Mark Stinchcombe: “It’s dangerous to underestimate Barcelona and I think they present a huge value bet on Sunday”

12 min

Super Sunday brought both good and bad luck, but we got out of it in profit. Man Utd and Chelsea played out as a more exciting contest than I envisaged, but the 75th minute Jesse Lingard winner to cost us our under 2.5 goals bet was still a heartbreaker. Lingard’s strike returned an expected goals figure of just 0.26 to further rub salt into the wound.

In Spain it was better news as unsurprisingly Malaga lost, again 2-1, for a half stakes win. However, in fairness I was fortunate to make profit here with Malaga’s Youssef En-Nesyri having his second half penalty saved by Kepa. But it reaffirms my thoughts at the Andalucian’s lack of quality. Malaga lost again on Wednesday night, this time narrowly 1-0 to Sevilla, as relegation to Segunda looms large.

Jesse Lingard’s late goal last Sunday proved a bitter pill to swallow for Mark.

One match that did go as predicted was the Carabao Cup, which Manchester City won with room to spare.

City didn’t even play very well in the first half, and took their foot off the gas when David Silva scored in the 65th minute, but still ran out 3-0 winners to further heap the pressure on Arsene Wenger’s underachieving Arsenal. It was the Gunners biggest ever cup final defeat and at odds of 1.61 was a very good bet.

This week’s best bets

The first match I want to focus on this weekend is the huge clash in Portugal between Porto and Sporting at the Estadio Dragao. Porto currently sit top of the table with 64 points, with Sporting in third place on 59 points with 10 games to go. Generally these three teams are head and shoulders above the rest of the league, which is reflected in their defensive performance with Porto conceding just 12 goals in 24 games and Sporting 14.

Sporting Lisbon manager Jorge Jesus has a tendency to set his side up to prevent goals rather than score them.

This will be their fourth meeting this season, and with the stakes high the matches have played out in a ‘must not lose’ fashion finishing 1-0, 0-0 and 0-0.

There’s an expectation on Porto to attack as 1.69 favourites but we’ve seen in the Champions League how effectively Jorge Jesus can set his Sporting side up. In their four matches with Barcelona and Juventus only eight goals were scored and last season they only lost 2-1 at Madrid and 1-0 at Dortmund.

There are also issues up front for both sides. Porto have injury doubts over Vincent Aboubakar (15 goals), Jesus Corona and Alex Telles (11 assists), while Sporting have a doubt over 20-goal top scorer Bas Dost. One of Sporting’s best players in Gelson Martins is also suspended after picking up a second yellow for removing his shirt after scoring an injury time winner last time out.

In all, it makes under 2.5 goals an attractive proposition at 1.83 and I will be having a one point bet here.

Back to the Bundesliga

On Saturday I’m heading to the Bundesliga for another big clash as the race for the Champions League places hots up. Sixth placed RB Leipzig host second place Dortmund and there are just three points separating them. Both sides have underachieved somewhat this season, winning just 11 of their 24 games and being knocked out in the group stages of the Champions League.

RB have probably struggled due to juggling European football and the league but if they can finish in the top four it’s a successful season. Meanwhile BVB have had a stop-start season after sacking Peter Bosz in December. They replaced him by bringing in Peter Stoger who himself had just been sacked by bottom place side Cologne.

Mark has some serious reservations about new Dortmund manager Peter Stoeger.

His record so far is reasonable: P12 W6 D5 L1 F19 A12 but as I’ve mentioned in my column before, sacked managers are replaced generally not because they have been poor but because they have been unlucky. And the performance of a new manager makes it look like things have got better, but this is simply a result of results progressing towards the mean.

I’m sceptical about Stoger’s ability and I’m not convinced he can maintain his 50% win record. He.hasn’t had the toughest of games and it’s noticeable in the harder games they’ve been outplayed losing the xG at Atalanta and the shot count 17-3 at Gladbach.

They also a few injury problems with Yarmoloenko, Kagawa, Phillip and Guerreiro all rated doubtful and only really Pulisic from the bench to change the game if required.

Leipzig have had some issues of their own but star player Naby Keita is in line to return and they have pedigree for this fixture too having already won 3-2 at Dortmund this season (2.39 – 2.11 xG) and 1-0 in this matchup last season (0.95 – 0.48 xG).

I have to take on Dortmund on at the prices with Leipzig holding home advantage and I’d recommend betting RB +0.0 on the Asian Handicap for as close to evens as you can get it.

The big one comes from Spain

My final bet comes from Spain in another big game between the top two in the league in Barcelona and Atletico Madrid. Barcelona are currently five points clear on 66 with Atletico on 61 but the first thing that drew me into this game was Barca’s price. They are 1.75 on Sunday, and were 1.58 in this fixture last season!

Atletico may have only conceded 11 goals in 26 games (Barcelona just 12) but have conceded seven alone to Sevilla in the last six weeks, and we all saw how good they were against Man Utd. This just goes to show how Atletico are vastly over achieving this season and that isn’t being reflected in their price.

The duo of Messi and Suarez are such to trouble even a defence as good as Atletico’s.

Expected goals has them in for eight fewer goals than they’ve scored, and 12 more they should have conceded, which is a 20 goal swing. As a result, expected points simulates them to actually be 14 points back on Barcelona. And while the last few meetings between these sides has been close, 1-1 at the Wanda Metropolitano in October, 1-2 at the Calderon last season and 1-1 at the Nou Camp, that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Barcelona have monopolised the three previous games racking up an xG figure of 5.28 – 1.52 in their favour. If we took an average of these it produces 1.76 – 0.51 expected goals which would make Barca a 1.50 shot – much closer to last seasons price. And it’s worth noting that Girona on Saturday was the first time Messi, Suarez, Coutinho and Dembele all started and they looked frightening.

Atletico signed Diego Costa and Vitolo in January but have since let Vietto, Carrasco, Gaitan, Fernandez and Moya leave, meaning Simeone is down to just 17 outfield players. It doesn’t leave him many options if he needs to change things and I’m making Barcelona my biggest bet of the weekend here with 1.5 points on.

Recommended bets:

  • Under 2.5 goals Porto – Sporting ~1.83 – 1 point
  • RB Leipzig +0.0 ~1.97 – 1 point*
  • Barcelona 1.75 – 1.5 points

Click here for Matchbook’s Latest Soccer Markets