Everton v Huddersfield
I worry for Huddersfield this season. The Terriers kept their top-flight status intact last season, surviving relegation despite scoring a pitiful tally of just 28 goals – the joint-fewest from any surviving side in Premier League history as Town were silenced on 21 occasions.
David Wagner’s troops won just three games after Christmas, and while Huddersfield stayed up with room to spare, the top-tier has gotten stronger over the summer and I’m not sure the Terriers can avoid Second Season Syndrome and continue to punch above their weight.
Two devilishly difficult fixtures kicked off their 2018/19 campaign – against Manchester City and Chelsea – and Town understandably came away pointless from those two tussles. However, there has to be grave concern regarding their dour goalless draw when hosting newly-promoted Cardiff last weekend.
Huddersfield enjoyed 70% of the ball before their captain Jonathan Hogg was sent off around the hour mark. Even so, the Terriers managed to lose the shot count 14-5, the shots on-target count 4-1, attempted only three efforts from inside the opposition penalty box and produced an xG of just 0.23.
Now Wagner’s men have to take to the road and Town toiled on their travels last term. Huddersfield have actually now been beaten in 12 (60%) of their last 20 away league outings, keeping three clean sheets and failing to score in 13 (65%) encounters. Eleven of their 12 defeats arrived by a margin of two goals.
Dig deeper and the case against Town intensifies. The Terriers have W0-D3-L7 when travelling to top-half teams in 2017/18, scoring a solitary goal. So of course, I’m happy to take them on when they head to Goodison Park on Saturday afternoon, even at relatively short prices.
Everton might be missing Richarlison and Michael Keane but Kurt Zouma and Lucas Digne made their Toffees bow in midweek EFL Cup action as Marco Silva opted to rest and rotate his large squad.
In terms of Premier League evidence, I’ve been impressed with Everton’s attitude, application and approach under Silva thus far.
Considering 37% of the Merseysiders’ total Premier League match minutes have been played with 10 men, Everton have performed with aplomb.
And this is an area the Toffees tend to dominate. Over the past two campaigns, Everton have returned a quite remarkable W16-D4-L0 when welcoming bottom-half dwellers – 11 of those victories arriving by a margin of two goals or more. Pull it back to the start of 2015/16 and Everton boast a 72% win rate at home to the bottom-half with over 50% of games won by two or more goals.
The Toffees beat Huddersfield 2-0 in their two meetings last term and a repeat looks to be on the cards. I’m happy taking the 1.67 about Everton with a -0.75 start where we’re making money if the home side win – a half-stakes profit if they win by one goal, a full-stakes profit if they win by two goals or more.
Hoffenheim v Freiburg
Only Bayern Munich collected more points at home (44) than Hoffenheim (37) last season and Die Kraichgauer can get their Bundesliga campaign up and running with a comfortable success at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena against Freiburg on Saturday afternoon.
Julian Nagelsmann’s troops went down 3-1 at Bayern in the campaign curtain-raiser but TSG battled bravely despite fielding a depleted squad. The underdogs were second-best in a disappointing first-half display but improved after the break and tallied five shots on-target – as many as Bayern – at the Allianz Arena.
The hosts have been handed a boost following the news that Croatian forward Andrej Kramaric returned to full training this week to bolster Hoffenheim’s offensive options here and with captain Kevin Vogt also expected to shrug off an injury that forced him off in Munich, TSG should be well-equipped.
The Sinsheim side may also look to bring in Switzerland international Steven Zuber to the starting XI following his impressive cameo off the bench and the return to the Rhein-Neckar-Arena should also lift spirits in the home camp with Die Kraichgauer boasting a tremendous record here under Nagelsmann.
Since the youthful boss was promoted to the top job, Hoffe have won 27/41 (66%) Bundesliga games here with 14 (34%) arriving via a margin of two goals or more. The hosts have kept 18 (44%) clean sheets and only twice failed to score themselves in those 41 outings.
With that in mind, I’m happy to invest faith in Hoffenheim to overcome a -0.75 Asian Handicap hurdle at 1.75.
Freiburg head coach Christian Streich looks likely to miss the weekend’s encounter having slipped a disc in his back. The visiting boss was absent from the SCF bench during their disappointing 2-0 defeat at home to Eintracht Frankfurt on the opening weekend.
Assistant boss Lars Voßler took temporary charge as the Breisgau-Brasilianer suffered a frustrating reverse. Freiburg won the shot count 21-9 and the shots on-target tally 7-2 but were undone by two poor goals – one of which invoked a fair amount of controversy in the country.
SCF now take to the road and if 2017/18 is anything to go by, the guests may struggle to find their range when playing away. The visitors picked up a solitary success – at beleaguered Koln – last term and have been beaten in 19/34 (56%) away days since winning promotion back to the top-flight.
- Everton -0.75 Asian Handicap (1.67)
- Hoffenheim -0.75 Asian Handicap (1.75)