FFT's betting partner, Bet Butler, points you in the right direction ahead of this weekend's action around Europe...
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Chelsea welcome Manchester United to Old Trafford in a huge afternoon for both sides on Sunday afternoon, before Atletico Madrid face off against Sevilla as they bid to continue their superb start to the La Liga campaign.
There's also a big game in Holland as Ajax take on PSV in Amsterdam, the hosts hoping to extend their six-game winning run in the Eredivisie.
We'll also give you the lowdown on the sides missing key men and begging to be taken on - featuring Sampdoria, Sassuolo and Swansea, who face Tottenham on Sunday at the Liberty Stadium.
Chelsea vs Man United (Sun, 4pm)
This season's first meeting between these teams was a drab 0-0 probably best forgotten. With Arsenal and Manchester City both hosting bottom-six teams this weekend, Chelsea will probably need to win to stay within three points of the lead. United, meanwhile, know they can't afford to drop too many more points. Hopefully, then, the significance of this game creates more excitement.
Chelsea are in decent form having won their last 4 matches, while United’s league form is also not too shabby with 5 wins from 6 games. The Blues' home form is particularly strong, however, as they’ve won 16 of their last 18 at Stamford Bridge (drawing the other 2) - and that also includes a superb W8 D1 L0 record against top-half teams. But they’ve beaten United just once in their last 6 meetings.
Nevertheless, with the champions bemoaning injury doubts against Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra, Chelsea should be backed at 8/11.
Chelsea have conceded just 1 goal in their last 5 games, and given their seven games this season against the current top eight have averaged just 1.57 goals per game, we shouldn’t expect a goal-fest. Similarly, United’s matches this season have averaged 2.81 goals per game but this drops to 2.0 against the current top eight, with 5 of 8 such matches seeing fewer than 2 goals. If neither of Rooney or Van Persie are fit then David Moyes must surely adopt a cautious approach and goals backers should go for Under 2.5 Goals at 8/11.
Fernando Torres must have been given some new scoring boots for Christmas, as he’s netted in both of Chelsea’s league games so far in 2014. And, since the start of last season, he’s netted in 4 of the Blues’ 10 home games against top-half teams. The Spaniard can be backed at 5/1 to score first again.
Atletico Madrid vs Sevilla (Sun, 8pm)
Only Barcelona have left the Vicente Calderon with anything this season, so anything less than an Atletico win would be a major surprise. Sevilla are on a good run, however, unbeaten in 7 games as well as losing just 1 of their last 7 on the road.
Atletico won 8 of 10 home games against top-half non-Big Two finishers last season and teams currently occupying those spots this term, but just 4 of the wins have been by more than 1 goal. Therefore, that could serve to side with Sevilla on the handicap. The Andalusians have already travelled to seven of the current top 10 this season, being beaten just 3 times, and on only 2 occasions by more than 1 goal.
Moreover, despite some terrible away form in the past couple of seasons they’ve been beaten by more than 1 goal in just 4 of 12 trips to top-six finishers. Sevilla can be backed on the Asian Handicap +1.5 at 1.90 and that looks a good price.
Over 2.5 Goals is a strong favourite in the goals markets and it’s not hard to see why. Sevilla have kept just 2 clean sheets in their last 26 away matches, and 17 of the games have seen at least 3 goals. This includes 7 of the last 9 – all of which they’ve also scored in. Furthermore, 6 of their last 7 trips to top-six teams have seen more than 2 strikes, with 4 having more than 3. With Atletico being the highest scorers at home this season – above both Barcelona and Real Madrid – Over 3.5 Goals looks the way to go at 2.55.
Ajax vs PSV (Sun, 3:30pm)
PSV may not be title challengers as the Eredivisie returns from its winter break, but they will take no little satisfaction in stopping Ajax claiming a fourth consecutive title. Injury to Georginio Wijnaldum that sidelined the 23-year-old for four months was a major blow, but the loan signing of Bryan Ruiz from Fulham should give them a greater attacking edge.
Ajax finished 2013 with 6 consecutive wins, and have thrashed PSV in this fixture in 4 of the past 5 seasons. While PSV did beat Ajax 4-0 in their first meeting this season, they have lost 5 of their last 6 away games and last season picked up just a point from their five trips to the top six finishers. As such, Ajax look the team to be backing at 1.70, particularly given that they’ve won 21/25 home games post-winter break since 2011 – with 20 wins by at least 2 goals.
Amazingly, PSV have kept just 1 clean sheet on the road since the start of last season and that was 22 games ago. Of their 26 away matches since 2012/13, 22 have seen at least 3 goals and 8 of the 11 games between these teams since 2008/09 have produced 4 or more strikes. With the extra goal threat we expect from PSV in the second half of the season, Over 3.5 Goals looks a decent price at 2.40.
Nenad Krsticic (Sampdoria)
Krsticic is a key midfielder for Sampdoria, and while they’ve lost 39% of the 33 matches he’s played in since the start of last season, this increases to 50% in the 24 he has missed. They’ve conceded 37% more goals per game without him. Juventus are flying right now and should cover the handicap.
Simone Zaza (Sassuolo)
Zaza’s strike partner Domenico Berardi got the attention last week for scoring all four against Milan, but Zaza has also been key to their hopes this season with five goals. In the 8 matches the pair have played together they’ve failed to score on just 2 occasions and lost only 3 times. In contrast they’ve lost 7/11 other matches, firing blanks on 6 occasions. Torino are in good form and a decent price at 2.60.
Pablo Hernandez (Swansea)
Hernandez has missed Swansea’s last couple of games, and their win rate since the start of last season has gone from 29% in the 34 matches with him, to just 17% in the 23 without. Furthermore, in the 12 home games he’s missed, the Swans' only win has come against then-bottom Sunderland. Tottenham have been good on the road this season and look good value at 2.40 against the weakened Welsh side.