Martin Laurence: Weekend European Football Preview

8 min

Having had my fill from Spain then, I’m looking to the rest of the top five leagues on the continent, starting in Germany with a game that could have real implications at both ends of the table.

Hamburg vs Schalke

Saturday 7th, 17:30 KO

One of only two teams in Europe’s top five leagues – along with Paris Saint-Germain – to have won each of their last six league matches, Schalke have given themselves a wonderful chance of securing a top four finish. However, they know that the Bundesliga is so competitive behind Bayern that that security can change in an instant.

As things stand S04 are in pole position to end the campaign as runners up, which would be a remarkable achievement under rookie boss Domenico Todesco. The young Italian’s first top-flight job has been a resounding success but he will want to cap it off with a second place finish and as such will ward against any complacency this weekend.

The Gelsenkirchen outfit travel to lowly Hamburg after all, whose record of appearing in every Bundesliga campaign finally looks set to come to an end after a number of narrow escapes. Rock bottom of the table after 15 games without a win, a lack of stability in staff on and off the pitch looks set to cost them and their strategy in appointing managers has been a stark contrast to the long term vision shown by their visitors this weekend.

The recent meetings stack up in the away side’s favour too, with HSV winning just two of the last ten, and with odds above the evens mark on an away win, I’d tip two things to be assured after the evening kick-off on Saturday. Schalke will cement a top four finish at the least, while their hosts will lose all hope of another survival bid.

Metz vs Lyon

Sunday 8th, 16:00 KO

Another match up involving a team at the foot of their respective table, Metz are seven points from potential safety and look like being cut adrift with the competition in the fight against relegation fierce ahead of them. This match is far from ideal then, facing one of a limited number of sides in France that still has a great deal to play for.

Indeed, a return to form and run of three consecutive victories has left Lyon just two points shy of Olympique rivals Marseille in third – a finish that would earn a place in the Champions League qualifiers.

Moreover, Metz’s recent record in this fixture has been woeful, not only losing each of the last four meetings between the sides but doing so without scoring a goal, whilst conceding 12 in that time. Factor in that OL are Ligue 1’s highest scorers away from home (37) – ahead even of PSG – and that their hosts have conceded the most at home (25), and it would be a shock if this one didn’t go with the form book.

Mariano – top scorer for Bruno Genesio’s visitors – is back from suspension and Metz will be without as many as four first team players, so a bet on the handicap markets should present good value.

Udinese vs Lazio

Sunday 8th, 17:00 KO

They may have had to come through a real test against Salzburg on Thursday, but a two-goal lead secured late on ahead of the second leg has offered Lazio some much needed security heading into Sunday’s clash with Udinese. There’s still plenty for Simone Inzaghi’s men to play for in Serie A after all, set for what looks increasingly likely to be a two-team tussle with Inter for fourth.

With that in mind, while the visitors may rotate a little, they know that they can’t afford to lose too much ground and pin all of their hopes on glory in the Europa League. The fact, then, that they are playing a side in rotten form yet in no immediate danger of the drop is favourable to say the least.

Udinese have lost seven games running in Serie A and the new manager bounce that Massimo Oddo’s appointment inspired in November has well and truly worn off. With just one league win in 2018 the hosts this weekend have unsurprisingly picked up fewer points than any other side in Italy’s top-flight since the turn of the year (six from 12 matches), and their record against Lazio has been dreadful in recent years.

The visitors to the Dacia Arena on Sunday have won five and drawn one of the last six league meetings between the sides, remarkably keeping a clean sheet in all six of said clashes. Inzaghi’s charges have been strong on the road in the most part too, with just three defeats, each coming against fellow top six sides. They’ve dropped just two of a possible 24 points when facing sides in the bottom half away from home, so the price on the outright away win is too good to turn down in my opinion.

Recommended bets:

  • Schalke to win at 1.98
  • Lyon -0.5/-1.0
  • Lazio to win at 1.86

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