FFT's betting partner, Bet Butler, offers you a helping hand ahead of the weekend's games in England, Italy and Spain...
If you're wondering where to stick your hard-earned cash at the bookies this weekend, look no further than Bet Butler's number-crunched advice. They've got clashes in the Premier League, Serie A and La Liga covered so you don't have to, and identified teams around the world missing key men and begging to be taken on. So without further ado...
Chelsea vs Arsenal (Sat, 12:45pm)
Chelsea have won this fixture in 3 of the past 4 seasons, and another victory here could almost eliminate one of their rivals for the title. Since Jose Mourinho regained control, the Blues have been superb at home with 13 wins from 15 matches this season, and further back they are unbeaten in 24 home games. Moreover, they’ve already hosted eight of the other teams currently in the top half this season and beaten them all.
Arsenal, in contrast, have been thrashed at Liverpool and Manchester City this term, and in the previous four seasons they lost 10 of 12 trips to top-four finishers. The Gunners did record a good win at Spurs last weekend, but they might be facing Chelsea at a bad time after the Blues’ shock defeat last weekend; since 2010/11 Chelsea have won 14 of 19 home games following a defeat, with just one reverse. Overall, Chelsea look clear favourites and at 2.0 represent a bit of value.
Both teams have generally been solid defensively this season, and it would be a surprise to see a goal-fest here even considering Arsenal's shocking defensive performances at Liverpool and Man City this season. Chelsea put four past Spurs in the second half of their last home game, but in their current 24-game home unbeaten streak they’ve scored twice on 14 occasions and three or more goals just 6 times. Half of those 24 matches have seen 2-3 goals, as have 5 of their last 8 home games against top-six teams, which have included 6 wins by exactly one goal. Chelsea to win by one is a great price at 3.95, while 2-3 match goals can be backed at 2.0.
Sampdoria vs Hellas Verona (Sun, 2pm)
Sampdoria have won half of their last 14 matches to ease any early-season worries, when they won just twice in their first 14 games. In contrast, Verona have slipped with 6 defeats in 10 games and now look likely to finish in mid-table.
Sampdoria have won 4 of their last 8 home matches, with their only defeat coming against Milan, and they’ve lost just 2 of their last 12 home games against middle-third teams. Verona’s recent decline can partly be attributed to their decision to sell Jorginho to Roma in January. The Brazilian’s last game was a 3-0 loss to Napoli, and in the 9 games since they’ve scored 9 times but conceded 16. Their only wins have come against struggling Livorno and Sassuolo. They’ve done well on the road this season against the poorer teams, having taken 10 points from the current bottom four, but otherwise they’ve lost 7 of 9 away matches while conceding 2.33 goals per game.
Furthermore, while Sampdoria are close to full strength, the visitors are likely to be missing key attacking players Juan Gomez and Emil Hallfredsson. The home win is 2.0 and looks great value.
With doubts about Verona’s ability to score here – they’ve failed to net in their last 3 games – we’d go against Verona’s general over-goals trend this season. While 9 of heir 13 away matches have seen at least three strikes, their general decline has also produced fewer than three goals in 3 of their last 6 games on the road. Moreover, 9 of Sampdoria’s last 13 home matches against middle-third teams have seen fewer than three strikes and 9 of the last 11 saw the first goal come after 30 minutes. Under 2.5 Goals offers a good option here at 1.80.
Real Madrid vs Barcelona (Sun, 8pm)
Real Madrid are unbeaten since defeat in the first Clasico this season. They’ve won 15 of 18 matches in that spell, and with 10 clean sheets in their last 15 games, are performing superbly at both ends of the pitch. Furthermore, Real have won each of their last 9 home games by at least two goals.
Barcelona won 7-0 last weekend, with Lionel Messi scoring a hat-trick, and on the back of a dominant display in the Champions League they will hope their poor form is behind them. However, while they’ve won their last 3 home matches by seven, three and six goals respectively, on the road they’ve won only 2 of their last 7 games and are looking to avoid a third consecutive away defeat. With just one point from their three trips to the current top five this season, Barca may be in for a tough night. The Catalans have failed to win any of their three trips to the Bernabeu since the start of last season, and backing Real Madrid on the Asian Handicap -0.25 looks a great price at 2.05.
Goals tend to feature when these teams clash. The last 14 meetings in all competitions have seen both teams score, but Real certainly come into this game in better defensive form than before. Barca, meanwhile, have failed to score in 4 of their last 10 away matches, and half of their 14 away games this term have seen fewer than three goals. Both Barca’s games against Real and Atletico this season have been somewhat cagey affairs, but with the attacking quality on display we could easily see an early goal open the game up and will leave the goals markets alone.
Jonas Olsson (West Brom)
Since 2011/12 Olsson has missed just 10 games for West Brom, and without him they are yet to win. Furthermore, they’ve conceded first in all 10 games, although they’ve come back to draw on three occasions. A Hull win is a tempting 2.15, but these are nervous times in the bottom half and it might pay to have some cover on the draw.
Nadir Ciftci (Dundee)
Dundee United’s top scorer is suspended, and this season they’ve scored 2.06 goals per game with Ciftci compared to just 1.42 in the 12 matches he’s missed. Furthermore, while 65% of the 17 games he’s played have produced +2.5 goals, this falls to just 50% without him. Under 2.5 Goals can be backed at 2.20.
Stephen Gleeson (MK Dons)
Gleeson has played 67% of MK Dons’ matches since the start of last season, and they’ve conceded 44% more goals per game when he’s been missing, while scoring 23% fewer. As a result their loss rate has jumped from 29% with Gleeson to 48% without him. Stevenage are unbeaten in their last six games and can be backed at 2.85 to take all three points.