FFT's betting partner, Bet Butler, offers you a helping hand as the latest round of matches across Europe approach...
The weekend's football action is almost upon us, and Bet Butler are back to offer you some advice on where to put your shiny pound.
They've got tips on three of Europe's biggest games, starting with 4th vs 1st in the Premier League as Liverpool host Arsenal at Anfield. Later on Saturday evening, Clarence Seedorf's Milan take on Rafael Benitez'z Napoli in Serie A.
Meanwhile in La Liga, Real Madrid face Villarreal at the Bernabeu without Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, who begins a three-match ban after getting sent off at Athletic Bilbao last time out. Gareth Bale is expected to be fit.
We'll also give you the lowdown on the sides missing key men and begging to be taken on - featuring West Bromwich Albion, Chievo and Bradford City.
Liverpool vs Arsenal (Sat, 12:45pm)
Arsenal, in recent seasons, have been characterised by their awful record against the league’s other top teams. In the four seasons prior to this, they lost 12 and won only 2 of 20 away matches against other top-six finishers, while their equivalent home record of W8 D6 L6 is hardly stellar either. In a season that has marked a revival of sorts they continue to struggle in these matches, having lost at both Manchester clubs – the only sides in the top seven they’ve visited so far.
Liverpool have beaten both Everton and Man United at home this season as they’ve won 10 of their 12 Anfield matches. That they still have to play four of the current top six at home suggests their stats are slightly skewed, but they’ve been undoubtedly impressive there this season. However, in the previous two seasons the Reds won 0 of their 8 home games against top-four finishers (W0 D5 L3) and with 1 win in 3 games since Lucas’ injury it may be that run continues. Furthermore, it’s been almost seven years since Liverpool beat Arsenal at Anfield in the league and the draw looks the best value in the match odds at 3.55.
Over 2.5 Goals is predictably short here given Liverpool’s record of 3 or more goals in 16 of their last 19 games including 4 or more goals in 8 of their last 9 at home. However, Arsenal have kept 10 clean sheets in 16 matches with 7 of their last 10 games being goalless at half-time. Only Fulham have kept fewer clean sheets than Liverpool in their last 20 games, but only 14 of the 27 Arsenal away matches in which they’ve scored since the start of last season have had more than 2 goals and the goals markets look best avoided.
Real Madrid vs Villarreal (Sat, 7pm)
With Real Madrid and Barcelona both dropping points last weekend Atletico moved three points clear. Villarreal, meanwhile, are Athletic Bilbao’s closest challengers for the final Champions League spot.
Their first meeting this season ended 2-2 but back at the Bernabeu things are likely to be different. Real have won 26 of their last 28 home games, with 22 wins by at least 2 goals, and while their attack has been below par in recent games their defence has been excellent. Furthermore, since the start of last season they’ve beaten the -1.5 handicap in 11 of 13 home games against top-half non-Big Two teams.
Villarreal have lost 4 of their last 7 away matches including their only two trips to top-six sides this season. They will also be below full strength here as top-scorer Uche was injured in their last game, and there are doubts over key centre-back Mateo Musacchio and captain Bruno Soriano. Ronaldo is suspended for Real but they should still win handsomely here, particularly with Bale expected to be fit again, and at 2.05 to beat the -1.5 Asian Handicap they look outstanding value.
18 of Real’s last 27 home matches, including 8/13 against top-half non-Big Two sides, have had at least 4 goals. But with both teams missing their top scorers the Asian Handicap looks a better bet here.
Napoli vs Milan (Sat, 7:45pm)
The knives are sharpening for Rafa Benitez after three consecutive failures against weak opposition have left them fighting to hold onto third spot in Serie A. Coupled with Benitez’s poor tactics earlier this season against Dortmund that arguably cost them a place in the knockout stages of the Champions League, it means many more mistakes and the Spaniard could be looking for a new job.
Napoli are yet to host any of the top-six this season, while they’ve already hosted all the bottom-six. Nevertheless they’ve failed to win 4 times at home already and have won only 2 of their last 11 meetings with Milan, 6 of which have finished level.
Milan have been very poor this season but all 5 of their away defeats have been by just 1 goal and they are unbeaten in Seedorf’s 3 games in charge. With both teams being so inconsistent almost anything could happen and Napoli look a touch short, so we’d back Milan +0.5 on the Asian Handicap at 1.90.
Both teams' matches this season average over 3 goals per game. Since the start of last season 20 of Milan’s 30 away games have had at least 3 goals, including 11 of the last 13. Furthermore, 7 of their last 10 trips to top-half teams have had at least 4 strikes. Napoli have had more than 2 goals in 18 of their 30 home games since the start of last season including in 7 of 11 hosting top-half teams. With both teams looking better going forward than defending Over 2.5 Goals looks a great bet at 1.85.
Jonas Olsson (West Brom)
Olsson got injured against Liverpool and since the Baggies were promoted in 2010/11 he’s missed just 23 games. Without him West Brom have failed to keep a single clean sheet and since 2011/12 they’ve picked up just 2 points from the 8 games he’s missed. Both teams to score looks good price at 2.0.
Ivan Radovanovic (Chievo)
Chievo have some defensive problems this week with holding midfielder Radovanovic suspended alongside Nicholas Frey and key defender Dario Dainelli an injury doubt. Chievo have conceded less than a goal per game in Radovanovic’s 15 appearances this season while in the 7 games he’s missed they’ve let in 15 and lost every time. Udinese won last weekend and are worth backing at 1.85 to triumph again.
James Meredith (Bradford)
Meredith has missed 20 of Bradford’s games since the start of last season and despite most those matches being in their League Two promotion campaign they’ve won just twice without him. This includes failing to win any of the 8 home matches he’s missed and Crewe can be backed at 1.85 on the Asian Handicap +0.5.