Hamburger SV vs Bayer Leverkusen
Saturday 17th February (14:30)
We start in the Bundesliga this week, where an almighty scrap for the remaining European spots behind champions Bayern Munich looks set to rumble on until the end of the season. One side very much uninvolved in that particular battle are perennial strugglers Hamburg, who are instead fighting off the threat of relegation for the fifth year running.
Their visitors to the Volksparkstadion this weekend are certainly aiming for a top-four finish, however, as one of five sides separated by just four points below the aforementioned league leaders. Heiko Herrlich’s men currently sit fifth amongst that cluster of teams but will certainly be confident of finishing gameweek 23 on a better footing given this Saturday’s opponents.
Wonderfully named rookie coach Bernd Hollerbach has endured a tricky start to life in senior management with the hosts, facing RB Leipzig, Hannover and Borussia Dortmund in his first three matches in charge, but things don’t get any easier here.
Hamburg, after all, are the league’s lowest scorers (17 goals), netting just four times over their last nine games. Having also scored in just four of their last six meetings with B04, the chances of a first win in ten league games seem slim.
They are even more remote when you consider that Leverkusen have been solid on the road since a dismal start to the season, losing their first three away from home. A run of eight league games without defeat on their travels has followed – an unbeaten streak only Barcelona and Napoli (both 12) can better at present among Europe’s top five leagues – and this weekend’s visitors have scored more goals away from home this season than any other Bundesliga side (21), including Bayern.
Everything points to Leverkusen win, and with odds above the evens mark there is real value to be had.
Malaga vs Valencia
Saturday 17th February (19:45)
Another meeting between two sides at opposite ends of their respective tables but with tempting odds on the team at the top, Valencia’s trip to face a toothless Malaga side should enable them to cling onto third spot in La Liga for at least another week. Indeed, after a scintillating start to the campaign, ‘Los Che’ have lost their way a little, despite earning a much-needed win against Levante last weekend.
Injuries have stacked up against Marcelino of late but the visitors have plenty in reserve to dispatch of a side that are showing very little fight to stay in the top-flight. After a spell in China, manager Jose Manuel Gonzalez Lopez took the reigns in Andalusia earlier this year but hasn’t managed to inspire an admittedly unlikely renaissance.
The hosts aren’t pushovers defensively, particularly at La Rosaleda, but just one goal scored in eight games – firing five successive blanks at home in that time – highlights their obvious downfall.
A stomping ground for Premier League misfits, former West Brom record signing Brown Ideye and Watford forward Isaac Success arrived last month to join the likes of Borja Baston of Swansea infamy, and there is just no spark in a side that has been stripped of its prized assets in recent years. The talents at their disposal now are a far cry from the likes of Ignacio Camacho, Pablo Fornals, and Isco.
While Valencia can’t boast a strong defence they shouldn’t really need one this weekend and their attack is something the home fans could only dream of. As usual, Malaga should keep the scoreline down to a respectable margin of defeat – with each of their last ten league games seeing under 2.5 goals (also a decent bet here) – but it should be another defeat nonetheless, with odds over the evens mark yet again.
Genoa vs Inter
Saturday 17th February (19:45)
The closest game of my three tips this week on the face of it, which is reflected in the odds, Inter will be looking to leave a remarkable run of draws well and truly behind them on Saturday night. Luciano Spalletti’s side had emerged as shock title contenders after a sensational start to the season but a spell of eight games without a win, ended against Bologna last weekend after five consecutive stalemates, has meant they will fight for a place in the top four at best.
Their hosts Genoa are in the bottom half but in no danger whatsoever of the drop, in a state of limbo ten points above the bottom three but 14 off of a potential European finish.
Manager Davide Ballardini, now in his third stint at the club, has transformed their fortunes this time around, having earned just six points from 12 games prior to his appointment. They’ve picked up more points since then (21) than Inter (18) have managed but their record at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris is holding them back.
Genoa have won just twice at home all season, and narrow 1-0 wins over a Benevento side without a single point on the road and Sassuolo don’t inspire much confidence of a giant-killing come the weekend. The travelling Nerazzurri, meanwhile, may have failed to win in four away from but have picked up points at Juventus and Fiorentina in that time.
Everything points to a low scoring game in this one, with Genoa scoring just five in their last seven at home and Inter conceding just five in seven away, but there is not much value in the under markets; each of the last five meetings between the two seeing fewer than 2.5 goals. Instead, Inter should strengthen their case for a Champions League return with back-to-back wins and another narrow margin of victory.
- Bayer Leverkusen to win at 2.05
- Valencia to win at 2.07
- Inter Milan to win at 2.23