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They've got games in the Premier League, La Liga and Ligue 1 covered this week, as well as picking out the men missing around Europe whose teams just can't cope without them.
Man City vs Southampton (Sat, 12:45pm)
Manchester City will be pleased with a return of four points from their last two away games at Arsenal and Man United. With two games in hand they are now clear favourites for the title, and this is the first of five remaining home games they will expect to win. City have won 13 of 14 home matches this season, and 10 of those victories have been by more than one goal.
Southampton are unlikely to make it easy, however, having won three of their last four matches and looking particularly impressive as they trashed Newcastle last weekend. They’ve scored in their last 10 away matches. Furthermore, they netted in 9 of 11 trips to the top six last season and have done so again this term. Unfortunately they’ve also lost 9 of those games, including 7 defeats despite scoring.
They’ll do well to score more than once here, though, as City have conceded just 1 goal in their last 6 matches. City have evolved slightly in the second half of the season; possibly as a result of Sergio Aguero’s continued absence, 4 of their last 5 home wins have been by either one or two goals. Since the start of last season the Argentine has started and completed an hour in just 17 of 33 home games, and, while their win rate is almost identical with or without him, when he’s been playing they’ve won by at least two goals 59% of the time and by three or more in 41%. Without him those figures drop to 4% and 25% respectively. Southampton have the ability to cause problems, so we’d look at dutching City to win by one at 4.2, and City to win by two at 4.4 on the Winning Margin market.
Over 2.5 Goals is incredibly short at 1.47 given 5 of City’s last 7 matches have produced fewer than three goals. It is probably the form of Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez and Rickie Lambert that's causing this, but as they have a good chance of scoring we wouldn’t get involved with the goals markets at their current prices.
Real Sociedad vs Real Madrid (Sat, 7pm)
Real Madrid all but wrapped up their Champions League quarter-final in the first leg against Borussia Dortmund in midweek, and now face their toughest remaining league fixture. Last season Real Sociedad should have won this fixture but the game ended 3-3, and the last 4 times the two have met there have been at least 6 goals each time.
Sociedad beat Barcelona here a few games ago, and come into this game at full strength. In fact they’ve lost just 2 of their last 29 home matches, and it’s been 39 home games since they last lost by more than one goal. Real Madrid have a couple of worries ahead of this weekend with Cristiano Ronaldo a doubt. For all their excellence at times this season, Madrid have only won by more than one goal in 3 of their 16 away games – at the teams in 16th, 18th and 20th – and haven't won any of their 5 trips to the current top seven. However, Sociedad have been below their best since beating Barcelona and have lost 6 of 7 head-to-heads with Madrid since 2010/11, by exactly one goal in 2 of the last 3 seasons. Therefore we’d consider backing Madrid to win by exactly one goal at 4.25.
A stronger bet is that there will be goals here. 13 of Sociedad’s last 24 home matches have seen at least four goals, as have 9 of Real Madrid’s last 17 away games. Furthermore, 5 of Sociedad’s last 7 home games against top-six teams have produced at least four goals, as have all of their last 8 matches against the Big Two (7/8 +4.5 goals and 5/8 +5.5). With 8 of Madrid’s last 12 trips to top-half non-Big Two teams seeing four or more strikes 2.15 for Over 3.5 Goals looks a superb price.
Saint-Etienne vs Nice (Sun, 1pm)
Saint-Etienne secured a big win against local rivals Lyon last weekend to keep up the pressure on Lille in the battle for third. Looking at Nice’s away record this season it would be easy to say this will be a routine home win - after all, they've lost 9 of their last 12 games on the road. However, Nice have taken four points from trips to Bordeaux and Marseille in their last two away games, having benefitted from several key players returning to full fitness after an injury-hit season.
Saint-Etienne have conceded just twice in their last 8 home matches, and won 7 times. Against middle-third teams, however, they’ve won just 6 of 11 home games since the start of last season and have a poor record against Nice in recent years. Nice have won this fixture in 4 of the past 5 seasons. Didier Digard returned last weekend after seven games out, and having him Eric Bautheac and Dario Cvitanich all fit again is significant; Nice have lost just 4 of 15 away matches since the start of last season when all three have started and completed an hour, compared to losing 13 of 19 away games otherwise.
Nice have won 6 of their last 14 matches (W6-D3-L5), with just two defeats by more than one goal, and have every chance of upsetting Saint-Etienne here. At 1.90 on the Asian Handicap +1.0, Nice look great value.
Nicholas Frey (Chievo)
Frey has missed 24 of Chievo’s 69 games since the start of last season, and they’ve conceded 41% more goal per game without the defender than when he’s been playing. Moreover, they’ve lost 6 of the 12 home matches he’s missed, with half of those games seeing at least three goals. Chievo won the first Verona derby this season but Verona should get something this time and are 1.65 on the Double Chance.
Antonio Di Natale (Udinese)
Di Natale is set to miss the next three weeks, and in the 16 games he’s missed since the start of last season Udinese have won only once and failed to score 7 times. Fiorentina’s form is quite poor at the moment, but against a Udinese side shorn of their best player and with nothing to play for they should win at 1.70.
Emerson Borges (Livorno)
Borges has missed eight games this season, seven of which have been on the road, and without him Livorno have picked up just two points and conceded over two goals per game. Juventus are virtually on a victory parade already and should wrap up a comfortable win here. With Livorno missing their best defender Juve can be backed at 1.90 on the Asian Handicap -2.0.