Mark O’Haire is hoping to keep his recent good European form going this weekend with selections from Ligue 1 and La Liga.
Lucky 11 for Reims this weekend?
Reims can enhance their already remarkable campaign by clinching top honours on Saturday night when lowly Amiens arrive. The Champagne club have excelled since winning promotion to France’s top-flight as Ligue 2’s runaway title winners in 2017/18, sitting in sixth and just two points adrift of the top-four.
Head coach David Guion guided the group to promotion with a team built upon defensive structure and organisation. Those principles have been adhered to again this term with Reims giving up the third-fewest goals and no goalkeeper keeping more clean sheets than Edouard Mendy’s tally of 11 in Stade’s goal.
Reims have conceded more than a solitary strike on only five occasions, whilst only PSG have faced fewer shots inside the penalty area, conceded a lower Expected Goals (xG) or given up fewer xG from open play on average. Despite being a newly-promoted club, Guion’s charges have suffered only five losses all season, and two defeats since September.
Barcelona and Juventus are the only other clubs in Europe’s top five leagues enjoying a longer unbeaten streak than Reims’ current 10-game run and since November the hosts have returned W5-D2-L1 on home soil. And arguably most importantly, the Champagne side have recently found their range in the final third.
Indeed, only Nice had plundered fewer goals at the turn of the year. However, since 2019, only Lille and PSG have racked up more goals with last weekend’s thrilling 4-2 triumph at defensively-sound Montpellier a further feather in Reims’ cap. They look well worth backing to continue their hot streak when struggling Amiens pitch up on Saturday night.
Back-to-back 1-0 home wins over Nice and Caen have pushed Amiens four points clear of the relegation play-off place in Ligue 1 and the return from injury of Moussa Konate and Samuel Ghoddos’ arrival back from the Asian Cup has certainly aided their survival prospects. But the guests remain wretched on the road and are easily opposed.
Les Licornes have collected two points from a possible 30 (W0-D2-L8) on their travels when excluding the bottom-six, and since the start of last season Amiens have been beaten in 20/32 (63%) away days, failing to even score in 18 of those matches. This campaign alone, the visitors have scored just six goals in almost 20 hours of Ligue 1 away from home.
The relegation-battlers are posting a 0.51 xG from open play figure per-game and their xG ratio return sits at just 32% when on their travels – unsurprisingly, that’s the worst effort in France’s top-flight. Only Caen rank below Amiens in shots in the box, xG and xG from open play and I can’t see how they can solve their impotency at a side so well-versed in defence.
Nothing Flashy about effective ‘El Geta’
Getafe head into the weekend occupying a Champions League qualification berth and there’s plenty of reason to believe the capital club can extend their stay with a positive result at Real Betis on Sunday.
Los Azulones are rated a 1.78 play with a +0.50 start on the Asian Handicap line and that’s an angle of attack worth exploiting, for numerous reasons.
For starters, El Geta are a rigid but awkward side to play against. In fact, they’re exactly the type of team that Betis tend to struggle against. Only Valencia and Atletico Madrid have conceded fewer La Liga goals and Jose Bordalas’ boys are so well-drilled give opposition outfits very little space to work in. They’re also aggressive, direct and tireless.
Not so long ago, Betis were mauled away at Leganes and similar issues could occur here. Head coach Quique Setien spoke out about Leganes’ rough and direct approach but the matter of the fact was, the Andalusians were simply outmuscled, bullied and out-played. Expect a similar contest to play out on Sunday.
Secondly, this will be Betis’ 16th game in 57 days – that’s an average of one match every three-and-a-half days. For clubs outside Europe’s elite that’s difficult to manage and with all eyes focussed upon Thursday night’s Copa del Rey semi-final second leg in Valencia, there’s a very real possibility that the hosts will be drained of emotional and physical energy.
Finally, the home side have been a feature of frustration this term. Betis are bossing over 60% of possession on average – only Barcelona enjoy more of the ball – but 14 teams in Spain’s top-tier fire in more efforts at goal, and the same goes for attempts from inside the penalty area. Just four teams generate a lower xG figure from open play.
Too often Betis are hogging possession and not penetrate opponents. Such tactics could play into Getafe’s patient and organised approach; the visitors are masters in sitting deep and counter-attacking when the ball is turned over, as well as exploiting set-pieces. Only four teams give up a higher xG from open play figure than Getafe in 2018/19.
So there’s already a strong case to support Getafe here. The guests have suffered only six defeats all season – four of which came against the Big Three of Barca, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. In fact, excluding the Big Three and Los Azulones have lost just four times in 23 contests with the rest of La Liga making the odds available on El Geta getting at least a point very appealing indeed.
- Reims v Amiens – Reims to win (1.80)
- Real Betis v Getafe – Getafe +0.50 Asian Handicap (1.78)
On this week’s Football Podcast your host Ali Maxwell is joined by Adrian Clarke and Mark O’Haire to look ahead to ‘Derby Weekend’ in the Premier League. Mark also discusses in further detail his angles on the above selections.