Why Ajax and Real Madrid are tipped to get the better of Sunday's derby showdowns
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There's derby action in Holland, as table-toppers Ajax make the trip to arch rivals Feyenoord, who need a win to put pressure on second-placed Twente.
That's followed by the small matter of the Madrid derby at Vicente Calderon, where leaders Real will be looking to kill off Atletico's title challenge.
The Premier League action comes from South Wales, as a resurgent Crystal Palace bid to improve their survival hopes against Garry Monk's Swansea.
We'll also give you the lowdown on the teams missing key men and begging to be taken on - featuring Cardiff, Augsburg and Cagliari.
Feyenoord vs Ajax (Sun, 1:30pm)
De Klassieker features two in-form teams as Feyenoord have lost just 1 of their last 11 matches while Ajax have won 11 of 13 games unbeaten. Feyenoord have won only one of the 11 clashes since 2008/09 but at home their record is respectable having W1 D3 L1.
They’ve also been unbeaten at home against top-six finishers in each of the past two seasons, while this term they have W1 D1 L1 against current top-six sides. Ajax have gone six points clear as the sides around them have faltered and having conceded just 7 goals in their last 18 games the least they’ll expect will be a point. Since 2011/12 their record at top-six finishers and teams currently in the top six is W4 D6 L3, but they have a tendency to get stronger as the season goes on; winning all four matches that have come after January. At 2.3 on the Draw No Bet the leaders are worth backing to beat their fierce rivals.
In keeping with the Dutch league, matches between these two sides tend to feature goals, with both teams scoring in 8 of their 11 meetings since 2008/09. Goals have dropped off generally in the Eredivisie recently, but that tends to be the case at this time of year with bad weather and high winds making scoring harder. However, we’d expect that to start picking up again soon and both sides have had at least 4 goals in 13 of their 29 matches at home/away respectively since the start of last season.
We’ve mentioned Ajax’s good defensive record but Feyenoord have scored in 25 of their last 26 matches and have a fully fit squad. Backing Ajax to score 2 or more goals is worth considering at longer than 2.3 but Over 2.5 Match Goals looks a very good bet at 1.70.
Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid (Sun, 4pm)
Last season Atletico won 15 of their opening 20 home games before fading and this term they won 16 of their opening 18 before dropping points in 4 of their last 7 matches. While Atletico’s form has worsened Real’s has been improving, and 13 wins in 15 games have taken them three points clear.
Atletico ended their awful record against Real by winning at the Bernabeu earlier this season but they’ve recently lost home and away to their rivals in the cup. Since 2010/11 they’ve picked up just 1 point from 7 home matches against the Big Two, including five 2-1 defeats. In the same time Real have won 26 of 32 trips to top-half non-Big Two teams and at 2.10 they look a huge price.
This fixture has had at least 3 goals in each of the last 5 seasons and while the first meeting this term was a negative affair, Real have looked far better going forward since then. Cristiano Ronaldo should also return and in the 7 league matches that he’s played with Gareth Bale this season (both starting and completing an hour) Real have scored 24 goals with 4 of the last 5 seeing at least 5 goals. Over 2.5 Goals is superb value at 1.85.
Swansea vs Crystal Palace (Sun, 4:30pm)
Swansea have scored exactly twice as many goals as Crystal Palace this season but despite this they find themselves just two points above their opponents with both involved in the relegation fight. Garry Monk enjoyed a 3-0 derby win in his opening home game and there is definitely an argument that Swansea are worthy of a higher position, with their troubles mostly down to injuries to key players and a tough fixture list. The Swans won just 2 of their opening 11 home games this season but they’ve since won 2 in a row, and when excluding the current top seven their home record this term is an excellent W4 D3 L0. Furthermore, all those wins were to nil and by at least 2 clear goals. In fact, home or away their record this season against current bottom-half teams is W6 D5 L1.
Crystal Palace have scored just 18 goals and have failed to score in 7 of their 12 away matches this season as they’ve lost 10 times. Of the 27 teams in Premier League history to go into their 13th away game of the season having scored 6 or fewer away goals, 22 went on to lose. Swansea are better than their position suggests and are well worth backing at 1.80.
Swansea have kept 6 clean sheets in their last 9 home matches against bottom-half teams, with all those matches being goalless at half-time and 5 of the 9 games have finished with fewer than 3 goals. With Palace’s impotent attack ‘unders’ have to be favourite in the goals markets. Fifteen of Palace’s last 18 matches, including 7/8 on the road, have witnessed fewer than 3 goals and Under 2.5 Goals looks a great price at 1.75.
Gary Medel (Cardiff)
Last season Sevilla conceded 61% more goals per game in the 9 matches Medel missed for them compared to when he was playing. This season Cardiff have let in 136% more goals per game when Medel’s been absent, as they’ve lost all 4 matches while conceding at least 3 times on each occasion. Spurs will be looking for a confidence boosting win and can be backed to win by at least two goals at 1.95.
Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker (Augsburg)
Callsen-Bracker has been ever-present this season for Augsburg. Last term he missed 11 games and they won only 1, including a W1 D1 L3 record at home. Hannover tend to struggle on the road but they’ve won their last 3 games against Augsburg and can be backed at 2.1 on the handicaps to take at least a point.
Albin Ekdal (Cagliari)
Ekdal missed this fixture last season through suspension as Cagliari lost, and with captain Daniele Conti also out the Sicilians go into this game without their two most important midfielders. The Swede has missed 15 of their 31 home games since the start of last season and they’ve scored 28% fewer goals per game than when he’s been playing, with their win rate falling from 50% to 33%. Antonio Di Natale is back on form for Udinese having scored in 4 of his last 6 games and that makes Udinese a great price at 2.20 on the Draw No Bet.