Mark O'Haire: "Underrated Pair Can Keep Champions League Dreams Alive"

10 min

European football fanatic Mark O’Haire shares two of his favourite selections from across the continent this weekend.

Juventus and Barcelona have all but wrapped up the domestic crown in both Italy and Spain but that doesn’t mean there’s not still plenty to play for in the business end of the 2018/19 campaign.

Intriguing relegation battles and top-four contests continue at a pace in Serie A and La Liga, and I’m keen to focus on two teams that are looking to keep their Champions League qualification dreams alive with positive performances this weekend.

Getafe Underrated On The Road

Getafe are not going to give up their Champions League qualification place easily. The Madrid minnows suffered a surprise home defeat to Leganes before being held away at Espanyol, heightening fears their lofty position was under serious threat from in-form big guns Valencia and Sevilla.

However, Jose Bordalas’ boys fought back with a vital 1-0 victory over Athletic last weekend to preserve their status in fourth. Los Azulones scored 12 minutes from time to secure maximum points and ensure they remain a solitary point ahead of Sevilla, before travelling to Valladolid this weekend.

Getafe – the club with the third smallest average attendance, the sixth smallest salary limit and a starting XI that cost only €4.2m – have continually upset the odds and deserve to be supported on Sunday in the Asian Handicap market.

Los Azulones can be backed off a scratch start at 1.79 at the Estadio Jose Zorrilla.

Getafe’s evergreen striker Jorge Molina will once again lead the line for ‘El Geta’

Newly-promoted Valladolid were soundly beaten 2-0 at home to Sevilla last time out, a result that’s dropped Pucela to within goal difference of the bottom-three. It was Sergio Gonzalez’s side’s sixth defeat in eight encounters and 13th in that aforementioned 22-game streak in Spain’s top-flight.

The hosts have picked up top honours in only three of their 15 fixtures at the Jose Zorrilla, all of which were achieved against teams in the bottom-six. The hosts have lost seven of eight games when welcoming clubs in 11th and above to their Castile and Leon base, failing to score in half of those fixtures.

Getafe tend to be tough operators on home soil, although Los Azulones still operate a ruthless streak on the road. Head coach Bordalas is credited as being an intelligent, analytical and exceptionally demanding boss and his side are set-up in a system designed for solidity and solidarity.

El Geta are tough, aggressive, direct, and every member of the squad are clear about their role in the team and what’s being asked. It makes the visitors devilishly difficult to beat; indeed, Getafe have lost only seven times this term – four of which came against the league’s Big Three – with an impressive W13-D11-L3 achieved against the rest of the division.

With that in mind, plus Valladolid taking top honours in only three of 22 La Liga outings, the start on the visitors makes for an appealing play in Spain.

Il Toro To Keep Champions League Dreams Alive

Only Juventus (1) and Napoli (5) have lost fewer Serie A games this season than Torino (6), but rather than occupying a top-two berth, or even a Champions League qualification place, Il Toro are sitting in eighth in Italy. However, Sunday’s hosts are within striking distance of the top-four and should be fancied to pick up another positive result against Cagliari.

Clearly, Torino are a canny bunch under the stewardship of Walter Mazzarri, although the Granata have often struggled to make the most of their opportunities. Last weekend, for example, the former Watford boss described his side as “cursed” as they failed to make their dominance pay against Parma.

The Turin-based club played out a goalless draw despite enjoying the bulk of possession and the initiative, as Parma focused entirely on the counter-attack. Mazzarri claimed, “We more than deserved to win. We pinned them back, had so many scoring opportunities, but too often got the final ball wrong,”

He wasn’t wrong. Nevertheless, Torino have tended to enjoy their outings at their Stadio Olimpico base. The Granata have pocketed W9-D1-L3 when excluding defeats against Juventus and Napoli. In fact, since a derby defeat to Juve in mid-December, Torino have secured top honours in six of seven Serie A games here, as well as six of eight against the bottom-half opponents.

Walter Mazzarri’s Torino side are a notoriously tricky outfit to break down.

Mazzarri’s men thereafter hold plenty of appeal at 1.87 quotes this weekend against a Cagliari side that’s famed for their dreadful away day efforts.

Visiting head coach Rolando Maran has guided the Rossoblu into the heady heights of mid-table after almost losing his job in the winter. Five triumphs in eight have propelled the Sardinians away from relegation concerns with their form on the island as solid as ever.

Even so, Cagliari have continued their Jekyll and Hyde results in home and away football under Maran. The Rossoblu have W7-D6-L3 at their Sardegna Arena home but the visitors have W2-D3-L10 on their travels, and since the beginning of 2016/17 have been beaten in 35/53 (66%) away Serie A matches.

Cagliari have fired blanks in over half of their 15 games as guests this term and they could be in for another tough contest against a defensively resilient and well-organised Torino team.

I’m happy to support home success here.

Recommended Bets

  • Getafe +0 – 3 units @ 1.78
  • Torino -0.50 – 3 units @ 1.87

Host Ali Maxwell is joined by Adrian Clarke and Mark O’Haire to look ahead to a big weekend in the Premier League – we take a tactical and punting look at Liverpool vs Chelsea, Crystal Palace vs Manchester City and Watford vs Arsenal. Adrian is a former professional footballer and current tactical analyst and pundit focusing on the top four tiers of English football. Mark O’Haire is a betting analyst and writer, the brains behind WeLoveBetting, and in charge of the pod’s punting selections.