjerg, it is a little bit at the other end of the spectrum. Their games are still averaging 2.60 however, with three of their last four ending Over 2.5, so perhaps it is a sign of more goals to come in their matches, either for or against.
Copenhagen has scored in every league match this season, whilst Esbjerg has only failed to do so 17% of the time, too. Both teams have scored in 75% of Copenhagen’s home games, but we’ll just swerve this market in case Copenhagen do decide to run riot in convincing fashion, which is certainly a possibility.
Rapid Vienna v Sturm Graz | Sunday 9th December 2018, 16:00
There is an attractive looking battle occurring in the top-flight of Austrian football this weekend.
You may have to wait until the last match of the Austrian Bundesliga at 4pm on Sunday, and to be honest, we don’t envisage this being too much of an entertaining spectacle in terms of goals. Still, that doesn’t mean it won’t be entertaining in some form!
The reason being is that Rapid Vienna and Sturm Graz are two of the more organised teams in the league in relation to not conceding too many goals. They are two of only six teams in the league to have conceded less than 20 times so far.
Only three points separates the two as well, with Sturm Graz sitting only a couple of spots above Rapid after 16 games of competitive action. Both sides have aspirations of wanting to finish higher up in this 12-team league, but it has not been plain sailing for either of these so far.
Rapid have been very inconsistent, winning five, losing four and losing on seven occasions so far. They won back-to-back in October, in league and cup, and they head into this after winning the last two, one of which was away in Spartak Moscow in the Europa League, meaning they have a chance of progressing into the next stage. They lost won three in a row back in April.
Sturm Graz have started to turn the tide a little bit. They too have won back-to-back, both in the Bundesliga for them. It is just one defeat in six for Heiko Vogel’s men, and they travel to the Allianz Stadion in fairly decent spirits of gaining another victory. They have won on two of their last four visits after all.
It is tough to separate these two and we expect quite a tactical battle at the weekend – 10/16 of Sturm Graz’s matches has ended Under 2.5 Goals, whilst the same can be said for Rapid in 9/16. Perhaps specifically more telling is that 7/8 of Rapid’s home matches and 6/8 of Sturm Graz’s away contests has ended Under 2.5.
Therefore, Under 2.5 is the way to go here. Getting a price of 66/67 (188bet) for that to happen is not too bad at all.
Lechia Gdansk v Legia Warsaw | Sunday 9th December 2018, 17:00
A little like my final selection in my Saturday World Football version, I set about trying to find a bit of a bigger price to try and back on Sunday. I believe I have found exactly that, and it is one I believe will give us a good run at those odds.
On paper, it presents to an exciting encounter in the Polish Ekstraklasa as top of the table Lechia Gdasnk welcome second in the standings Legia Warsaw to the Stadion Energa Gdansk.
It has certainly been a remarkable turnaround by Lechia, who finished in the Relegation Group last season. Legia have won the league for the last three seasons, and after a sluggish start, which is common for Polish sides who compete in European qualifiers, they are now embarking on yet another title assault.
Forty-six-year-old Piotr Stokowiec will be embracing this type of challenge to welcome the reigning champions, seeing if they really do have the metal to sustain their fine start. They currently enjoy a five-point lead at the top, losing only twice this season. They last lost in September, and it is seven wins in succession in their last seven in all competitions.
Reading that last paragraph may perhaps shock you that I am actually backing Lechia to lose this weekend. We’ll cut to the chase, we’re backing Legia to win at 8/5 (Marathon). I’ll tell you why.
For all that Lechia are impressive everyone with their results, they have been involved in a lot of close matches. They have been mostly ‘getting the job done’ and I just fear for them trying to achieve that over the course of a season. It is perhaps not so much a case of what I don’t think Lechia can do, but what Legia can do. That is why I am backing towards an away win.
Legia are seasoned pros at this level. As mentioned, they started poorly, but that is common for them, especially once the European qualifiers are out of the way, they can then focus all their energy on trying to make it four titles in a row. They’ve started to hit their stride under Ricardo Sa Pinto, the suave former Standard Liege boss. They’ve lost just the once in their last 14 in all competitions, which came last month away to seventh side Pogon Szczecin early last month. However, I just feel that tactically this is the kind of game which should suit them.
There will be a raucous atmosphere present at the stadium, which is normally when any side faces Legia given they are the biggest club in Poland. As mentioned, Legia are well experienced of situations like this and won’t be fazed at all by the challenge presented to them.
Lechia are full of confidence, and will certainly play to win. My feeling is that they could be left vulnerable to Legia at times and the visitors could make them pay. There is very little to separate these two. Lechia has scored one more and conceded one less than Legia so far.
Legia have kept a clean sheet in four of their last five, whilst Lechia have conceded in six of their previous nine. Also, over the last 11 head-to-head meetings, Lechia have won only once. Legia have won on three of their last four visits, and at 8/5, they have to be of considerable interest. Plus, they really could do with winning this game to close the five-point gap to Lechia.