A rare losing week for Mark O’Haire last week but he’s confident of a bounceback this weekend with selections once again from Italy and Switzerland.
ENTERTAINMENT EXPECTED IN EMPOLI
Empoli’s encounter with Hellas Verona at the Stadio Carlo Castellani on Sunday promises plenty for goals-based backers.
Serie A may have seen a dramatic downturn in goal outputs in 2022 but I’m still keen to squeeze more out of the Over 2.5 Goals market here with two of the division’s chief entertainers on show.
Top-level stats will suggest Empoli have failed to score in four of their past six league outings, although all four fixtures arrived on the road for the Azzurri.
Back at their Tuscan base, Aurelio Andreazzoli’s outfit remain a live danger having netted in all bar two of their 14 matches here, bagging multiple goals in exactly half of their home dates thus far.
The hosts might be in the midst of a concerning 12-game winless streak, but relegation looks unlikely with the newly-promoted club performing well above pre-season expectations.
Expansive Empoli have W6-D7-L5 when facing the teams outside the top-seven and should see this weekend’s match-up as an opportunity to confirm their top-tier status for 2022/23.
Andreazzoli’s issue has been keeping the backdoor shut.
For all of the Azzurri’s eye-catching efforts in the final third, Empoli are still yet to record a shutout as hosts, conceding two goals or more in 11 of those 14 contests.
The Stadio Carlo Castellani is comfortably the highest-scoring venue in Serie A, averaging a whopping 4.21 goals-per-game.
Over 2.5 Goals has clicked in 12/14 (86%) fixtures here with the same hit-rate paying out for Both Teams To Score backers, already making a persuasive case for a repeat when free-wheeling Hellas Verona pitch up.
Encounters involving Verona have proven particularly enticing.
Hellas’ helter-skelter outings have averaged a whopping 3.45 goals (3.50 away), 21/29 (72%) of which have paid out for Over 2.5 Goals punters with 14 (48%) even breaking the Over 3.5 barrier.
The guests have scored in all bar four Serie A showdowns yet boast only three clean sheets themselves.
Like Empoli, the Gialloblu are yet to record an away shutout, conceding twice or more in eight of 14 road roads.
However, Igor Tudor’s forward-thinking troops have plundered multiple goals in half of their away days, leading to 11/14 (79%) BTTS winners.
And to add further fuel to the potential goal-fest, Hellas are again hit by selection issues in defence and midfield, weakening the visitors’ foundations.
Nevertheless, Tudor can still call upon his influential trio in attack; Giovanni Simeone, Antonin Barak and Gianluca Caprari have combined to contribute 35 league goals and 14 assists between them.
IN-FORM ST GALLEN COMMAND RESPECT
St Gallen produced one of Europe’s most impressive results last weekend when dispatching runaway Swiss Super League leaders FC Zurich 3-0 in their own backyard.
Espen dominated the encounter from the first whistle, racking up 3.04 Expected Goals (xG) across the 90 minutes, the vast majority of which was created from open play.
The standout scoreline extended St Gallen’s splendid unbeaten efforts since the winter break to eight games (W5-D3-L0) and has pushed Peter Zeidler’s posse to within touching distance of the top-half.
FCSG have proven almost unstoppable in the final third during their recent run, firing home 23 goals, and scoring twice or more in seven of those eight outings.
In 2022 alone, St Gallen comfortably top the performance data charts, claiming a remarkable 68% share of the xG in their encounters, averaging a huge 1.36 xG more than their opponents on a per-game basis during that sample.
Espen are generating 2.60 xG on average and are attempting 11.25 shots from inside the penalty box.
Showcasing FCSG’s fierce forward line is their ability to carve out Big Chances – a situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score.
St Gallen have created 29 Big Chances in that eight-match streak – eight more than the next best in the league and double the division’s average during that same sample. Mesmerising stuff.
Espen have posted W2-D2-L0 against the Super League’s top-four since returning from the winter break and have scored eight goals in three games against Zurich, Young Boys and Basel. Therefore, the visit of second-bottom Luzern on Saturday should give the hosts a great opportunity to enhance their fine form.
Admittedly, Luzern are enjoying their own renaissance of late (W3-D2-L1) to pull away from the automatic relegation berth.
But a W0-D1-L2 return against the aforementioned Zurich, Young Boys and Basel this calendar year, conceding twice or more in all three match-ups with elite opposition, highlights the visitors’ defensive fragility.
FCL recorded only their third Super League clean sheet last time out (against fellow scrappers Grasshoppers), and none of Die Leuchten’s shutouts this season have arrived on the road.
The away side are leaking 1.85 goals-per-game on their travels, and in nine of those 13 games as guests, Luzern have conceded at least 1.50 xG.
Backing St Gallen to score Over 1.5 Goals holds plenty of appeal at 1.8.
- Over 2.5 Goals in Empoli vs Hellas Verona – 2 units @ 1.75
- St Gallen to score Over 1.5 Goals in St Gallen vs Luzern – 2 units @ 1.8