World Football: Side with Sparta on Saturday

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WORLD football fanatic James O'Rourke (@JamesOR1) looks to continue his fabulous form with a selection of hand-picked best bets from across the planet on Saturday.

Maribor v Olimpija Ljubljana | Saturday 11th May 2019, 16:45

This is known as the Eternal Derby in Slovenia as two of the nation’s biggest sides battle it out in a top of the table encounter at Stadion Ljudsku vrt.

However, whilst it is technically a top-two clash, the reality is that Maribor are in a league of their own at present. They enjoy an 11-point lead over their fierce rivals. With only five league matches remaining, a Maribor victory here would put them within a whisker of officially securing the Prva Liga title, which they last won in 2017.

Olimpija are probably within a league of their own in second, as whilst there is a big gap to first spot, there is also a further ten-point gap to the third position, which is currently occupied by Domzale. The club went bust in 2005 when known as NK Bežigrad, but they are the reigning champions of the Slovenian top-flight having finished ahead of Maribor because of their superior head-to-head record after both ended on 80 points.

Olimpija cannot even mathematically reach 80 points anyway, which suggests they’ve dropped off this time around. The fact of the matter is if Maribor weren’t around then they’d be the top dogs in this league, but at the end of the day they’ve dropped points in 14/31, which is probably a few too many to expect honours.

Over recent years, the bragging rights within this fixture has been a fair mix between the two clubs. Given it is only a 10-team division, everyone plays one another on four occasions. The previous three between these two has one win apiece and a draw, which suggests the tight nature of this fixture. The last clash in March was a 0-0 draw.

Perhaps something which is telling is that the home team has failed to win in any of the past six, and only twice in the previous eleven. In fact, the home team has triumphed only six times out of the most recent 25. The title has changed hands within that period however, and Maribor are certainly the number one side right now.

Something else we can use the head-to-head records to good use for is helping us focus how many goals we should expect. These are traditionally very tight fixtures with very little separating the two. The referee is likely to be somewhat busy, so the game is likely to be stop start, so it won’t be easy to settle into much of a rhythm.

We’ve already touched upon the fact that the most recent one finished 0-0. The fact six of the last 11 has ended a draw once again highlights how close these games can become.

Considering these are two good sides at this level, it may surprise you to know that they are rarely involved in high-scoring matches when coming together. A year ago there was a 3-2 win for Olimpija, but we’d then have to go all the way back to October 2016 for the last time one of these ended above 3.5 goals. Therefore, it is only twice in 17 has this contest contained a minimum of four goals.

That very much plays a central role in our thought process when determining a selection. For additional value, we’re going to keep Maribor on side as they’re the ones ultimately who will soon be claiming the league title. Maribor have only lost once at home all season, which although was against Olimpija, that was a close match and there was a red card for Maribor playmaker Dino Hotic.

Maribor Double Chance and Under 4 Goals looks a nice 10/11 (Bet365) chance using the Bet Builder to keep us interested in this one.

Sparta Prague v Slovan Liberec | Saturday 11th May 2019, 19:00

There are only four games to go in the Czech top-flight and these two sides already looked resigned to their end of season fate.

Sparta Prague are nine points short of second but also nine points clear of fourth in third position, but that would at least give that qualification for the Europa League. Liberec on the other hand are eight points adrift of fourth, which would also give them a shot at making the Europa League, but the reality is that it looks as though they’re going to miss out.

Therefore, there is the fear that motivation in this end of season encounter won’t necessarily be too high in either camp. However, there is only just over an hour between these two, so there might be a bit of needle in this one.

Also, we can’t ignore the fact that Sparta Prague are in good form at the moment. They’ve been pretty safe in third for a while now, so to see them at least upholding their form suggests that they are determined to end the campaign strongly. They would have been disappointed to see their MOL Cup aspirations ended by rivals Slavia Prague at the semi-final stage a couple of weeks ago, but they’ve responded well by winning their next two in the league, both 3-0.

Liberec are a team I have covered quite a lot of these weekly articles. The reason being is that their matches tend to be low-scoring, meaning we can find a selection around that which more often than not pays off.

There is another we’ll be looking towards on this occasion as well. Let’s provide a little flavour for those of you not too aware of Liberec this season. They are the definition of inconsistency, winning eleven, drawing ten and losing ten. Mid-table is exactly where they deserve to be. They have however lost only once in their last seven in the league, including a home draw to leaders Slavia Prague last time out.

This is ultimately a game that Sparta Prague have had the better of for a while now. In their last eight meetings with Liberec, they’ve won six of those, the other two being draws. March 2016 was therefore the last time Liberec won, and that was in the cup. November 2015 would be the last occasion they claimed three points over Sparta. This has also been a contest where the home side tends to get the better of things, too.

One of the last 16 has seen the away side prevail, and that was the most recent one when Sparta earned a 1-0 victory in March. In those 16, the home team has won 12 of those. Again, within those 16, only two has finished above 3.5 goals.

Sparta have only lost twice at home in the league all season. Only 32% of their league encounters has featured a minimum of four goals. For Liberec, only 16% has done so, and only 35% has beat the 2.50 goal line as well.

Sparta Prague to win and Under 3.5 Goals has to be the play at 7/5 (BoyleSports).

Best Bets

Maribor v Olimpija Ljubljana – Maribor Double Chance and Under 4 Goals (10/11 Bet365)

Sparta Prague v Slovan Liberec – Sparta Prague to win and Under 3.5 Goals (7/5 BoyleSports)

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