Football betting analyst Mark O’Haire shares two of his favourite fancies from Saturday’s action with the Premier League and Bundesliga in focus.
More Misery For Red Devils
Anybody who sat through two FA Cup ties between Manchester United and Wolves earlier this month might disagree but, for me, Saturday’s Premier League showdown between the two at Old Trafford is the most interesting fixture on the top-flight card this weekend.
The duo are locked on 34 points, alongside Spurs, with the three teams separated by goal difference. Looking below, a further seven clubs – down to 14th in the table – are within four points, whilst the elusive and illustrious Champions League berths are six points better off. Therefore, there’s plenty still to play for then as we head into February.
Wolves are the shortest price they’ve ever been for an away match at Big Six opposition in the Premier League (in particular an away day at Old Trafford), so on the surface, there doesn’t appear to be anything to excited about here.
In fact, the slight midweek drift of United suggests the pair would be rated about equal if the game took place on neutral turf.
But I think the advantage is with Wolves here. The Old Gold’s slim squad have enjoyed an extended break since their last outing – a terrific effort against runaway league leaders Liverpool – and Nuno Espirito Santo’s squad is as close to fully fit as it has been in months.
Preparation and recovery time will have done the players wonders after a testing campaign.
Wolves have displayed remarkable resilience and character to excel in both the Europa League and Premier League this term, whilst their ability to compete with the domestic elite can’t be ignored. The Old Gold have done the double over Manchester City, dominated Spurs in defeat, plus lost by one-goal margins in home and away encounters with Liverpool.
In their last match-up with the champions-elect, Adama Traore continued his sensational ascent, Raul Jimenez flourished once more and substitute Diogo Jota wasted a glorious chance that could have earned Nuno’s team a share of the spoils. Expect another organised, fearless performance with the former couple at the forefront of their attacking output.
The mood surrounding Manchester United is sombre with supporters anger and frustration towards the ownership and power-brokers reaching boiling point. And on the field, the Red Devils have just two days to prepare for the Old Trafford encounter following the team’s EFL Cup semi-final exit at rivals Manchester City on Wednesday evening.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will again be without two of his standout performers this season – Scott McTominay and Marcus Rashford – and Nemanja Matic will now miss out through suspension leaving the hosts midfield shorn of quality and quantity. And that’s without mentioning that 2019/20 is United’s worst return at this stage of a season for 30 years.
In fact, since Solskjaer was made permanent manager, United have lost more games than they’ve won (W11-D9-L12) with the 20-time champions ranking ninth in a table taking into account games since the Norwegian was appointed. The Red Devils have picked up just two points more than Newcastle in that sequence and won fewer fixtures than Burnley. Yikes!
Just as alarming is Solskjaer’s loss-rate of 38% in the aforementioned 32-game sample. You have to go way back to 1937 and Scott Duncan (39%) to find the last permanent Man Utd manager with a worse loss-rate and the Old Trafford outfit have also fired blanks seven times this term – the same tally as the 2018/19 vintage managed across the full campaign.
So yes, a quick cosmetic scan of the pre-match prices imply there’s little room to manoeuvre here, I’m giving the Molineux men the benefit of the doubt that on Saturday evening they’ll be in a far stronger position to out-perform their odds and secure at least a point in the supposed Theatre of Dreams.
Wolves +0.50 Asian Handicap is a very fair play at 1.75.
Frankfurt Fancied Against Diabolical Dusseldorf
The Bundesliga’s winter break couldn’t have come at a better time for Eintracht Frankfurt. Die Adler had been struggling with the duel demands of both Europa League participation and domestic matters under highly-rated head coach Adi Hutter, and concluded 2019 with a rotten run of seven league defeats in nine.
Eintracht have had time to recharge their batteries over Christmas and the New Year and have returned to Bundesliga action in fine form. Frankfurt’s exceptional 2-0 success over league leaders Leipzig last weekend came hot on the heels of their 2-1 triumph at Hoffenheim to push Die Adler back into the top-half picture.
Hutter’s outfit had to ride out the storm against Leipzig, mind. Eintracht had been out-shot 12-1 before half-time, however, the hosts caught the visitors cold at the beginning of the second period with Almamy Touré’s beautifully struck opener, and Frankfurt rarely looked like allowing Leipzig back into the contest thereafter.
Filip Kostic profited from defensive confusion to finish the fixture off late on and Leipzig’s players admitted post-match they’d been put off their stride by “robust” opponents, as away goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi described Eintracht, while Konrad Laimer praised Die Adler for having “defended really well from the first to the last second”.
Hutter himself was aware of the turnaround, saying, “In the first half we were clearly inferior, and sloppy” and was delighted to welcome a few key players to the fold too. Goalkeeper Kevin Trapp was influential between the sticks in the opening 45 minutes and David Abraham looked good after returning from a ban.
Eintracht have made adjustments to their back four, too. Die Adler have appeared far more solid in a 4-4-1-1 with veteran Dutch striker Bas Dost leading the line and bringing Frankfurt’s attack-minded midfield into play, much like Sebastian Haller did in droves during the team’s super-successful 2018/19 campaign.
Away victories are reasonably rare for Frankfurt but there’s value in supporting the refreshed and revived visitors this weekend at 2.15 when they travel to basement boys Fortuna Dusseldorf. The hosts have been beaten in 12 of 19 outings this term, including five of six contests straddling either side of the winter break.
Paderborn’s win at Freiburg, coupled with Fortuna’s dreadful 3-0 defeat at regional rivals Bayer Leverkusen pushed Dusseldorf to rock-bottom of the table. The hosts’ 15-point tally and -22 goal difference represents their second-worst return at this stage in top-flight history prompted the sacking of veteran head coach Friedhelm Funkel on Wednesday.
It’s no exaggeration to suggest the Leverkusen loss could have been a cricket score with Dusseldorf’s opponents racking up an Expected Goals (xG) tally of 5.10.
The reverse also represented the seventh time this season that Fortuna had failed to score and when Rouwen Hennings isn’t firing, neither are Fortuna unfortunately.
Uwe Rosler has been handed the reigns but his impact on the side this Saturday could be minimal as he picks up the pieces of a team that’s boasting a sub 28% share of the Expected Goals (xG) from open play in the Bundesliga – shipping 1.41 per-game and generating a paltry 0.51 of their own, under his predecessor.
With Frankfurt delivering top-six figures across most major metrics, I’m happy to take the obvious available value in supporting an away victory for Eintracht at 2.15 on Saturday despite the coaching change this midweek.
- Wolves +0.5 – 2 units @ 1.75
- Eintracht Frankfurt -0.50 – 2 units @ 2.15