Mark O’Haire has three bets for this weekend’s action.
More Than Happy To Oppose ‘Gers’ This Weekend
Steven Gerrard is starting to feel the pressure in Scotland.
Rangers were knocked out of the Scottish Cup in midweek at home to Aberdeen – denying them a potential semi-final showdown against Celtic. Meanwhile, the Teddy Bears are a full eight points adrift of their Old Firm rivals in the Premiership title race as we enter the final furlong.
On Saturday, the Gers welcome Kilmarnock to Ibrox, hoping to preserve their own eight-point advantage over third-placed Aberdeen. The market expects the Glaswegian giants to seal a cushy home success, although I reckon Killie can put on a competitive show.
The hosts were held to a 1-1 draw against Hibs last time out in the league, leaking with 14 minutes to play. In truth, Gerrard’s group were undeserving of maximum points and lost the shots on-target count against the Edinburgh outfit. It was another occasion when Rangers failed to swipe aside a top-half team with room to spare.
Under Gerrard’s watch, Rangers have returned a superb W10-D3-L1 at Ibrox. Eight (57%) of those triumphs arrived by least two clear goals, although their figures reduce to W2-D2-L1 when entertaining the current top-six with a sole success by a margin of two goals or greater. Include away days against the leading lights and the Teddy Bears have W4-D5-L3 with three of those 12 Premiership meetings won by two or more goals.
The Gers have also had trouble dispatching Kilmarnock since Steve Clarke arrived at Rugby Park. In seven league showdowns against Killie during Clarke’s reign, the Old Firm club have pocketed just W1-D2-L4, failing to score more than a solitary strike against the stubborn opposition from East Ayrshire. So I’m happy to oppose a big Rangers win here.
We can keep Kilmarnock onside with a +1.5 start on the Asian Handicap line at 1.81. Sure, Killie have hit a sticky patch of late but their midweek win over rock-bottom St Mirren – arriving via an 87th minute strike – ended a run of six Premiership matches without a win. Clarke admitted there was a relief about the result and expects his side to improve again.
The departure of Greg Stewart certainly slowed progress, and Eamonn Brophy’s lack of recent goals have contributed to that mini-blip. However, this is a side built from the back and their outstanding organization and defensive structure is capable of keeping this contest competitive.
Killie have only lost 6/58 (10%) of their Premiership contests under Clarke by a two-goal margin, including only 3/31 (10%) on the road. The visitors’ road record at the Old Firm in that sample reads W1-D4-L1 with that solitary defeat being suffered by that two-goal margin at Celtic. Specialists in keeping things tight, opposing goals is also appealing.
Each of the duos’ four head-to-head league encounters at Ibrox since the start of last season have seen fewer than three strikes, while Killie have witnessed a grand total of just three goals in their last four, as they only netted one of these themselves.
Eight of Kilmarnock’s last 10 on their travels have now featured Under 2.5 Goals, with six of these containing a maximum of just one strike, including four of the past five. Meanwhile, excluding thrashings of bottom-two outfits St. Mirren and Dundee, each of Rangers’ last five league games here have seen Under 2.5 Goals, with all but one seeing Under 1.5 Goals.
Switzerland = Goals
The Swiss Super League is seeing an average of 3.27 goals-per-game this season, with 65% breaking the Over 2.5 Goals barrier. St Gallen have been one of the most prolific goals-based sides to follow thus far and it’s a surprise to see their Saturday contest with Lugano trading at attractive 1.75 odds on a repeat.
The hosts are chasing a top-four finish, whilst Lugano are equidistant between Europa League qualification and the relegation play-off place having claimed only six wins this term. However, the visitors have picked up back-to-back victories on their travels and a seven-point haul in games as guests since returning from the winter break (W2-D0-L1).
Fabio Celestini’s charges actually lost the Expected Goals (xG) in both of those two triumphs on their travels and question marks remain over their ability to shut teams out. Lugano have kept only four clean sheets in 2018/19 and give up 1.51 xG per-game, which rises to 1.55 on the road. That’s not too encouraging when preparing to visit a St Gallen side built to attack.
St Gallen failed to score for the only the fourth occasion this season when losing heavily at Luzern last time out. Peter Zeidler’s posse have endured an inconsistent campaign, although their threat at their Kybunpark home shouldn’t be underestimated; the home side have scored at least twice here in nine of their 12 Super League outings.
St Gallen are generating 1.55 xG on average per-game at home but they’ve been held back by a porous backline. The hosts have silenced only three opposition sides, allowing 1.52 xG per-game, as well as 1.41 xG as hosts. Combine their propensity for opportunities at both ends of the field, it’s not too surprising to see goals-based backers often rewarded.
Since the start of last season, St Gallen have seen all bar two of their 30 outings feature at least two goals with 25/30 (83%) beating the Over 2.5 Goals mark. A huge 17/30 (57%) crossed the Over 3.5 Goals line and 20 (67%) saw both sides score. This season matches here average 4.08 goals with 11/12 (92%) seeing Over 2.5 Goals bank with 9/12 (75%) landing four or more goals.
Lugano have followed suit in the Over 2.5 Goals market in 8/12 (67%) road trips, as games have averaged 2.92 goals. Eight of those tussles also delivered for Both Teams To Score hunters, suggesting Over 2.5 Goals is a little large here on Saturday in Switzerland.
- Kilmarnock +1.5 Asian Handicap (1.81)
- Rangers v Kilmarnock – Under 2.5 Goals (2.06)
- St Gallen v Lugano – Over 2.5 Goals (1.75)