Mark O'Haire - Some Tasty European Fixtures To Get Stuck Into This Weekend

12 min

Football betting analyst Mark O’Haire returns with his three favourite fancies from the weekend’s European action with Serie A, La Liga and Ligue 1 all standing out.

Old Lady To Overcome Napoli

Napoli eased the pressure on Gennaro Gattuso on Tuesday night by beating Lazio 1-0 in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals. The under-fire Partenopei rode their luck in a feisty fixture dominated by a whistle-happy referee to record an overdue victory.

Despite the success, Gattuso is not yet out of trouble. The former Milan midfielder was forced to apologise to supporters for what he described as an “embarrassing” 2-0 home defeat to Fiorentina last weekend, adding, “We have hit rock-bottom.”

Gattuso continued when prompted, saying, “I can’t explain it, as I felt the team would put in a great performance and I was let down. The team has no soul. We thought that we were recovering from the earlier situation, but evidently we’re still sick.”

It’s been a baptism of fire for Gennaro Gattuso in Naples and things may get worse before they get better!

The Partenopei have now lost their last four home league games and are winless at the Stadio San Paolo since mid-October. Italian media claimed Allan and Dries Mertens had a heated argument in the dressing room after the Fiorentina defeat and confusion reigned post-match when an impromptu training retreat was cut short after less than 24 hours.

Gattuso is the first Napoli coach to lose four of his first five Serie A fixtures since 2000 with his only league win arriving via a stoppage-time turnaround at Sassuolo. None of the Partenopei’s performances have convinced and the hosts head into Sunday’s fixture without key defensive players Kalidou Koulibaly, Nikola Maksimovic, Faouzi Ghoulam and Alan.

Considering the chaos surrounding Napoli, it’s easy to oppose the out-of-sorts hosts against table-topping Juventus.

The Old Lady have opened up a four-point advantage at the summit, winning 16 of their first 20 tussles under the stewardship of former Partenopei supremo Maurizio Sarri, with evergreen Cristiano Ronaldo returning to menacing goalscoring form.

The Portuguese hitman bagged a brace against Parma, meaning that he has now scored in seven consecutive Serie A games – becoming the first to do so for the Bianconeri since David Trezeguet in 2005.

Ronaldo will head the Juve attack and the visitors look a good thing at around 2.10 to take top honours here considering they’ve already done so at Inter, Roma, Atalanta and city rivals Torino this season, whilst boasting an excellent 67% Expected Goals (xG) from open play ratio in the Italian top-flight this term.

Barca To Meet Their Match At Mestalla

Quique Setien was unhappy with Barcelona’s display during Wednesday night’s scratchy 2-1 success at Ibiza in the Copa del Rey. The Catalans fell behind and struggled to exert their authority in the final third, failing to land a shot on-target before Antoine Griezmann sparred the Blaugrana’s blushes with the first of two strikes in the final 20 minutes.

Lionel Messi was left behind in midweek but will feature from the off in Saturday’s trappy tie away at Valencia. Barca will hope the minuscule magician’s quality can prove decisive at Mestalla considering the La Liga leaders have toiled in the final-third during Setien’s first two fixtures in charge.

Last weekend, Barcelona dominated possession in a 1-0 victory at home to Granada. However, only a fifth of their completed passes went forward with the Catalans landing just six shots on target in the 90 minutes. Setien has said that both Granada and Ibiza sitting so deep proved problematic and there’s potential for Valencia to follow a similar blueprint.

Rested for their midweek trip to Ibiza, Lionel Messi returns to the Catalans lineup this weekend.

Los Che will be without suspended skipper Dani Parejo on Saturday. Despite that absence, Albert Celades’ charges appear a little underrated with pre-match odds implying that Barcelona have over a 60% chance of winning at Mestalla.

Valencia’s underlying numbers have underwhelmed and the hosts were hammered 4-1 at Mallorca last weekend, however, Los Che tend to relish their Mestalla matches against the league’s leading lights; Real Madrid, Sevilla, Getafe, Real Sociedad and Villarreal have all failed to take maximum points away here this season.

In fact, six of the last seven home Valencia matches against the Big Three (Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid) have seen the home side avoid defeat and Los Che have suffered losses by two goals or more in only four of 22 encounters here against the Big Three since 2011/12.

With the Catalans still finding their feet under Setien, plus the visitors’ vulnerabilities away from the Camp Nou, it makes sense to support Valencia at 1.90 with a +1 Asian Handicap start knowing we’ll see our stake returned should Barcelona triumph by a solitary goal.

Monaco Moving In Right Direction

New Monaco head coach Robert Moreno oversees his first Ligue 1 match against opposition that isn’t runaway table-toppers PSG on Saturday when Strasbourg arrive at the Stade Louis II. The principality club are seven points adrift of the Champions League qualification places and are desperate to get back on track.

Moreno was a happy man after seeing his side clinch a Coupe de France Last 16 berth with a dominant 3-1 win over minnows Saint-Pryvé-Saint-Hilaire in Orleans on Monday night, and is already setting his sights high following home and away league fixtures against the league leaders, where Monaco impressed.

In his Ligue 1 curtain-raiser at the Parc des Princes, the Spaniard shifted away from Leonardo Jardim’s favoured 3-5-2 formation, with the former Spain boss setting his team up in what was either 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1, depending on whether one viewed Aleksandr Golovin as a No 10 or an advanced central midfielder.

The change of formation allowed Monaco to play more on the front foot and use the pace of Keita Balde and Gelson Martins on the flanks. The Portuguese winger was also liberated from the onerous task of tracking back, something that had undermined his performances as a wing-back, and the results were enlightening.

New Monaco Head Coach Robert Moreno is off to a solid start with some impressive showings vs PSG.

Les Rouges et Blancs earned an excellent 3-3 draw that night in Paris, only to succumb to the anticipated bounce back from the capital club days later, losing 4-1 at the Stade Louis II. Even so, there’s been enough positivity surrounding the coaching switch to suggest the hosts are in a position of strength for Saturday.

Strasbourg are Monaco’s visitors this weekend and Le Racing have found their feet after a sloppy start to the campaign. Nevertheless, Thierry Laurey’s troops have built the foundations upon their mid-table position via their strong form at their Alsace base, often struggling for consistency when taking to the road.

The guests have been beaten in seven of their first 10 away trips this term, failing to even score on eight occasions.

Such struggles are to be expected when Le Racing are generating just 0.49 Expected Goals (xG) from open play on average when outside Strasbourg, firing in only 5.20 shots from inside the penalty box.

In contrast, forward-thinking Monaco are a match for most in the French top-flight and the principality club have averaged 1.64 xG from open play at the Stade Louis II. A similarly strong offensive output on Saturday should ensure Les Rouges et Blancs overcome the -0.75 Asian Handicap hurdle at kind 1.80 odds.

Recommended Bets

  • Juventus -0.50 – 2 units @ 2.10
  • Valencia +1 – 3 units @ 1.90
  • Monaco -0.75 – 3 units @ 1.80