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It's 2nd against 4th in Germany on Saturday evening as Bayer Leverkusen host Schalke with both sides looking to secure a Champions League spot along with champions-elect Bayern Munich.
That clash is then followed by an equally tantalising one in Italy, with 4th meeting 5th in the form of Fiorentina against Inter Milan, with La Viola buoyant after reaching the Coppa Italia final in midweek.
The weekend's tipping concludes in Spain as Sevilla (7th) host Valencia (8th); a victory for either side will keep hopes of European qualification alive.
Leverkusen vs Schalke (Sat, 5:30pm)
This is a huge game for both teams as Leverkusen chase second and Schalke a Champions League spot. After a poor run recently, Leverkusen have won their last two games, while Schalke have won three in a row since.
Leverkusen have won 18 of their last 20 home games excluding against Bayern and Dortmund, and since the start of last season they’ve won all 5 hosting teams that finished 3rd-6th last term and are occupying those spots this. Schalke have been relatively poor on the road in recent seasons, losing 7 of 10 trips to top-six finishers in the past two years and also both matches to current top-six sides this term. With injuries affecting the Schalke squad, including to Julian Draxler, Roman Neustaedter and Atsuto Uchida, Leverkusen look good value to take all three points at 2.10.
Both teams’ recent matches have been lower scoring than usual, as 6 of Leverkusen’s last 10 have had fewer than 2 goals and Schalke have conceded just 1 goal in their last 5. With 7 of the last 8 meetings between these teams seeing fewer than 3 goals, and just 1/8 had both teams scoring, we could be in for a close game. Leverkusen’s last 5 matches against the current top seven have witnessed just 8 goals and Under 2.5 Goals is a good looking price at 2.30.
Fiorentina vs Inter (Sat, 7:45pm)
Fiorentina look the only side capable of pressuring the top three in Serie A for a Champions League spot as they sit eight points ahead of fifth-placed Inter. They may have been slightly inconsistent in the past month, having dropped points against Cagliari and Genoa, but that has been nothing compared with Inter’s troubles. The away side have won only 2 of their last 11 matches and just 1 of 9 on the road, including defeats in their last 4.
Fiorentina’s home form has been excellent this season and they’ve won 20/30 here since the start of last season, including 5 of their last 6. Furthermore, they’ve won 8/14 home games against top-half teams, including 5/10 against top-six sides. Borja Valero’s suspension is a blow for La Viola, who are already without the injured Giuseppe Rossi, but Inter have their own injury problems and at 2.10 Fiorentina deserve to be backed.
However, Inter have scored in 8 of their last 9 trips to top-half sides with 5 seeing at least 4 goals. Fiorentina defence has been solid recently but the majority of their wins come despite conceding. They’ve conceded in 10/11 home games against top-half sides (6 wins, including 5 despite conceding) with 8 seeing more than 3 goals. Fiorentina could settle the Over 2.5 Goals market on their own and at 1.85 ‘overs’ look a decent bet.
Sevilla vs Valencia (Sun, 8pm)
Sevilla have lost their last 3 games despite playing some good football, and have now slipped six points off the European places. Valencia, meanwhile, have had two big wins to boost their confidence after a turbulent January with players coming and going, and discussions over a new owner stalling.
Sevilla are one of the most dangerous teams going forward while Valencia tend to be vulnerable on the road. Before their shock win over Barcelona they’d lost 7 of their previous 11 away matches. Moreover, since the start of last season Valencia have lost 7 of 11 trips to top-half finishers and teams currently in the top half excluding the Big Two. They’ve also lost 6 of their last 8 games against Sevilla. The home side would have been odds-on a couple of weeks ago but they look great value to win this fixture for a fifth consecutive year at 2.10.
Valencia’s last two games have both finished with 5 goals but with the recent departures of Ever Banega and Andres Guardado we would probably expect their goals totals to drop slightly. You’d need to be brave to back under-goals in a Sevilla game, however, as both teams have scored in 18 of their last 21 matches with 11 having at least 4 goals. We wouldn’t put anyone off backing Over 2.5 Goals but with Valencia having scored more than once in just 1 of 11 away matches this season we’ll leave it alone at the current prices.
Ivan Rakitic has been one of La Liga’s standout performers this season and has scored in 5 of his last 8 home appearances. He’s netted in half his last 10 appearances, home or away, against top-half non-Big Two teams. He’s also bagged at both Barcelona and Real Madrid this season and we’d expect him to raise his game again as his side face another of Spain’s big names.
Nicky Bailey (Millwall)
Bailey has missed 11 of Millwall’s 30 games since joining at the start of the season and without him they’ve scored 13% fewer goals per game than with him, and conceded 61% more. This has resulted in them losing 8 of the matches he’s missed. Bolton have had a poor season but they’ve lost only 1 of 12 matches against teams currently in the bottom half (W6 D5 L1) and look good value at 1.90 on the Draw No Bet.
Luca Cigarini (Atalanta)
Cigarini has missed just 16 games since the start of last season but without him Atalanta’s loss rate has gone from 44% to 62%, including losses in half the 8 home games he’s missed. Parma are unbeaten in 11 games and could go level with Inter if they win. At 2.0 they are a great price on the Draw No Bet.
Mats Hummels, Neven Subotic (Dortmund)
Dortmund have been savaged by injuries this season and both their first choice centre-backs are out this weekend at home to Eintracht Frankfurt. Since the start of last season Hummels and Subotic have started together in half Dortmund’s 54 matches and they’ve conceded just 28 goals. In the other 27 games they’ve conceded 38, with just 1 clean sheet in the last 22 where at least one of the pair was missing. They still carry a great goal threat, however, so Both Teams to Score looks outstanding value at 1.80.