While Manchester United host Chelsea following Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte’s war of words, and Arsenal face Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final, it’s not just England that will play host to some huge matches this Sunday. In fact, it promises to be a wonderful day of football, so much so that it’s difficult to pick what to watch this weekend.
I’ve decided to turn my attention to the night time kick-offs with this week’s tips, starting in Serie A, where two titans of the Italian game go head-to-head.
Roma vs AC Milan
The fact that this match is between third and seventh in the standings certainly highlights that neither of these two sides are the forces they once were, but both are in strong form in the league ahead of this clash. After a wobble at the start of the year that destabilised any potential title tilt, the hosts are back on track to cement another Champions League finish after three consecutive wins.
Meanwhile, the Rossoneri are dreaming of joining them, with Gennaro Gattuso silencing his critics to put together a run of results that the fans haven’t been accustomed to in recent seasons. Unbeaten in 11 matches in all competitions – winning eight – Milan have conceded just four goals in that time, and their former midfield enforcer’s impact on the defence has been plain to see.
He’s carried that level of organisation from his first job in management in Serie B with Pisa last season, remarkably finishing bottom of the table despite boasting the second best defensive record in the entire division.
With that in mind, factoring in the fatigue of Roma’s tough trip to Donetsk on Wednesday and the visitor’s outing in the Europa League a day later, the odds on under 2.5 goals seem high. Considering Milan’s newfound resolve at the back and the fact that five of Roma’s last six league games have seen under, that’s my tip here.
Sevilla vs Atletico Madrid
Amidst Barcelona’s unbeaten season and Real Madrid’s struggles until recently, Atletico’s efforts of late have gone somewhat under the radar. There was a sense not too long ago, after all, that Diego Simeone’s tactics were wearing a little thin and becoming too predictable but his side’s season in La Liga can be split into two precise halves.
Twelve games into the campaign they remained unbeaten but had drawn six of those matches and sat fourth, already ten points off the top. Twelve games on they’ve dropped points just twice since and boast the best record in Spain over that time, jumping to second and bridging a seemingly unassailable gap at the top to seven points.
To keep their faint title hopes alive they can’t afford any slip-ups, even in tough away trips such as their visit to Seville on Sunday.
The hosts couldn’t find a way past David de Gea on Wednesday and face a keeper that might just be the Spaniard’s main rival in a claim to be the best in the business right now.
Jan Oblak boasts the best save success rate in Europe’s top five leagues by a distance this season, shipping just nine La Liga goals, keeping clean sheets in two-thirds of his appearances.
Bearing in mind the home side’s relatively abject league record of late – narrow back-to-back wins were only their second and third respectively in ten – and the fact that Atleti could afford to rotate in the Europa League in midweek, Simeone’s side would have been tempting closer to the evens mark for me, so 2.42 is just too good to turn up.
Paris Saint Germain vs Marseille
Another side that was able to rest key players in European action, Marseille will be hoping to pull off an upset against an unquestionably distracted PSG side this weekend. The runaway league leaders have a 12-point advantage in Ligue 1 after all, so could be forgiven for focusing their attention on their huge second leg against Real Madrid in the Champions League, not to mention the Coupe de France quarter-finals against this Sunday’s opponents in their bid to claim even more silverware.
The price on Marseille – who are no mugs it should be said, earning a draw in the reverse fixture – are sky high but it does remain unlikely that they will become the first side to pick up points at the Parc des Princes this season.
That said, they carry a real goal threat and in Newcastle flop Florian Thauvin have a player in sensational form, outshining the likes of Dimitri Payet who fared far greater in the Premier League.
For all of their own attacking excellence, Unai Emery’s side are far from without fault defensively and I’d expect the visitors to get on the scoresheet on Sunday, having done so in five of the last six meetings between these sides – the other ending in a 0-0 draw. This game should be closer than the odds suggest then, and there is value in the handicap markets as a result, with a PSG win by a single goal the most likely outcome in my eyes.
- Roma-Milan under 2.5 @2.05
- Atletico to win @2.42
- Marseille +1.75 @1.93