Another weekend is upon us with mouth watering clashes spread across Europe; especially an unlikely top of the table clash in England as Italy shows off its diversity with the top two teams going head to head displaying contrasting styles. In Spain, its a tale of underachievement as two of the also rans go at each other as their season that promised so much as delivered very little and Germany provides us with two teams that can’t keep the goals out.
Leicester City v Manchester United
Who would ever have thought that with 13 games played in the 2015/16 season of the English Premier League that Leicester City would be top of the table; it goes to buttress the unpredictable nature of the English game. It does not then state that Leicester would win it come May, 2016; as most fans of the midland club would be dreaming of; it remains a long, hard season ahead, injuries here and there and loss of form coming with the territory of competing in the top flight and for major honours.
When you ask anyone about this weekend’s big clash, the first thing that comes to mind is the eight goal thriller last season at the King Power stadium where the Foxes came from 1-3 down to level things and go ahead in a salvo that remains unbelievable especially with respect to how Manchester United grumbled in that match. This season; Leicester seem a different proposition; last season’s game would have sold out at the club’s DVD store as the big highlight of their return to the top flight; however, they go into this one with a huge chance especially having lost only once this season with that solitary loss against Arsenal at home should leave an air of vulnerability for United to capitalize on, even though it seems quite unlikely.
If there’s one thing I am sure of it has to be that we would have goals in this one; Leicester’s explosive, expansive attacking style meets Manchester United’s cautious and delicate build up which would be centered at ensuring that Leicester see as little of the ball as possible; the Foxes wont mind that at all; they would be content with the satisfaction of catching United on the break with the pace of Riyad Mahrez and the record chasing Jamie Vardy.
Interestingly, Manchester United have only lost to Leicester once in eleven matches with the remaining ten games ending in victory for the Red Devils. This season’s meanest defense thus far belongs to Manchester United with just 9 goals conceded; Leicester are not the most solid of sides defensively; so there is room for Old Trafford outfit to exploit; however, with both teams in good form going into this tie; you may be tempted to punt for a draw with United undefeated in five games and Leicester having won their last four games. It all looks set for a great game with Jamie Vardy aiming to break Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s record by scoring in 11 consecutive Premier League Matches as well as Leicester aiming to be the first team since Leeds in 2001 who is outside the traditional top six sides to top the EPL going into December.
My Verdict: Looks to me like we have a high scoring draw on our hands here.
My Betting Punt: An over 2.5 goals should be a safe enough punt @1.98
Tottenham Hotspurs v Chelsea
Interestingly, the two big games been featured from the EPL this weekend ended 5-3 in favour of the home sides in the reverse fixtures last season. I do not think that would happen again this time around; as the teams have a much more solid and resolute stance to themselves this season. Both London teams have had an interesting start to the season; Spurs are undefeated since the opening day of the new campaign, going 12 games undefeated so far this season making them the form team of the league thus far. Chelsea on the other hand are a shadow of the team that ran away with the League title last season; so far putting together the worst title defense in the history of the Premier League. Top players from last season continue to under perform leaving Chelsea hanging around the relegation zone; very unchampion like.
Tottenham go into the tie as favorites which is not the norm as Chelsea more often than not go into most London derbies as firm favorites. Chelsea seem to be back on track with back to back wins in the league and the Champions League; keeping clean sheets along the way, however a game against Tottenham at a time like this may have come too early in Chelsea’s recovery process; even though Chelsea can take solace in the fact that Spurs haven’t won a game in the EPL after an away Europa League game; coupled with Chelsea been undefeated in 11 of their last 12 games against Spurs provides food for thought.
Tottenham’s young English spine is what is giving them most of the plaudits; especially the emergence of young Dele Alli; who along with Chelsea Captain John Terry will miss the game. Spurs have operated under the radar and I remember criticizing their transfer business over the summer; I may just be tendering an apology come season end.
My Verdict: With Spurs record after an Europa League game, I am tempted to go for a draw.
My Betting Punt: Spurs win or draw @ 1.42 seems safe enough
Napoli v Inter Milan
Maurizio Sarri has changed the face of this Napoli side, playing the best football in Serie A at the moment, boasting the league’s top scorer and still ensuring a solid defensive base; only one team challenges that defensive record and that’s this week’s opponent; Inter Milan. The Nerazzurri under Roberto Mancini combine the elements of a strong, resolute, compact and defensively solid team with the ability to break out to score goals in an open attacking style. Its quite easy to see the plot for Mancini; get Inter competing again; what better way to do that than to instill a solid defensive base as the bed rock of the team going forward.
Napoli were able to rest a number of their heavy hitters for this game to avoid any injuries or fatigue as opponents Inter do not have an continental commitments; even though this game is scheduled for Monday Night, it makes the weekend reckoning due to the enormity of the tie. Inter have not defeated Lazio in their last six outings; which should give Napoli the edge at the San Paolo. The tie provides Napoli with the opportunity to go top of the table as two points separate both sides; so a win for the Naples side takes them to first and Inter would need to start watching over their shoulders.
My Verdict: Napoli win for me
My Betting Punt: Napoli win either half @ 1.34
Sevilla v Valencia
Sevilla are usually a strong team at home; scoring a significant result just before the International break; unfortunately the wheels seem to have fallen off once again with disappointing back to back defeats to Real Sociedad and Borussia Monchengladbach in the league and the Champions league. Sevilla made a number of significant additions to their squad over the summer with the Sporting Director getting rave reviews in the world of football for the excellent business they had done. All those pieces seem to be struggling to come together as Sevilla just cannot find consistency which continues to be a major worry for Unai Emery.
Valencia were expected to make great progressions this season after the heroics of last season as Nuno Esporito Santo got the team playing some quality football. Unfortunately, the team has struggled to manage their campaigns domestically and on the continent; this continues to pull the Mestalla down in the wrong direction of the table.
So two teams that are struggling with form and the performances have left very little to desire go ahead to head seeking to get their respective seasons back on track as it seems their main focus would be strictly domestic going forward; even though Valencia may still end up in the Europa League.
Los Che have a terrible record against Sevilla at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan with the host undefeated in their last 14 matches against the visitors with Sevilla winning their last four La Liga games; I worry that Valencia would leave Seville empty handed.
My Verdict: Sevilla’s solid home record against Valencia points to a Sevilla win
My Betting Punt: Both teams to score @1.58
Bayer Leverkusen v Schalke 04
Schalke feature in my previews in back to back weekends; even though they lost to Bayern Munich last week; it was a spirited performance that on a good day may have yielded a different result. Bayer will seek to control the game with their quick attacking play which continues to leave them open in defense.
The high of a good win in the league last week was checked by a share of the spoils in the Champions League as BATE threw a spanner to their works in their bid to qualify for the knock out stages. If there is one thing you can be sure of with Roger Schmidt and his team is they will play attacking football and would always be on the front foot. Schalke despite the spirited performance from last weekend are winless in four matches and may have to start looking over their shoulder as other mid table clubs start catching up. Schalke have to find creativity from somewhere as this continues to be their Achilles heel with probably one of the worst possession stats in the league; its had for me to see anything other than a Bayer win.
My Verdict: Leverkusen to win
My Betting Punt: A combo comes to play here; Bayer win with over 1.5 goals @ 1.71
***** TIPS fetch you N5,200 with a punt of N500
****** 75% accuracy last week, not a bad start at all