The title races in all the top leagues in Europe rev up another gear as some of the top clubs can smell blood and can see the finish line; some have to worry more about survival and maintaining their top flight status. This week its all about the title races in Spain and Italy, as huge derby clashes that would have a major impact on the eventual destination of the title in these countries.
In England, its a case of old rivalries seeking to end or put a dent into title aspirations or top four aspirations of your fellow adversary;we cannot say the same for the title races in Germany and France, where the race seems to be as one directional as it has been for many years.
Manchester United v Arsenal
Mounting injury list, European commitments with varying outcomes; one with its best chance at winning the League for the first time in twelve years and the other looking more and more likely to move farther away from the coveted top four places.
This is the story of Manchester United and Arsenal this season; the Gunners are within two points of league leaders, Leicester whilst Manchester United are six points off fourth place in fifth with West Ham and Southampton closing in; it doesn’t make good reading for Louis Van Gaal. Van Gaal must really consider life as been quite unfair right now as with each passing day and game, one of his top first team player succumbs to injury especially in the warm up.
Over the years, the battles between Arsenal and Manchester United have gone on to decide titles, dent title ambitions or at least just be a feisty affair; for sometime United have dominated this tie; but Arsenal are gunning to do a double over United this season and if their performance in the game earlier in the season at the Emirates is anything to go bye; you would have to say Arsenal are overwhelming favourites as they seek to clinch their first win at Old Trafford in ten years.
Manchester United would definitely parade its strangest and youngest line up for a very long time as the team is expected to consist of a number of youngsters from the Under 21s and the academy. The young lads are likely to be consumed by the occassion, but a great performance in their dress rehearsal in the Europa League would have improved their morale; however Arsenal are not FC Midtjylland, hence the likes of Memphis Depay and Marcus Rashford won’t have as much of a field day as they enjoyed the freedom of the Old Trafford turf on Thursday. The gulf in class of both teams to be paraded on Sunday is evidently clear with the Gunners having a team loaded with world class talent; however Arsenal’s goal drought is a major source of worry for the team and its fans.
My Verdict: Arsenal to get their first win in ten years at Old Trafford
My Betting Punt: Both teams to score @1.92
Juventus v Inter Milan
Roberto Donadoni and his Bologna side put paid to making this a truly epic encounter as Juventus would have been seeking to equal Inter’s remarkable record of 17 consecutive wins in Serie A; what better way to write your name in history than against descendants of holders of such an illustrious record. Despite this Juventus remain top of Serie A despite an horrendous start to the season and an unbeaten sequence of 15 wins and one draw which has set the cat among the pigeons. The Old Lady are a difficult proposition to knock off their perch once they attain top spot especially as their so called title rivals continue to falter, dropping points at the slightest chance.
Inter Milan started the season brightly, going on with their business silently with a series of one-nil victories and other slim wins to sit at the top of the scudetto race, but as the pressure has been increased from the bottom so has Inter found it hard to be consistent with only two wins from their last six games. Juventus’s Champions League commitments with their exhaustive clash against Bayern may lead to an adjustment in the side to freshen things up as the Old lady expects the likes of Chiellini and Alex Sandro to return to the side with a likely start for Hernanes against his former employers.
Juventus have won their last nine home games in the Serie A and seven clean sheets in their last seven Serie A matches.
On Monday, there’s a small matter of Fiorentina v Napoli; both teams have dropped out of the Europa League and Napoli are winless in four and can see their title challenge slipping away if they do not arrest the decline now.
My Verdict: Juventus to win and extend their lead to four points
My Betting Punt: Juventus win @1.60
Wolfsburg v Bayern Munich
What a difference a year makes; last season the Volkswagen club were Bayern’s closest rivals for the title; even demolishing the Bavarians emphatically 4-1 after the winter break. Now there’s a 28 point gap between both teams and Bayern top the league and Wolfsburg are chasing Europa League qualification in eight place.
Bayern’s injury list especially in defense is a major source of worry coupled with the way they blew a two goal lead at the Juventus Stadium in the Champions League which I largely ascribe to Pep Guardiola’s arrogant tactics (read here) on the night. Wolfsburg have found their way back into reckoning with four points from a possible six points; at home in the Volkswagen Arena, they are strong with only one defeat in their last 33 games at home.
Bayern Munich as always hold all the big records in Germany and dominate all the head to heads; in relation to this tie; the Bavarians have won 11 of their last 13 games against Wolfsburg and Bayern have won 20 of their last 23 matches in the Bundesliga, looking to extend their lead at the top to 11 points with Dortmund not playing till Sunday.
My Verdict: Bayern Munich to win and extend their lead to Eleven points
My Betting Punt: Bayern Munich win @1.45
Spain’s Double Header
There will be daggers and swords drawn in Spain this weekend as Saturday may witness the end of the title challenge for one of the teams from the Capital as well as the first real test for Real Madrid’s new manager Zinedine Zidane; whilst Barcelona aim to continue their stellar form as they seek to get revenge over one of the few sides to defeat them this season as their unbeaten streak tally hits the mid thirties.
Between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid; there’s a huge need for someone to seize the initiative to close a 8 and 9 points deficit respectively with a win. The earlier clash at the Vincente Calderon ended in a goalless stalemate and both teams would not want to be interested in a share of the spoils. Real had the luxury of resting in mid week; as Atletico just returned from the mid week stalemate in Eindhoven in the Champions League.
Sevilla’s loss in a competition that they have come to call their own was shocking; but then with a good first leg;it was expected for the team to relax a little bit. Against Barcelona, Sevilla are a dangerous opponent; not having the best of seasons, but , they have crawled their way back in contention for the Champions League places. Barcelona are electric now as was the display against Arsenal in mid week, expect a game where both sides come out to play.
My Verdict: Barcelona to win
My Betting Punt: Over 2.5 goals expected @1.25
My Verdict: Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid will end in a draw
My Betting Punt: A Draw goes at @3.60
Olympic Lyon v Paris Saint Germain
There is a Thirty Four point gap between both teams; but then a year ago Lyon were a point ahead of PSG, with a very young side who played some really good football last season. This season, Lyon have struggled with injuries an loss of form this season; hence the door was shown to Herbert Fournier as the team continued to lose ground on the big teams.
PSG are undefeated in their last Thirty-Six matches in all competitions and are not even looking any close to been defeated and are heading for Nantes record of Thirty-two games without defeat in Ligue 1. Paris Saint-Germain had the entire week off from competitive football for the first time in so far this year, which is a welcome development as the games start coming thick and fast now.
PSG have defeated Lyon this season earlier and have won four straight meetings against OL and nothing points to the fact that Lyon can get anything from this one.
My Verdict: PSG to win
My Betting Punt: PSG win @1.80
Capital One Cup Final
The first trophy of the season will be handed over at Wembly station as Liverpool and Manchester City go head to head. Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp aim to win the first trophy of the German’s reign at Anfield; whilst Manuel Pellegrini aims to make good his final few months at the Etihad club; winning the trophy would be a good way of celebrating his eventual departure.
This season,Liverpool have put their mark on Manchester City with a performance for the ages earlier in the season at the Etihad; so the Citizens will go in a little wary and cautious especially coming off a mixed emotions type of week. Liverpool are traditionally the domineering feature of the League cup as they have won it more than any other club and would be aiming to enhance their established success in the competition.
Manchester City need to win the cup and win well to boost the morale at the East-lands and potentially get their season back on track.
My Verdict: To close to call
My Betting Punt: Over 2.5 goals expected @1.82
**** Make a Punt with N500 based on the above will fetch you N 37,750; not a bad weekend of games right? Good Luck all
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