It’s cup final weekend in Spain and Germany and a red hot Mark O’Haire is on the case, perusing the markets from the showpiece finals and picking out his favourite fancies.
Two comfortable winners were delivered in last weekend’s column and I’m hoping to sign-off from the main European football campaign with another pair of profit-makers as the DFB Pokal and Copa del Rey take centre-stage on Saturday evening in Germany and Spain.
RB Have Enough Wings To Fly With Bayern
Berlin’s Olympiastadion hosts the DFB Pokal final on Saturday night with Bayern Munich hot favourites to secure top honours. The Bavarians bagged their seventh successive Bundesliga crown last weekend following a thrilling second-half performance against Eintracht Frankfurt and now head to the capital for their 23rd appearance in the cup final.
FC Hollywood are no strangers to this scene. This is their sixth final appearance in nine seasons, although Bayern have only lifted the trophy on four occasions and there’s certainly a case to be made that Niko Kovac’s men are slightly too short in their quest for the domestic double here.
Of course, Bayern returned W18-D3-L1 in their final 22 league fixtures to overturn a significant deficit against Dortmund in the battle at the top of the Bundesliga. However, their two tussles with Saturday night’s opponents have been tightly-contested affairs and a repeat looks the most likely scenario when they lock horns again.
Like Bayern, RB Leipzig made a relatively inauspicious start to 2018/19 and were out of the title running early on. Die Rotten Bullen finally found their form in the New Year and Ralf Rangnick guided the group to an excellent W10-D5-L2 in their final 17, a run of results that would have looked even more impressive but for tailing off in the final fortnight.
Leipzig’s late form is reasonably insignificant; Rangnick opted to rest and rotate his troops with Champions League football secured and a first-ever place in the DFB Pokal final on the agenda. For example, last weekend’s loss at Werder Bremen saw RB make 10 changes to the team in preparation for their Berlin battle.
Sure, Die Rotten Bullen only managed W6-D3-L5 against the Bundesliga’s top half, including W0-D1-L3 against Dortmund and Bayern this season, although all bar one of those losses against the division’s leading lights came via a one-goal margin. And arguably, more importantly, their two contests with Bayern featured a grand total of one goal.
Only two of the last six DFB Pokal finals have seen more than one goal separate the sides and I’m happy to support Leipzig keeping this encounter close. With the +1.25 Asian Handicap trading at 1.76, we’ll enjoy a half-stakes profit should RB lose by exactly one goal, and pocket a full-stakes pay-out should the Saxony side avoid defeat in regulation time.
Barcelona Unlikely To Walk Over Valencia
The Copa del Rey takes centre-stage in Spain on Saturday night with Barcelona looking to secure a second successive domestic double under Ernesto Valverde when they meet Valencia at the Estadio Benito Villamarin. The Catalans conquered La Liga by 11 points and are hot favourites to take in the searing Seville heat.
The Blaugrana have suffered only four La Liga losses since Valverde arrived at the Camp Nou. However, staunch Barca supporters refuse to give the former Athletic boss their undivided support following the club’s embarrassing Champions League failures in each of the past two campaigns.
Lionel Messi will lead the team’s charge for more domestic domination, although the Argentine ace may have a depleted supporting cast alongside him. Luis Suarez is a confirmed absentee and will be joined on the sidelines by Ousmane Dembele. Meanwhile, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Nelson Semedo, Philippe Coutinho and Arthur are doubts.
Barcelona have already endured two tough league fixtures with Valencia this term – the pair played out two draws in their La Liga contests – and Los Che joined Athletic as the only sides to avoid defeat against the Catalans in 2018/19. Marcelinho’s underdogs will fancy their prospects of repeating that feat as they bid for only a second Copa del Rey in 20 years.
Valencia do arrive in decent nick. Marcelinho’s men exited the Champions League early and had registered only four victories from their opening 18 in La Liga before finding their finishing boots in January. Los Che’s upturn allowed them to close a 10-point gap to fourth and secure a return to the Champions League with a thrilling finale to the campaign.
Saturday night’s underdogs returned W11-D5-L3 in their final 19 outings, as well as reaching the Europa League semi-finals. Valencia now head to Seville having churned out three victories on the spin by at least a two-goal margin and Los Che do look like an appealing play with a +1.25 start on the Asian Handicap at 1.73 quotes.
Marcelinho’s troops have been beaten by a margin of two goals or more in five of their 92 domestic duels across La Liga and Copa del Rey under the current boss, including in just three of 14 meetings with Barca, Real Madrid or Atletico Madrid. If Valencia avoid defeat by two goals or more, we’ll make money backing Los Che with that +1.25 start.
- RB Leipzig +1.25 – 2 units @ 1.76
- Valencia +1.25 – 2 units @ 1.73