Weekend Preview 31/03/17

Highlights

English Premier League
Arsenal vs. Manchester City (Sunday 4pm)
Sky Sports 1
Club football returns with a couple of massive games from the English Premier League, beginning in North London at The Emirates. Given Chelsea’s dominance in the table this fixture is more pertinent for the battle for a top four spot than the title race, but the on-going drama surrounding Wenger still makes it essential viewing. The Frenchman welcomes back Ozil but is without the reliable Cech, while Cazorla continues to be missed in the centre of the park. Ospina never really convinces and this is immediately a good psychological boost to City, who are only without Gundogan and Jesus again.

It seems like Guardiola has a few of his key starters not at full capacity, while there is also the distraction of a trip to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night for the visitors to contend with, but there should be no question about rotation given the current circumstances in the standings. With City expected to be at absolute full strength and looking more and more dangerous up top, we have to back them on the handicap in addition to taking the overs, with the big hope that their finishing isn’t as poor as it was against Liverpool last time out!

Suggestion: Manchester City DNB @ 1.70 and Over 2.75 @ 1.78

English Premier League
Liverpool vs. Everton (Saturday 12.30pm)
Sky Sports 1
The next big stop in England is the Merseyside Derby, which looked so nicely poised until the recent bout of negative team news that has taken the shine off it a little bit. Lallana has joined captain Henderson on the sidelines for Liverpool, while Everton are without Coleman, McCarthy, Schneiderlin and Funes Mori after a disastrous international break for Ronald Koeman. With Jurgen Klopp missing two of his key men and his Dutch counterpart missing three automatic starters plus a direct backup, things are pretty even in terms of an overall negative, which makes the Asian Handicap line hard to stomach.

Taking everything into consideration we priced this up as a much more even contest, but the market seems to be penalising Everton’s news more harshly than Liverpool’s. As such there is definite value in taking the visitors on a massive +1 line, while there’s a big temptation to combine this with an Under 3 trade. However, as this effectively doubles the risk of a tight, low-scoring encounter then it’s best left to the brave.

Suggestion: Everton +1 @ 1.72

Italian Serie A
Napoli vs. Juventus (Sunday 7.45pm)
BT Sport 1
Serie A has arguably been the most entertaining league to watch this season and there’s yet another huge encounter this weekend, as leaders Juventus head to third place Napoli, who are still just about in the title race. What gives this one an extra edge is that the same two teams meet at the same venue three days later for the second leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final (which Juventus lead 3-1).

Napoli are currently ten points off Allegri’s men and so have to go all out for the win, while Juventus could probably settle for the draw that would keep Roma at least six points behind in second. The team news sees the home side set to be full strength, while Juve have big concerns over Dybala and Mandzukic, with the former set to start on the bench for a big offensive weakening. The improving Pjaca is also absent.

Suggestion: Napoli DNB @ 1.80 

Dutch Eredivisie
Ajax vs. Feyenoord (Sunday 1.30pm)
Sky Sports 5
This is the game that could decide where the Eredivisie title ends up this season and is another huge test for Feyenoord, who effectively knocked PSV out of the race in the last big game we highlighted from the Netherlands a few weeks ago. This time around their task looks harder but it is priced as such, with Ajax currently half-goal favourites. The visitors are missing Vilhena, Elia and Kongolo for an overall weakening, while star striker Dolberg is a 50/50 doubt for Ajax and would move the line massively if not in the starting eleven. We’ll gamble on him missing out or not being quite fully fit by backing Feyenoord to get the draw that would pretty much seal their first championship since 1998.

Suggestion: Feyenoord +0.5 @ 1.96  

Portuguese Primeira Liga
Benfica vs. Porto (Saturday 8.30pm)
BT Sport ESPN
Porto are right behind Benfica in the table, with just one point separating the city rivals. That sets this game up beautifully and both teams being almost completely healthy helps things too. Benfica look set to be without Grimaldo again, but Porto are recovering Pereira and can name their strongest eleven in their usual 4-4-2. In fact this looks set to be 4-4-2 against 4-4-2 and with both sides in almost identical form and with everything to play for it should be a cracker. We don’t think there’s anything to separate them, so we’ll back Porto on a plus handicap.

Suggestion: Porto +0.25 @ 1.81

Ones to Watch

German Bundesliga 1
Hertha BSC vs. Hoffenheim (Friday 7.30pm)
BT Sport 2
Two of the three big surprise packages in Germany meet again and are effectively going head-to-head for the final Champions League place. Naturally it’s incredibly even, being priced DNB, but Hoffenheim currently have an advantage of five points and could happily take a draw, so we’ll go with the unders.

Suggestion: Under 2.5 @ 1.80

English Championship
Reading vs. Leeds United (Saturday 5.30pm)
Sky Sports 1
There have been a number of huge games in the Championship play-off race recently and this is no different, with fourth hosting fifth. Neither side are completely cemented in the top six just yet and so neither can afford to lose, which makes the small goal line look quite attractive.

Suggestion: Over 2 @ 1.78

French Ligue 1
Nice vs. Bordeaux (Sunday 8pm)
BT Sport Extra
Nice are desperately clinging onto the coattails of Monaco and PSG, but have lost ground lately due to poor team news above all else. They are without Cyprien, Plea and Baysse here, while Bordeaux are in their best form of 2016/17 and fully capable of getting at least a draw.

Suggestion: Bordeaux +0.25 @ 1.96

German Bundesliga 2
Hannover 96 vs. Union Berlin (Saturday 12pm)
Bet365
This is a very big fixture in terms of the title race, with Hannover the pre-season favourites but Union currently leading the pack. The hosts have a new manager bounce, but the visitors have deservedly won six in a row and can currently be backed on a small plus handicap.

Suggestion: Union Berlin +0.25 @ 1.93

Austrian Bundesliga
Rheindorf Altach vs. Salzburg (Sunday 3.30pm)
Bet365
The big surprise at this stage of the season is that Salzburg are only seven points ahead of second place Altach. This looks a difficult trip for the leaders, but their hosts have stuttered lately and are not in the same class, while they also have the poorer team news.

Suggestion: Salzburg -1 @ 1.99

*Odds accurate at time of writing

Who will go up and who will go down from the Championship

The Championship is often seen as one of the most exciting and unpredictable leagues in the world. It seems to grow in strength every year and the number of teams able to spend significant amounts of money increases, as Premier League parachute payments and wealthy owners aiming to reach the top flight come in and have to spend to have any chance of staying ahead of their rivals. In total 29 players have been signed by Championship clubs in 2016/17 for a fee of over £3m – compare this to 2015/16 when 18 were signed for this value or above and 2014/15 when only 11 were signed.

This makes for a highly competitive division and it seems to be shaping up to be no different during the final couple of months this year.

Newcastle and Brighton were early favourites for promotion and have been the top two since 22/10/16 – rarely dropping out of these places since then. Huddersfield have been the surprise package and have done amazingly well to stay in the top six – especially given that they over performed hugely at the start of the season (see my earlier article here), Leeds have been consistent while Reading and Sheffield Wednesday both seem to be stuttering as the run in begins, with Fulham closing in on the final play off spot fast. While Preston have played themselves into contention they are real outsiders to make the top six, as are Norwich. It would take a major collapse from the teams above and great run of form for either team to still be in contention beyond the first weekend in May.

At the bottom end their have been a spate of managerial sackings recently as teams desperately try to avoid the drop to League 1. 11 of the 24 Championship clubs have a different manager to what they started the season with, something that is becoming a trend in recent years as patience is becoming of a rare luxury afforded by chairmen across the Football League.

Using StrataData we can start to pick up some trends, some key players and how vital they are to the team and which teams are over/underperforming as the race for key positions at both ends of the table intensifies.

I mentioned Newcastle and Brighton’s consistency and this has been the case for much of the season, with Newcastle having the best record and best goal difference on the road and Brighton having the best record and best goal difference when playing at home. Possibly the only reason why there is still a race for the automatic spots is Newcastle’s home form and Brighton’s away form. With weekend results seeing Leeds stay in with a very small chance, and Huddersfield’s heavy defeat at Bristol City meaning they must win their game in hand to close the gap, you wonder if automatic promotion would be sewn up if Newcastle didn’t have the worst home record in the top 6 and if Brighton had turned a couple of their away draws into wins.

A quick glance at the data and it will come as no surprise to see that Newcastle have created the 2nd most Total chances over the course of the season, while Brighton sit 5th. Fulham have been the most attractive team to watch in many people’s eyes and have created 496 chances in the 38 games played so far. The surprise package is Bristol City. Despite having made more chances than 2nd place Brighton they find themselves way down in 19th place in the table.

To dig into this, we need to look at the quality of chances being created.

Championship Run In - Graphic 1

While Fulham are creating more chances it’s clear that Newcastle are creating better quality chances, those we would expect them to convert at a higher average rate. There are a couple of outliers in the graphic that jump out straight away – Bristol City making the 4th most chances, despite needing a big win on Friday over Huddersfield to keep themselves out of the bottom 3, and how far down Leeds United (17th) and Reading (21st) are in this table. While Leeds have created a higher number of better quality chances compared to their overall total, nothing seems amiss about where Reading lie in comparison to the teams around them.

Something that stands out straight away is the number of Superb chances created by Bristol City – this is something I had noticed anecdotally but which the evidence backs up. Superb Chances are those which are usually those chances where any shot on target will result in a goal – for instance if the keeper has made a save but the rebound falls to an attacker in front of an open goal. The average conversion rate for these is around 75%, but they are extremely rare – Bristol City actually account for 14% of the entire division’s creation of Superb Chances.  They also have a higher than average conversion rate for these, with 87%. But the number of chances they are making is still high – so they must be creating other levels of chances as well.

Championship Run In - Graphic 2

Championship Run In - Graphic 3Here we start to get a little more understanding, with Reading and Leeds both converting their higher level chances at a much better than average rate. For Leeds especially this is key, as purely on created Chances in the range of Superb, Great or Very Good they ranked 9th, much higher than their overall Chance Creation position. So they create more high-level chances than average and convert them at a much higher rate – this is one factor explaining their high position in the table. Reading will go by a similar margin, though do create slightly less High-level chances overall.

So can we expect to see a drop-off in this? Yes, probably – though its very unlikely to be before the end of the season. A couple of articles recently have highlighted the need for a top quality striker who can score over 20 a season to make the Premier League – such as Leeds have in Chris Wood. The question remains if he gets injured, how would they cope in his absence?

At the other end, Bristol City find themselves bottom of the pile in terms of converting lower level chances. This probably goes a long way to explaining why they are so far down the table. While creating and converting Superb Chances is obviously no bad thing, the number of low-level chances compared to high-level chances over the whole league is roughly 4:1, so while it’s likely to be unsustainable to score a lot of Poor chances, it will boost you up the table. Norwich are a key example of this. Early in the season they scored a lot of Poor chances – think shots from outside the box that would not be expected to go in – but when this dropped off and the number of higher quality chances they could create didn’t sustain their league position, they went on a terrible run which has ultimately cost Alex Neill his job.

Aiming to focus a little more on what this means for the Play-Offs we consider the following.

Newcastle and Brighton look to be safe – they are consistently good and we wouldn’t expect them to drop enough points to end up outside the top two.

We’ll include Preston & Norwich, but it’s unlikely they will have the time or sustain the form needed to break into the top 6 with just 8 games left.

Taking the strength of schedule into account I ran a Monte Carlo simulation to look at how likely each team was to finish in the top 6

Championship Run In - Graphic 4Newcastle and Brighton do look to be well clear and there appears to be little change on the surface. It is very tight for the final spot between Sheffield Wednesday and Fulham, and with them meeting on the final day of the season everything could come down to this game. Reading’s victory at Hillsborough last week could be the critical result that sees them into the play offs. While this doesn’t tell the whole story, the % of finishing in each position gives a better idea over the 1,000 simulations done by the model.

Championship Run In - Graphic 5

This gives much more fluctuation on the final position and shows how much threat Fulham are causing to 6th spot.  Reading have a 92% chance of making the top 6 and it really is almost 50/50 between Sheffield Wednesday and Fulham, meaning any slip up from either could be costly, which both have done in the last couple of games.

The odds are reflective of this, with most giving Sheffield Wednesday the slight edge in a straight fight with Fulham for the final top six spot. The current odds have Sheffield Wednesday as 1.81 for a Top 6 Finish while Fulham are 1.90.

Norwich and Preston need close to a miracle to stay in contention but both play a series of games against their rivals so anything is possible, as these matches will have big implications if they can take positive results.

Personal opinion makes me edge with Fulham – this is purely due to the strength of squad they have, while Sheffield Wednesday are missing several key players and could be without them for the rest of the season (Kieran Lee, Sam Hutchinson, Fernando Forestieri and Gary Hooper to name 4).

At the end of the season I will use StrataBet’s cutting edge data to take a better look at which players have excelled over the course of the season and which have disappointed. In the mean time Ravi Mistry (@Scribblr_42) has produced some excellent work on the Championship using StrataData to produce a dashboard of chance locations for each team https://public.tableau.com/profile/scribblr.42#!/vizhome/StrataDashboardv1_2/PremierLeagueChances2016-17.

Weekend Preview 17/03/17

Highlights

English Premier League
Manchester City vs. Liverpool (Sunday 4.30pm)
Sky Sports 1
The Premier League is back on song with a huge contest on Sunday afternoon, which has major implications for the top four places. Man City are currently in third and have found some form domestically, while Liverpool have seemingly recovered after a bit of a wobble and are just one point behind them in fourth. Both have significant pressure from below with Arsenal and Manchester United having one game in hand on Guardiola’s men and two on Klopp’s. The major advantage for the visitors comes from their full week to prepare, while City were losing to Monaco in painful circumstances in the Champions League on Wednesday night.

Team news favours the hosts, however, with only Gundogan and Jesus missing out again. Liverpool should have Lovren and Firmino back in contention for starts, but captain Henderson remains a huge absence in the middle of the park. Given that it looks so close the biggest surprise is that City are at -0.5 instead of -0.25, while a goal line of 3 also looks a little bit on the punchy side at the moment. Liverpool’s form against the rest of the top six is another factor to consider, so we’ll back them here.

Suggestion: Liverpool +0.5 @ 1.95 

Spanish Primera Division
Atletico Madrid vs. Sevilla (Sunday 3.15pm)
Sky Sports 2
Atletico and Sevilla endured very different emotions in their midweek Champions League outings; with Atletico holding Leverkusen 0-0 to ensure safe progression to the quarters while Sevilla succumbed to Leicester in a tetchy contest in England. Indeed, the visitors playing a day earlier than their hosts would have been an advantage were it not for the fact that they had to travel and have emerged from that game with some psychological scars.

Other than that it’s incredibly even on team news, though Atletico have the edge because they have players returning for a boost, rather than just being unchanged. Filipe Luis, Gabi and Gameiro should all start after missing the Leverkusen draw, which improves Simeone’s side in all areas. This could be a very tight and tactical game, but it seems like there is more in favour of the home side, hence them being priced as relatively heavy favourites. We’ll back them to take advantage of Sevilla’s low mood with a narrow win, but we’ll also brave the final score being 1-0 or 2-0 too.

Suggestion: Atletico -0.75 @ 1.88 and Under 2.75 @ 1.83 

French Ligue 1
PSG vs. Olympique Lyonnais (Sunday 8pm)
BT Sport 3
Both of these teams have been firmly put into Monaco’s shadow this season, especially with Jardim’s side having made it into the quarter-final of the Champions League after a thrilling aggregate win over Manchester City. However, this remains one of the biggest fixtures in the Ligue 1 schedule and both teams still have plenty to play for. PSG are three points behind Monaco with nine games left, while Lyon are looking to overturn Nice’s advantage of 13 points to grab third.

Thankfully for a game of this magnitude it seems that both teams are at absolute full strength, though Meunier is a 50/50 doubt for the hosts. As usual it looks to us that the market is overrating PSG in the simple fact that a win of two goals requires them to turn up absolutely motivated and firing, which has not been the case in most league games this season.

Suggestion: Olympique Lyonnais +1.25 @ 1.88

English Championship
Sheffield Wednesday vs. Reading (Friday 7.45pm)
Sky Sports 1
This weekend sees four of the top six in the Championship facing off, with the first contest of Round 38 coming between sixth-placed Wednesday and fifth-placed Reading. Neither are in any sort of form and they both have Fulham breathing down their necks from seventh, while team news is fairly even as well, making this difficult to split on the Asian Handicap. The most significant factor in the contest could actually be Reading’s off-field issues, with Stam threatening to leave in the summer unless prolonged takeover talks finally make some progress. That has proven an unwelcome distraction in terms of their preparation and makes us see some value in backing Wednesday for the win, but there’s more in the game having at least three goals.

Suggestion: Over 2.25 @ 1.90

English Championship
Leeds United vs. Brighton & Hove Albion (Saturday 5.30pm)
Sky Sports 1
Another pearl from England’s second flight sees fourth host joint-top, with Brighton back on track and Leeds always a dangerous proposition at Elland Road. Like in the previous game there is huge motivation for both sides, but there is more going on here in terms of team news. Leeds are only without the suspended Ayling and have Taylor ready to step in, while Brighton are still without Duffy and Bong to weaken the defence. Bruno has thankfully passed fit for Hughton, ensuring a crisis is averted, which means we see less value on Leeds and can see a tighter game.

Suggestion: Under 2.25 @ 1.86

Ones to Watch

English Premier League
AFC Bournemouth vs. Swansea City (Saturday 5.30pm)
BT Sport 1
This game gives both teams a great chance of putting significant daylight between themselves and the relegation zone, so there’s a lot riding on it. As you might expect, things seem very evenly matched, with team news relatively flat and psychology good for both. It should be an exciting watch.

Suggestion: Over 2.75 @ 1.95

Italian Serie A
Torino vs. Internazionale (Saturday 5pm)
Bet365
Inter are on their best run of the season and Torino have been excellent at home throughout 2016/17, making this an easy pick for a one to watch. The only significant drawback is that it’s not being televised! Still, we’re backing Pioli’s Inter to stay in the hunt for third.

Suggestion: Internazionale -0.25 @ 1.80

Scottish Premiership
Aberdeen vs. Hearts (Saturday 12.15pm)
BT Sport 1
These two are sandwiched either side of Rangers, with Aberdeen looking to cement themselves in second and Hearts keen to find a way into the top three. Form and team news favour the hosts side, while they also arguably have a greater motivation than Cathro’s Hearts, who are up and down.

Suggestion: Aberdeen -0.5 @ 1.80

Greek Super League
Panathinaikos vs. Olympiakos (Sunday 5.30pm)
Bet365
We finish off in Greece, with two massive games in the Super League beginning with a vicious derby between Panathinaikos and Olympiakos. Despite being fourth the home side are favourites, largely due to their perfect team news and the insane schedule their big rivals have had in 2017 so far.

Suggestion: Panathinaikos -0.25 @ 1.96 

Greek Super League
PAOK vs. Panionios (Sunday 1pm)
N/A
This is a meeting of the two teams in between Panathinaikos and Olympiakos in the table, meaning it also carries significance. Both are missing a couple of starters but this looks like it should be priced much closer than it currently is, so we see value in backing the underdogs.

Suggestion: Panionios +1 @ 1.90

*Odds accurate at time of writing

Weekend Review 14/03/17

Highlights

Italian Serie A
Internazionale 7-1 Atalanta (Sunday 2pm)
Another week and another losing start for our suggestions, with Inter making a mockery of our unders pick with an enormous win over an Atalanta side who had been in great form before hitting the San Siro. Before the game we pointed to the superior firepower in the ranks in Pioli’s squad as the main reason we thought they could trouble the top three, but would never have pegged this contest as one they would run away with so readily. A nine-minute hat trick from the revitalised Icardi set the scene and it was 5-0 by the 34th minute, with Banega grabbing a double to leave the visitors totally shell-shocked.

This was one of those days where everything the hosts touched turned to goals, with a trio each of Great, Very Good, Good and Fairly Good Chances yielding a ridiculous return compared to the implied xG value. The only saving grace for Atalanta was that Inter eased off after the break, reserving some energy for another day, as they fired yet another warning to Napoli and Roma that neither can afford any slips in the final ten games. Pioli continues to work wonders after the disastrous reign of De Boer.

Suggestion: Under 2.75 @ 1.81
Actual Outcome: 7-1 (-1)
Fair Outcome: 5-1 (-1)

Italian Serie A
Juventus 2-1 Milan (Friday 7.45pm)
It took a dramatic 97th minute penalty for Juventus to earn us a push in our second game from Italy, although the hosts really should have been out of sight well before Dybala kept his cool to earn Allegri’s side yet another home victory. To put this one into some context, Juventus actually created almost twice the number of chances of Inter and scored less of a third of the goals, with our analyst believing that a final outcome of 3-1 was a much more realistic reflection of the play.

In the end the hosts won their 31st Serie A game in a row and were very grateful for that given what followed, with Roma and Napoli both winning to keep touch with the leaders at the top of the table. As for Milan, they almost escaped with an unjust point and really had Donnarumma to thank for keeping them in the contest for so long. We still remain unconvinced by Montella’s men, but they should end up with a top six finish come May.

Suggestion: Juventus -1 @ 1.75
Actual Outcome: 2-1 (0)
Fair Outcome: 3-1 (+1)

Italian Serie A
Lazio 3-1 Torino (Monday 7.45pm)
This one took a while to warm up, with Immobile’s opener not arriving until the 56th minute and the hosts scoring twice late to ensure they covered the Asian handicap and pushed the contest well over the goal handicap. The win keeps Inzaghi’s men well in touch with the leading pack and means that the entire top five won in Serie A this weekend.

Over the course of the match only the home side really deserved the win, with Torino displaying good resiliency (not a trait they have been known for this season) but wobbling from the time they equalised until the whistle blew. Keita made a big difference when coming from the bench and his reintroduction to the starting eleven is something to watch out for, as it will ensure Lazio retain a real goal threat in the weeks to come. Lulic has been preferred of late, quite surprisingly.

Suggestion: Over 2.75 @ 1.80
Actual Outcome: 3-1 (+1)
Fair Outcome: 2-1 (+0.5)

German Bundesliga 1
Hertha BSC 2-1 Borussia Dortmund (Saturday 2.30pm)
We felt like backing Hertha was a little bit of a risk given Dortmund’s recent scoring form, but in the end the home side comfortably covered the handicap on both the Actual Score and the Fair Score. A home win was stretching it a little bit in terms of chances created, but Tuchel probably rotated too much with the upcoming German Cup game in his thoughts and there is no argument for his side deserving anything more than a solitary point. The loss didn’t hurt Dortmund too badly with Leipzig suffering a shock defeat at home to Wolfsburg and Hoffenheim only drawing in Freiburg. Hertha and Bayern were the big winners of the weekend, with Dardai continuing to do an excellent job in the capital.

Suggestion: Hertha +1 @ 1.71
Actual Outcome: 2-1 (+1)
Fair Outcome: 1-1 (+1)

Scottish Premiership
Celtic 1-1 Rangers (Sunday 12pm)
Brendan Rodgers said he felt “robbed” by this result in the Old Firm derby, but our analyst believed that this was the fairest outcome after Rangers created the more dangerous chances in the game. Regardless of the opinion of the Celtic manager this was a painful double loss for our suggestions and never looked like a game capable of having more than three goals. Graeme Murty did a great job of motivating his men but still had a little bit of fortune to thank late on when Griffiths went down in the box and could well have had a penalty.

Suggestion: Celtic -1.25 @ 1.83 and Over 2.75 @ 1.84
Actual Outcome: 1-1 (-2)
Fair Outcome: 1-1 (-2)

Ones to Watch

Spanish Primera Division
Real Sociedad 0-2 Athletic Club (Sunday 11am)
In the Weekend Preview we were hovering between the choice of Over 2.25 and Athletic on the handicap, but unfortunately went for the wrong choice. Although the Fair Score was 1-2 after Sociedad had a goal very harshly ruled out, the visitors were far superior and completely deserved the win.

Suggestion: Over 2.25 @ 1.88
Actual Outcome: 0-2 (-0.5)
Fair Outcome: 1-2 (+1) 

French Ligue 1
Monaco 2-1 Bordeaux (Saturday 3.45pm)
Monaco and Overs has been our mantra for a while and they just scraped us another positive return here, though there was so little in the game in terms of chances that our analyst actually believed 1-0 to be a fairer representation. Monaco demonstrated an excellent level of control here.

Suggestion: Monaco -1 @ 1.81 and Over 2.75 @ 1.81
Actual Outcome: 2-1 (+0.5)
Fair Outcome: 1-0 (-0.5)

Dutch Eredivisie
Feyenoord 5-2 AZ (Sunday 1.30pm)
Backing against favourites in the Eredivisie has been a lot less risky than usual this season, but we got caught here as Feyenoord came out firing and were 3-0 up before the hour mark. AZ showed some spirit to hit back but a weakened home side deserved to win comfortably.

Suggestion: AZ +1.25 @ 1.95
Actual Outcome: 5-2 (-1)
Fair Outcome: 3-1 (-1)

Dutch Eredivisie
Ajax 3-0 Twente (Sunday 3.45pm)
A double whammy caught us out on Sunday, as Ajax followed Feyenoord’s lead in making light work of a difficult looking home game. This was much more of a procession than the game at De Kuip and ensures that the two-horse race for the title goes on for another week.

Suggestion: Twente +1.75 @ 1.87
Actual Outcome: 3-0 (-1)
Fair Outcome: 3-0 (-1)

United States MLS
Montreal Impact 2-2 Seattle Sounders (Monday 12am)
Two late goals dug us out of a hole here and made us rue the decision to go without the Overs as a combination, but on the balance there was no way that Sounders deserved to leave empty handed. Impact showed a real lack of professionalism to throw this away.

Suggestion: Seattle Sounders +0.25 @ 1.83
Actual Outcome: 2-2 (+0.5)
Fair Outcome: 2-2 (+0.5) 

12 Suggestions
Total Actual Outcome: -2.5
Total Fair Outcome: -1.5

Who’s best placed to avoid relegation from the Premier League?

With a little of Round 28 now in the books, the English Premier League enters its defining stage. Although the title race looks as good as over with Chelsea having a commanding lead, it’s a very different story at the bottom with a number of teams still fighting for survival.

Swansea manager Paul Clement has claimed that there are nine sides involved in the relegation dogfight, however with both Watford and Burnley seven points clear of the drop a lot would need to go wrong for them to be sucked into danger. Indeed, for the purposes of this piece, I have decided to look at the seven teams that are yet to go beyond 30 points and see who is best placed to stay up.

We’ll start by setting a base of where the bookmakers believe teams to be. With three teams on 27 points or more (Bournemouth, Leicester and Swansea), it’s not overly surprising that of these Bournemouth now have the longest odds for the drop at 14.00. Leicester are at 9.00 and Swansea have sunk to 4.70 after their weekend defeat.

The bottom four teams are more evenly spread, but there is certainly evidence to suggest that the bookmakers have decided on their bottom three, with Sunderland (1.17), Middlesbrough (1.34) and Hull (1.82) all odds on to be relegated. It’s not a major surprise given that the first two are six and three points from safety, respectively, where Crystal Palace currently occupy the magical 17th spot and can be had at 2.96.

Now let’s take a look at some of the data supporting these odds, as well as some more subjective factors that could play a part, digging into whether there could be value in backing one of the four teams currently sitting outside the bottom three to ultimately go down, or if the current trio are indeed doomed.

To start off, we’ll look at each team’s attacking output and conversion rates, to see who comes out on top in terms of having the firepower to shoot their way to safety. A first glance at the table shows that Bournemouth have scored the most goals of any team in the bottom seven, hitting the net 40 times:

RelegationBattle_Fig1.png

What is perhaps interesting about Bournemouth is that despite being the top scorers, Josh King was the first player to hit double figures with his weekend hat trick against West Ham. On the contrary, as was the case last season, Sunderland find themselves very heavily dependent on Jermain Defoe, who has scored 58% of their league goals this season (14/24) to again beg the question of just where they would be without him. As a general statement from the table above it is clear that goals are a very valuable currency, with the four leading scorers not in the bottom three.

Breaking it down a little more with the use of StrataData, we can see which teams are creating chances and indeed the general quality of chance they are fashioning:

RelegationBattle_Fig2.png

The data shows that five of the teams are actually creating at a similar level, before a notable drop off towards Middlesbrough and Sunderland, who are unsurprisingly the two lowest scorers in the league. Once again we see that the current bottom three are the worst placed of our seven, making it hard to make a case for any of them to survive. What is perhaps surprising is the quality of chances that the teams are creating.

Leicester are third on the list of overall chance creation, but in actual fact over half of their chances fall into the “Fairly Good” (~8% conversion) and “Poor” (~2% conversion) categories. While this is actually the case for all teams, as could perhaps be expected, the quality of chances does indeed correlate with attacking output. Bournemouth are the leading scorers in this pack and have created more “Superb” chances (~75% conversion rate) than any of the other teams, belying their spot in the middle of the chance table. Naturally, the better the chances you are making, the greater the chances you have of scoring and, in turn, remaining in the Premier League.

The table makes worrying reading for Middlesbrough, who have created the second fewest chances overall, while also notably fewer “Great” (~40% conversion) and Superb chances with a paltry 10 over the course of the season! They come bottom in all of our chance categories aside from “Good” (~15% conversion) and Poor, meaning it’s hardly a coincidence that they are really struggling for goals and that their top scorer Alvaro Negredo has mustered just six this season.

So, we’ve seen that there is a general correlation between the quality of chance creation and league position, but how does this stack up in terms of actual conversion rates?

RelegationBattle_Fig3.png

Chance conversion across the board generally falls in line with expectation, as better conversion comes with the better chances. It’s notable that Bournemouth are the only team to have passed up a Superb chance and that they have the worst conversion from Greats, although from “Very Good” (~25% conversion) openings they are leading the way, suggesting that their ability to score from lesser opportunities may stand them in good stead in the relegation fight. It could also be argued that in this case they are over performing, meaning that if they stop taking lower quality chances, they could find themselves as a real candidate for relegation, and at 14.00, there is potential value to be found there.

Middlesbrough have the steadiest line out of all seven teams, showing that when they create, they are doing a reasonable job of scoring, but they have the problem of actually fashioning openings in the first place. Sunderland and Hull are relative underachievers once again, being towards the lower end of the scale with regards to converting, suggesting that their fight to avoid the drop could indeed be a futile battle, making their positions as two of the favourites for the drop justifiable. Leicester, Crystal Palace and Swansea all find the net with more efficiency when they would be expected to, tucking away their better chances to really improve their prospects of survival.

Overall in terms of attacking output it would appear that the bottom three are where they are for a reason, while Bournemouth should still be looking nervously over their shoulders given their poor conversion rates from the better chance types.

So let’s focus on the defensive side of the game now, looking to see if frailties in this area could catch up to those currently outside the bottom three to level the playing field a bit.

RelegationBattle_FigGOALSCONCEDED.png

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Swansea (61 conceded) and Bournemouth (54 conceded) sit outside of the relegation zone but have two of the poorest defensive records of those at the foot of the table, Hull (54 conceded) sitting level with Eddie Howe’s men. This does give some weight to the belief that the best way to stay away from trouble for these two sides is to play more offensively, as they are currently clear of danger.

On the other hand, Middlesbrough actually have the fifth best defensive record in the entire league. Having shipped just 30 goals all season it’s pretty clear where their problems lie and why they are struggling at the foot of the table. They have made no secret about their desire to be well organised, with Aitor Karanka seeing this as the best way to stay clear of danger, but given their dreadful attacking output, one mistake is currently proving costly in terms of points and has left them with a big task on their hands to stay up. They have drawn more games than anyone else (10), while even Sunderland and Hull have won more matches than their four, which is the lowest total of any team in the league. Had they managed to turn even half of those draws into wins, they could easily be looking at a comfortable mid-table position at present, but as it is, they are staring down the barrel at an instant return to the Championship. At odds of 1.34 there appears little faith that this record will improve in the final few games.

So what does this mean in terms of defensive output? Similar to the attacking rates, let’s see how each team stacks up in terms of chance creation against:

RelegationBattle_Fig4.png

Once again we find that the data doesn’t lie, with Sunderland and Hull giving away considerably more chances than their opponents, suggesting that they are placed correctly in the bottom three. Interestingly, Middlesbrough, who have by far the best goals conceded record out of the seven teams, are just middle of the road when actually giving away chances, suggesting that a mixture of poor finishing and good goalkeeping may be disguising a more deep rooted problem overall. They have given away fewer chances compared to Leicester, but the quality of those chances is actually higher. Bournemouth and Swansea, with their more expansive styles of play give away chances of greater quality, but at a lower frequency overall, meaning they are conceding more as opponents are punishing the better opportunities they are allowed.

Crystal Palace, who have been in relegation trouble for most of the season are going along nicely in both the attacking and defending columns, so if Sam Allardyce can get his squad gradually more motivated and organised, which he appears to be doing, they have a great chance of avoiding the drop.

In terms of conversion against, let’s see if anybody really stands out:

RelegationBattle_Fig5.png

From a defensive standpoint it’s no real surprise to see Middlesbrough propping up the other six teams in the majority of categories. They’ve conceded from just one of three Superb chances, whereas Bournemouth have conceded every single time their opponent has opened them up for a Superb chance, nine times in total. What is perhaps most interesting is that overall, Sunderland and Hull have better defensive conversion rates in most areas than Crystal Palace, Leicester and Swansea, but the sheer volume at which they give away chances will naturally see them concede more eventually.

Once again Bournemouth’s numbers don’t look particularly encouraging here, giving away the most goals from Good to Poor chances, indicating either poor goalkeeping, or a little bit of bad luck along the way. Either way, they are in the spotlight for the wrong reasons defensively and those odds of 14.00 to go down are starting to look mighty tempting.

So aside from statistics, what other factors could come into consideration if looking to make a trade on the relegation run in?

There will inevitably be injuries that crop up and some will affect clubs more than others, while changes in management are also not out of the question, though with four of the seven clubs having already made a move in this area it does look like the current batch of managers will be left to battle it out until the end of the season.

Hull and Sunderland have been hurt by numerous injuries since the start of the season, though in Hull’s case it has more often than not been fringe players who have missed playing time. In Sunderland’s case, the issues have been far graver, with key figures Kirchhoff, Cattermole, Anichebe and Watmore all having spent long spells out, as well as having to contend with injuries to Pickford, who has emerged as the first choice goalkeeper, on top of a host of other shorter term problems. It’s not a major surprise that they have struggled for results, with David Moyes having to piece together a team that is far from what he would consider full strength for much of the campaign.

The rest of the teams have been impacted far less by injuries, only losing fringe players for extended periods, though it is worth noting that for a second season running, Bournemouth have lost Callum Wilson, their best striker, to a season ending knee problem. Keeping players fit and healthy can naturally have a major impact on any success, one need only look at Leicester last season and Chelsea this as proof. One dreads to think what could happen to Sunderland’s already bleak prospects of staying up should Defoe pick up an injury, though the same could be said at Swansea if Sigurdsson or Llorente became unavailable. There is a more even spread of talent among the other clubs at the bottom, none relying on individuals quite so heavily.

Momentum at this stage of the campaign can also play a major role, as those stuck in a rut could find themselves quickly running out of games to turn things round, while one win can quickly turn into two or three, as Swansea and even Crystal Palace have begun to find out. Middlesbrough are currently on the longest winless run at 10 games, which could make it more of a mental battle against the drop than actual ability. Bournemouth will have received a major boost from their gritty draw at Man Utd with 10 men and subsequent win over West Ham, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

The final point to consider is the strength of the run in for each team. Coming up against top opposition could limit their chances for points, while games with each other at the foot of the table are key. Looking through each team’s fixtures, this is the average league position of opposition in the final rounds:

RelegationBattle_Fig6

It seems that Sunderland have the softest run in, but they will be meeting all of their relegation rivals bar Crystal Palace during this time, while Palace themselves have the tougher end of the draw, coming up against opposition mainly in the top half of the table. Middlesbrough and Bournemouth are closest to average with their fixture strength, which could make their meeting five weeks before the end of the season very crucial indeed.

Taking everything into consideration, it looks quite clear that Sunderland and Hull are still heading for the drop, while Swansea, Leicester and Crystal Palace could have just enough to pull clear and survive for another season. The real battle appears to be between Middlesbrough’s defensive efforts, and Bournemouth’s attacking quality. The value is with Bournemouth at 14.00, though it’s hard to make a case for Middlesbrough to stay up when they are scoring at a rate of 0.7 goals per game, a desperately poor output that means conceding even once a game almost rules out any prospect of winning!

It is likely to be a battle that goes right down to the wire, but on current form and having looked at everything, my personal opinion (for what it’s worth) is that Middlesbrough look the much more likely candidates to drop into the Championship.

Alec Payne (@Payney3) 

*All odds and data correct at the time of writing

Weekend Preview 10/03/17

Highlights

Italian Serie A
Internazionale vs. Atalanta (Sunday 2pm)
Bet365
Sixth host fifth in our highlighted game of the week, with Serie A again throwing up a number of interesting contests over the next few days. Inter have been exceptional since hiring Pioli, while there is now no doubt that Atalanta are the surprise package of 2016/17. Thankfully both teams are at relative full strength to take very little away from the encounter (the visitors are missing centre-back Masiello, but he is replaced well by Zukanovic), which has significant bearing on the race for the European places.

After Napoli’s loss in Roma these two sides still have eyes on a Champions League spot come May and while we fully acknowledge what Atalanta have done, Inter seem best placed to profit to us due to their superior firepower. In terms of this particular game, though, the market looks to be incredibly efficient. The biggest argument we can make is that Inter look a little on the heavy side of being favourites at -0.75, because 2.5 goals is fair enough and both have a lot going for them in terms of team news, motivation, recent form and recent metrics. We’ll push the line a little bit, as unders looks the best trade.

Suggestion: Under 2.75 @ 1.81 

Italian Serie A
Juventus vs. Milan (Friday 7.45pm)
BT Sport 3
Next up in Italy is a historic contest from Serie A, with Milan travelling to Turin to face Juventus. This may not be the Milan of old but the fixture still carries a lot of weight, especially when the visitors have won four of their last five in the league and Juventus are fresh off a slip against Udinese and with a Champions League game on the horizon. The hosts do have the edge on team news with only Chiellini and Cuadrado missing, while Milan are without Bonaventura, Abate, Montolivo and probably Locatelli too.

Juventus have won 30 Serie A home games in a row and with -1 being available at pretty decent odds we’ll bank on taking at least a push by suggesting them off this mark again, which is fast becoming a hallmark pick in the Weekend Preview! The Udinese result should have acted as a wake up call to Allegri’s men, especially with Roma winning, while we’re not convinced enough by Milan yet to believe they can break that sort of streak.

Suggestion: Juventus -1 @ 1.75

Italian Serie A
Lazio vs. Torino (Monday 7.45pm)
BT Sport 3
Rounding off our hat trick of Serie A highlights is Lazio against Torino, which sees yet another contender for a top three place in action. What makes this one so interesting is that it pits two teams who are much better going forward than they are at the back, which could make for a very good watch. Lazio have a small doubt over the experienced Biglia but have Marchetti back between the posts, while Torino have Castan and Benassi back in the squad, leaving just Obi on the sidelines.

With both teams looking to be in such good shape and with no real reason for either to play too defensively, we’ll definitely bank on their being at least three goals in this one. Torino have Serie A’s top scorer in their ranks and Lazio always create plenty of chances, so we’re hoping their finishing improves from what we’ve seen lately!

Suggestion: Over 2.75 @ 1.80

German Bundesliga 1
Hertha BSC vs. Borussia Dortmund (Saturday 2.30pm)
Bet365
We have approached Dortmund games with trepidation all season, as they are one of those teams who have performed quite poorly in the main but are always capable of blowing teams away due to their significant power in attack. This holds particular true in the current moment, as they are coming into this off the back of a 4-0 demolition of Benfica in the Champions League on Wednesday night and have scored at least three times in each of their last three Bundesliga games. Gotze hasn’t been missed much and while Reus is out here, Aubameyang, Dembele and Schurrle are all still available, but rotation is expected. Hertha are solid and are almost full strength, so we’ll take a risk in backing them as underdogs.

Suggestion: Hertha +1 @ 1.71 

Scottish Premiership
Celtic vs. Rangers (Sunday 12pm)
Sky Sports 1
Celtic have won the previous three Old Firm games this season and will be determined to make it four, especially with Rangers heading to Parkhead without a permanent manager in place. The hosts are expected to have almost everyone available, while the visitors are still without Garner due to suspension. Victory here moves Rodgers’ men within a point of securing their sixth consecutive title and while the consensus does seem that they will win and win handsomely, it’s not one that we are against. It should be closer than it was in September, but a two-goal Celtic win is likely.

Suggestion: Celtic -1.25 @ 1.83 and Over 2.75 @ 1.84

Ones to Watch

Spanish Primera Division
Real Sociedad vs. Athletic Club (Sunday 11am)
Sky Sports 3
This Basque derby looks like being the biggest game left on Athletic’s calendar this season, so they should be fully motivated. Star striker Aduriz is expected back and Marcos should also pass fit for the visitors, giving them a boost at both ends, while Sociedad are only without Willian Jose.

Suggestion: Over 2.25 @ 1.88

French Ligue 1
Monaco vs. Bordeaux (Saturday 3.45pm)
Bet365
Monaco keep on doing it, winning 4-0 at home to Nantes last time out to maintain their supreme goal average. Bordeaux are much different opposition and there is a huge date with Manchester City on the horizon for Jardim’s men, but they are full strength with Falcao back from injury.

Suggestion: Monaco -1 @ 1.81 and Over 2.75 @ 1.81

Dutch Eredivisie
Feyenoord vs. AZ (Sunday 1.30pm)
Sky Sports 3
Sparta threw a huge spanner in the works for Feyenoord with a shock 1-0 win that saw Ajax draw one point closer, so they have to react here in what looks like a tricky home game. The hosts aren’t helped by having five significant doubts, which makes -1.25 look long.

Suggestion: AZ +1.25 @ 1.95

Dutch Eredivisie
Ajax vs. Twente (Sunday 3.45pm)
Sky Sports 3
Ajax failed to profit fully from Feyenoord’s slip last weekend, only managing a 1-1 draw at Groningen to move within four points of their title rivals. Like Feyenoord they also have a tricky home game now, with Twente missing Assaidi and Andersen but looking harshly done by in the market.

Suggestion: Twente +1.75 @ 1.87

United States MLS
Montreal Impact vs. Seattle Sounders (Monday 12am)
Sky Sports 4
Contenders in the East host contenders in the West, with the big surprise being that both lost on opening weekend. This could make them both more cautious here and they look evenly matched, with Sounders’ edge on the team news and psychology meaning we like them on a positive handicap.

Suggestion: Seattle Sounders +0.25 @ 1.83 

*Odds accurate at time of writing

Weekend Review 07/03/17

Highlights

English Premier League
Liverpool 3-1 Arsenal (Saturday 5.30pm)
Had we known that Sanchez would be sat out for this then there’s no way we would have recommended Arsenal on the Asian Handicap, which was already something of a risk due to the possibility of Ozil being out due to illness. In the end the visitors began the game without both of their key attacking weapons, which naturally shifted the market heavily in Liverpool’s direction. The hosts did not pass up the opportunity to drive home their advantage, disrupting Arsenal with their high press and putting a weak central midfield combination under particular pressure to dominate the first half.

Wenger was forced to turn to Sanchez at the interval with his side already 2-0 down, which meant that at least our overs position was strengthened further. Indeed, in all of the league games since 2003/04 when Arsenal have conceded such an early opener on the road, 85% of games have ended Over 2.75 and they have lost 60% (again, many thanks to the excellent SOTDOC for the numbers!) The Chilean did provide the assist for Welbeck’s goal but could not inspire his teammates completely, with Liverpool gradually wrestling back control before adding a killer third right at the death.

Suggestion: Arsenal +0.5 @ 1.86 and Over 2.75 @ 1.95
Actual Outcome: 0 (3-1)
Fair Outcome: 0 (3-1)  

Italian Serie A
Roma 1-2 Napoli (Saturday 2pm)
Roma passed up a huge opportunity to almost guarantee themselves the runners-up spot and continue challenging Juventus for the title, deservedly losing to Napoli in an extremely competitive and exciting game. The visitors created the better chances even though Roma had more attempts and hit the woodwork twice, Pepe Reina also being called into action to make a stunning save from Perotti in added time. Napoli belied their heavy schedule to produce an excellent team performance, though we were left ruing our decision to ignore the Over 2.75 line due to the short 1.78 price.

Indeed, the away side almost beat the total goals line themselves when Rog went clean through to be denied by Szczesny five minutes from time, which seemed to finally spark Roma into action, though the rally came too late. Ultimately, leaving Salah on the bench was a very strange choice from Spalletti, given the Egyptian’s output this season, and the hosts’ fluidity suffered as a result. They are now left trying to consolidate a top three spot in Serie A.

Suggestion: Roma -0.25 @ 1.83
Actual Outcome: -1 (1-2)
Fair Outcome: -1 (1-2)

German Bundesliga 1
Borussia Dortmund 6-2 Bayer Leverkusen (Saturday 2.30pm)
The third highlight of the week and another goal festival, showing that we are at least getting very adept at choosing the cream of the crop for you to watch every weekend! Unfortunately this was also another losing suggestion, with Dortmund scoring three in the last 13 minutes to smash the Asian Handicap when we were looking good for a half win or better. Both sides showed great attacking efficiency in this one, which made for an insane final score, but it was a tremendous game of football.

Indeed, it was actually a much more competitive derby than the final score would have us believe, but Dortmund were still deserving of a comfortable victory by the end after Leverkusen gave at 4-2, largely through exhaustion as much as anything else. Dortmund’s superior attacking unit saw them through, with Dembele and Aubameyang running the show, but Leverkusen showed a lot too.

Suggestion: Bayer Leverkusen +1.25 @ 1.83
Actual Outcome: 6-2 (-1)
Fair Outcome: 4-1 (-1)

Spanish Primera Division
Eibar 1-4 Real Madrid (Saturday 3.15pm)
It seems we got a little carried away by the absences of Bale and Ronaldo here, as Madrid produced an extremely effective and clinical performance to wipe the floor with Eibar. The hosts have had a really tough time against the leading lights of La Liga this season and that pattern continued, with the visitors racing into a 0-3 lead by the half hour and then taking their foot off the accelerator. Eibar were just far too attacking too early, leaving their defenders very exposed in the early running and never really giving themselves to hang in the game and make Real nervous. They showed something after the break and deservedly got back to 1-4, but this only served to wake Zidane’s side up again.

Suggestion: Eibar +1 @ 1.80
Actual Outcome: 1-4 (-1)
Fair Outcome: 1-3 (-1)

English Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur 3-2 Everton (Sunday 1.30pm)
Our five highlighted games this time around produced 25 goals, which makes us regret the fact we didn’t go with our normal level of overs recommendations this weekend! To round off the set Tottenham dispatched of Everton 3-2 to earn a completely deserved win that keeps them comfortable in second, finally putting paid to any top four aspirations Koeman’s side had left. Two goals in added time really did for us here, but interestingly the Fair Outcome was 2-0, as the home side controlled the game throughout without ever creating too much or giving much of anything away to Everton.

Suggestion: Under 2.75 @ 1.91
Actual Outcome: 3-2 (-1)
Fair Outcome: 2-0 (+1)

Ones to Watch

French Ligue 1
Bordeaux 1-1 Olympique Lyonnais (Friday 7.45pm)
A contest between Ligue 1’s “Jekyll and Hyde” teams naturally ended up in a stalemate, but Bordeaux benefitted from a controversial goal and the visitors created enough openings to have scored two. Lyon deserved a narrow win, but there is enough of an argument for a 0-1 as a 1-2.

Suggestion: Over 2.75 @ 1.81
Actual Outcome: 1-1 (-1)
Fair Outcome: 1-2 (+0.5)

English Championship
Huddersfield Town 1-3 Newcastle United (Saturday 5.30pm)
Newcastle did the business in their second huge game of the weekend, playing ugly but taking a completely justified victory over Huddersfield. The home side played some good stuff once 0-2 down but didn’t deserve to take anything here, though they certainly had Newcastle worried after Mooy’s 72nd minute penalty.

Suggestion: Newcastle DNB @ 1.88 and Over 2 @ 1.80
Actual Outcome: 1-3 (+2)
Fair Outcome: 1-2 (+2) 

English Championship
Blackburn Rovers 1-0 Wigan Athletic (Saturday 3pm)
We expected that this one would be a tight, competitive affair and so it proved, with Blackburn taking a deserved 1-0 win in the end. Under 2.25 was the best trade all day long and there was only a solitary chance of “Very Good” (~25% conversion) or better all afternoon.

Suggestion: Under 2.25 @ 1.76
Actual Outcome: 1-0 (+1)
Fair Outcome: 1-0 (+1) 

Greek Super League
PAOK 2-0 Olympiakos (Sunday 5.30pm)
Olympiakos are officially in their worst run of the season but still maintain a six point lead at the top, with Panionios only managing to draw at home to AEK on Monday evening. PAOK did what we expected of them here, continuing their superb late run for the runners-up spot.

Suggestion: PAOK DNB @ 1.75
Actual Outcome: 2-0 (+1)
Fair Outcome: 1-0 (+1)

German Bundesliga 2
Eintracht Braunschweig 1-1 Stuttgart (Monday 7.15pm)
We advised caution due to Terrode’s broken nose and though the striker ended up playing, he was inhibited due to his face mask. Still, Stuttgart started well before getting too defensive and inviting pressure, surviving one penalty before conceding the second and clinging on for the remainder with ten men.

Suggestion: Stuttgart DNB @ 1.86
Actual Outcome: 1-1 (0)
Fair Outcome: 1-1 (0)

12 Suggestions
Total Actual Outcome: -1
Total Fair Outcome: +2.5

Weekend Preview 03/03/17

Highlights

English Premier League
Liverpool vs. Arsenal (Saturday 5.30pm)
BT Sport 1
This weekend threw up another big decision in terms of our headline game, but it is impossible to ignore the lure of Liverpool versus Arsenal in the Premier League. This has been quite a happy hunting ground for Arsene Wenger in the past and the visiting manager comes to Anfield with his team in better form, but perhaps a little rusty after almost two weeks without a fixture. The effect of such a break was seen in Liverpool’s terrible performance at Leicester on Monday evening, though having captain Henderson ruled out through injury didn’t help them.

He looks set to miss out again here, though does have an outside chance of returning at the time of writing, which would make the team news even. Lovren should recover to start in a boost, while for Arsenal it seems like Xhaka will return to partner Coquelin in midfield and that Ozil will shake off illness to begin. Things look incredibly well matched to us, which makes it a surprise to see Arsenal available at +0.5 and the goal line of 2.75 is also appealing to use as a combination. This leaves 1-0 or 2-0 as the only outcomes that can kill us.

Suggestion: Arsenal +0.5 @ 1.86 and Over 2.75 @ 1.95 

Italian Serie A
Roma vs. Napoli (Saturday 2pm)
Bet365
This looks like it could be superb and ran Liverpool versus Arsenal very close to be named as our headline game. Roma are fresh off a huge away win over Internazionale last week, while Napoli surprisingly lost at home to Atalanta to mean both sides are coming into this from very different angles. In addition the home side have the benefit of not playing again until Thursday night in the Europa League, while Napoli have a huge game with Real Madrid on Tuesday and were also in action in midweek when controversially losing to Juventus in the Coppa Italia.

Both sides are at relative full strength, with Roma only missing Florenzi and Napoli only without Allen, meaning that things are very steady and a little easier to judge in terms of quality. Given all of the scheduling advantages and recent form, we have to back the hosts with the security of a half loss on the draw, and we are also tempted by Over 2.75 but not willing to buy at a price of 1.78.

Suggestion: Roma -0.25 @ 1.83

German Bundesliga 1
Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayer Leverkusen (Saturday 2.30pm)
Bet365
Both of these sides have fallen quite a way in 2016/17 but this regional derby is always competitive and there are external factors that could make it closer than it initially appears. Dortmund are currently priced at -1 pushing -1.25, which looks a bit wide at first glance, especially when their massive Champions League second leg with Benfica is just on the horizon. Leverkusen only have the Bundesliga to focus on, but are struggling for belief and consistency.

In terms of the team news Dortmund are without Gotze indefinitely and have a 50/50 doubt over Papastathopoulos, which would weaken them at the back, while Leverkusen recover Wendell to be pretty much full strength. The visitors just have too many small edges to ignore off this sort of mark and we also think there could be value in Under 3.25 as a combination if the price moves a little beyond 1.80.

Suggestion: Bayer Leverkusen +1.25 @ 1.83

Spanish Primera Division
Eibar vs. Real Madrid (Saturday 3.15pm)
Bet365
Seventh placed Eibar welcome Real on Saturday, with this looking like a very difficult trip for Zidane’s men. Eibar have won 62% of home games this season, but their two losses of more than one goal were against Atletico and Barcelona, the only teams of Real’s calibre in the division. The visitors have a huge trip to Napoli in the Champions League to consider on Tuesday evening, but they cannot afford to let up having fallen behind Barcelona in the table (although they do have a game in hand). However, no Ronaldo or Bale makes this line look a little on the high side, especially with Real suffering their first wobble of the season. If Eibar show any belief they should have enough to trouble.

Suggestion: Eibar +1 @ 1.80

English Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Everton (Sunday 1.30pm)
Sky Sports 1
North London versus Merseyside bookends our highlights section this week, with second-placed Tottenham hosting in-form Everton in a contest that is usually very difficult to call. Kane, Alderweireld and Vertonghen are all minor doubts for the hosts, who definitely miss Rose, while Everton are again only without Bolasie and are generally very settled. The visitors should come here looking to deploy a cautious plan and they have been defending better recently, though haven’t really been tested too much in their recent run, while Tottenham will naturally look to come out firing. We think this one could be very tight indeed.

Suggestion: Under 2.75 @ 1.91

Ones to Watch

French Ligue 1
Bordeaux vs. Olympique Lyonnais (Friday 7.45pm)
BT Sport ESPN
Both of these sides have hit top form lately, having been frustratingly inconsistent for much of the season. Lyon have found their shooting boots with 20 goals in their last four matches, while Bordeaux have won their last five in all competitions. This looks like it has goals in it.

Suggestion: Over 2.75 @ 1.81

English Championship
Huddersfield Town vs. Newcastle United (Saturday 5.30pm)
Sky Sports 1
Newcastle won a huge promotion battle with Brighton on Tuesday and Huddersfield lost heavily to Man City in the FA Cup on Wednesday. This one is also pivotal because Benitez’ men could effectively eliminate Huddersfield from the promotion race with a win. It has the potential to be very volatile.

Suggestion: Newcastle DNB @ 1.88 and Over 2 @ 1.80

English Championship
Blackburn Rovers vs. Wigan Athletic (Saturday 3pm)
Bet365
We go from the top of the Championship to the bottom, where this is the pick of the Saturday 3pms. Blackburn are 22nd and Wigan 23rd, both within striking distance of Bristol City in 21st. The derby factor adds further spice, but we think it could be a cagey one.

Suggestion: Under 2.25 @ 1.76

Greek Super League
PAOK vs. Olympiakos (Sunday 5.30pm)
N/A
Olympiakos have a solid lead in the table but PAOK would love to throw a spanner in the works by beating them here. Both had midweek cup ties to contend with and team news is even, meaning we’ll back the hosts to use their motivation wisely off a DNB line.

Suggestion: PAOK DNB @ 1.75

German Bundesliga 2
Eintracht Braunschweig vs. Stuttgart (Monday 7.15pm)
BT Sport 1
Leaders Stuttgart head to fourth-placed Braunschweig in what looks like a very tricky away test, especially when considering star striker Terrode is a 50/50 doubt with a broken nose. His involvement will have a huge bearing on the line so checking the line-ups an hour before kick-off is vital here.

Suggestion: Stuttgart DNB @ 1.86

*Odds accurate at time of writing