Martin Laurence: European Sunday Trio

9 min

Let’s not talk about last week! Sometimes you just have to hold your hands up and say that you got it wrong and, having tipped under 3.5 goals when Paris Saint-Germain hosted Monaco, I was out of pocket within 27 mad minutes.

In the words of Steven Gerrard ‘, we go again’, although I’m hoping for more success than the Liverpool captain thereafter that moment.

This Sunday my tips take me through Italy, France and Spain, seeking the very best value on the continent once again.

Udinese vs Crotone

Starting in Serie A, the match between these two may not be the glamour tie of game week 34 – undoubtedly that of Juventus against Napoli – but there are potentially huge implications for both Udinese and Crotone. The hosts seemed home and dry with aspirations of an unlikely European push as late as February. Ten games ago the appointment Massimo Oddo was looking like a masterstroke having led the club to the top half and within five points of the top six.

Fast forward to the present day and that gap is now 21 points, and the five-point difference is now between themselves and the relegation zone after ten successive defeats.

Only Italy’s bottom club Benevento have endured a worse run in Europe’s top five leagues all season, but Udinese remain strong favourites to overcome Crotone this weekend, which doesn’t stack up to me.

The visitors just threw another spanner in the works at the top with a stalemate with leaders Juventus in midweek and know that a victory here would not only do their own hopes of survival the world of good but cast those of the home side into real doubt. The underdogs are admittedly poor on the road but have shown far more signs of life than a Udinese side struggling to reach the finish line.

Since the turn of the year Crotone have picked up twice as many points and a goal difference of -4 over 14 matches is indicative of a side that have competed well with far better opposition than they are likely to face this weekend.

The double chance market (+0.5) would be my tip, with odds just shy of evens on another difficult day for Oddo and co.

Crotone +0.5 – @1.97

Saint-Etienne vs Troyes

While PSG have wrapped up the Ligue 1 title following an 11-game unbeaten streak, they aren’t the only side that can boast that record in France, with Saint-Etienne having also gone as many matches without defeat, including a stalemate with the champions that they so nearly won.

A 92nd minute Mathieu Debuchy own goal – a rare blip in an otherwise excellent start for les Verts from the former Arsenal defender – prevented them from a memorable win in their previous home game, with no opposition player having found a way through the Sainte defence in four matches now.

While Troyes, fighting for their lives in the relegation zone, showed that they will do so until the end despite defeat to Marseille last time out, they’ve picked up just two points from their last eight games and are heading in one direction at present.

They’ve found the net in just two of said matches in that run and have been anaemic on the road in general, with just one point from the last 36 available as a result.

Though the home side aren’t prolific by any means they had scored twice in their six home matches prior to the 1-1 draw with the league leaders.

Now very much back in the running for the Europa League qualification finish that fifth place would bring as the form side in that particular race since Jean-Louis Gasset stepped into the hot seat from his previous role as assistant, my tip would be for Saint-Etienne to secure a relatively comfortable victory, with odds of 1.91 from a -1.0 bet offering enough security.

Saint-Etienne -1.0 – @1.91

Atletico Madrid vs Real Betis

Diego Simeone’s side have a reputation for being one of the easiest sides to predict in Europe, and therefore one of my most popular to bet on.

However, a 3-0 defeat to Real Sociedad in midweek came out of nowhere and may just have scared some people off of a flutter when they host in-form Betis this Sunday. The visitors picked up a sixth consecutive win last time out after all, but their reputation under Quique Setien as one of the league’s great entertainers has had to take a back seat as a consequence.

The fans won’t mind that one bit given the form the side are in at present and will be confident of inflicting a second successive defeat on Atleti this weekend, with the hosts likely to have one eye on next week’s Europa League semi-final against Arsenal.

However, Betis will be well aware that scoring multiple goals in Madrid is highly unlikely and that this match will surely be a far tighter affair than the last outing from Simeone’s wounded side.

There’s certainly been very little separating the teams in recent meetings, with two 1-0 Atletico wins sandwiching a 1-1 draw, and as mentioned, the visitors are a changed side from their gung-ho approach in the first half of the season. Marc Bartra’s arrival in January has shored things up at the back in particular and helped Betis keep five consecutive clean sheets, with another likely to be required to pull off an upset at the Wanda Metropolitano.

However, up against a side with just three wins from seven, derailed by their defeat to Barcelona last month, the odds look appealing on the away side starting with a +1.0 handicap in this one.

Betis +1.0 – @1.79

Recommended Bets:

  • Crotone +0.5 – @1.97
  • Saint-Etienne -1.0 – @1.91
  • Betis +1.0 – @1.79

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