After more than a week off from domestic football in Europe, I am very keen to get stuck in to the fixtures for the weekend. There are a few great fixtures across the leagues…
Hoffenheim v Leverkusen (7:30pm – Friday)
The top three sides in Germany have already started to break away from the rest as Bayern, Dortmund and Leverkusen already have a 6 point gap from 4th placed Monchengladbach. Playing the Friday night game gives Leverkusen a great opportunity to go top of the table and put pressure on the two favourites for the league.
Lars Bender missed games for Germany during the international break after picking up a thigh injury against Bayern but could start tonight. Other than that, Leverkusen are at full strength. The Keißling/Sam/Son attacking line is causing problems for all they face. Hoffenheim have shipped (and scored) 20 goals already. Averaging 5 goals in each game they play, we could see something similar again tonight as they possess some in form players too – Firmino, Volland and Modeste have managed 16 goals between them (80% of team goals), but with a doubt over Modeste for this game after coming off in their last outing (at Mainz), them may be missing the spearhead of their strike force.
Both sides create a decent amount of chances, so it will be tight. The value lies with the away side due to their defensive ability – combined with their quality in attack. Hoffenheim have scored 5 away at Hamburg, but conceded 6 at Stuttgart. Defensively they are suspect and often far too exposed. Against quality opposition such as Bayer, I expect them to concede more than they can score. I think this will be their first home defeat of the season, in their first real test on home soil.
Newcastle v Liverpool (12:45pm – Saturday)
This is the only tip from the Premier League this weekend, and comes in the early kick off (something I know lots of people try to avoid). However, there is certainly value in this game as an impressive Liverpool travel to an underwhelming Newcastle side.
With Glen Johnson and Coutinho to miss out again for the visitors, Newcastle will feel they can compete here in front of a packed St James’ Park. However, they are yet to find any sort of consistency this season, home or away. Their shambolic first half at Goodison Park against Everton, followed by their second half display goes to show that they are hard to predict. After a slow start in front of goal with just 1 in their first three games, they have now scored 2 in their last four Premier League fixtures. Remy has certainly hit some form and did well at Cardiff. Liverpool (even at home), is a different proposition altogether. They will be pegged back for large chunks of the game, and this is when they have struggled. It happened at Everton, Man City and home against Hull. They haven’t been able to cope against sustained pressure; something they will have to do in this game.
Suarez has returned from his ban and managed 3 goals in two games, with his partnership with Sturridge likely to continue where it left off. Newcastle have improved of late, but their inefficiencies in front of goal may cost them here as they face a side in good form with two of the best strikers in the league. Value lies with Liverpool.
Eintracht Frankfurt v Nurnberg (2:30pm – Saturday)
If ever there was a tough start to the season, Frankfurt have had it. Their home form makes for miserable reading at first glance, but with the visits of Dortmund and Bayern Munich out of the way (2-1 and 1-0 defeats) they can turn it around – with today being the perfect opportunity. Away from home they have shown their more rightful position in the league, winning 2 and drawing 2, they are far better than their league position would suggest (13th).
Other than last time out, you could say that Nurnberg were in a similar position – having deserved a little more over their opening set of fixtures, despite no victories in their opening 8 games. However, I think the games that they impressed (stifling Dortmund and managing a 3-3 draw from 2-0 down at Bremen) were a case of over-achieving. They don’t offer enough going forward to compensate for their defensive weaknesses. Their game against Hamburg showed some real calamitous defending and an ineptness that suggests their first win of the season will still take a while to come around.
For this game, expect Kadlec to be key, and for Nurnberg to sit back and try and absorb the inevitable pressure from a home side who know this is their ideal chance to propel themselves up the table and turn their home form around
Valencia v Real Sociedad (5pm – Saturday)
This tie from La Liga sees a Europa League side Valencia host Champions League hopefuls Sociedad. Based on the table, results and the way the sides are playing of late – you would be forgiven for thinking Valencia were the Champions League side.
After a tough run early doors where Valencia lost 3 consecutive games (at Espanyol, home to Barca and away at Betis), they have more than turned it around with 10 points from the last 12 available. Solid wins against Sevilla and Rayo at home have seen their fine home form continue. Ending last season with 5 straight home wins, they have now won 3 out of 4 at the Mestalla. With no huge injury concerns they rightfully come in to this game as favourites
Sociedad haven’t impressed this season so far, failing to reach the heights of last season; languishing one point above the bottom three, and already 10 points behind the top 4. Their lack of goals has to be a real concern, and having to rely on an inconsistent Carlos Vela could be the reason. Their 1-0 defeat at struggling Rayo (who had conceded 22 in their previous 6 games) highlights the concern for goals. Coming to Valencia who are strong at home is a tough ask and with 2 goals in their last 5 league games there is certainly value to be had on the home side.
FC Twente v Ajax (7:45pm – Saturday)
Away at PSV I decided to oppose Ajax and when PSV won 4-0 we had a very easy winner. Today, bearing in mind their recent recovery and the Asian Line at the minute – I couldn’t oppose them again as I think they will threaten against a side with 2 wins in 5 home games this season.
Vermeer played awfully in the game and was subsequently dropped. Cillessen has looked a more than capable replacement and is unlucky not to have 3 clean sheets from 3 (3-0 and 6-0 league wins and 1-1 draw in the Champions League with a 94th minute dubious Balotelli penalty). Krkic and Duarte will miss out through injury, so I expect the same XI that beat Utrecht 3-0 – with maybe Moisander slotting back in to the back four (probably for van der Hoorn).
Twente have been inconsistent in front of goal – scoring for fun at times, and struggling at others. With 22 goals in their first 9 games (joint highest with Ajax), they have created more chances than any other side so far this season. They look to dominate possession and retain the ball – they’re not afraid to be patient and recycle possession when they need to. Ajax play in a similar fashion so it will be interesting to see who controls the game. The rich vein of form that Ajax are in (albeit small) could see them control it. Against PSV and Heerneveen at home, Twente struggled. A last minute Bengtsson equaliser saved them against Heerenveen and PSV pegged them back twice. Ajax will know they can get something from this game, and a win here would give them great momentum for their game at Celtic Park in midweek.
Groningen v PSV (1:30pm – Sunday)
PSV have played amazingly well at times, but looked like a very mediocre side at others. This weekend they travel to a dangerous Groningen side who haven’t lost at home so far this campaign (3 wins and a draw).
Without a win in their last three away fixtures, PSV seem a little short at around 1.75 for the outright win. Add to this the fact that they will likely be without Wijnaldum, Locadia, Schaars and maybe GK Zoet and the odds seem even more strange. Groningen will be without David Texeira and maybe Genero Zeefuik; meaning they will have a little less firepower. However, the way they play is fluid, so the need for a target man or out-and-out striker is less necessary.
I quite fancy a draw in this game, PSV are far too inconsistent and will give a few decent chances away through errors or bad defensive positioning, so Groningen should manage to score. I’m not backing the outright draw though, as I think if Groningen can score first, they will have a great chance to take all three points.
AZ Alkmaar v Cambuur (3:30pm Sunday)
At around 3.4 goals per game, the Dutch Eredivisie has been entertaining even if somewhat unpredictable. One side that hasn’t really contributed to this high goal ratio is Cambuur. With just 7 goals scored in their first 8 games; and just 15 in total (1.67/game), they are dragging the average GPG down. Away from home they have offered even less, managing just one goal in 5 games. ONE.
AZ fans will look at this game as a formality, but it is anything but a guaranteed three points. Cambuur have already frustrated PSV on their travels and will look to do the same again here. With three 0-0s already, the newly promoted side would happily take another one today. AZ are short for the outright win, and rightly so as they should take all three points. However, there is a safer way to try and ensure profit for this fixture – and it comes in the goals market. Thanks to the high scoring games in general, the odds for OVERS is always low, meaning UNDERS remains higher than they probably should, providing us with value. 7/9 Cambuur fixtures have gone under 2.5, and with their lack of desire to find the net, it is no surprise. Away from home, only their 2-1 defeat at Heerenveen went over the 2.5 goal line.
Here is an opportunity to cover ourselves on a slightly higher line, in a game where it is likely that only one (if any) team will score. The under 3.00 price is probably where I would place the Under 2.50 line. This is definitely good value, and hopefully a winner in my final tip of the weekend.
Hoffenheim v Leverkusen – Leverkusen Win (2.10 – Bet Victor)
Newcastle v Liverpool – Liverpool Win (1.90 – Ladbrokes)
Frankfurt v Nurnberg – Frankfurt -1.00 (1.98 – Ladbrokes)
Valencia v Sociedad – Valencia Win (1.80 – Betfred, Bet Victor)
Twente v Ajax – Ajax +0.00 (2.47 – Pinnacle)
Groningen v PSV – Groningen +0.50 (2.24 – Pinnacle)
AZ v Cambuur – Under 3.00 (1.80 – Pinnacle)