Romania on the verge of a playoffs berth

romaniaThe recent victory over Hungary led many to believe that the team is as good as qualified for the playoffs, but the most important game is this one against Turkey. Granted Romania has a narrow margin advantage over the runner ups, they could still lose qualification by failing to earn at least one point tonight. In the remaining two rounds, they will face Estonia and Andorra, both teams that shouldn’t pose any problems.

On the other hand, the small Baltic country was on the verge of causing a major upset by defeating the Netherlands, but in the end had to settle for a 2-2 draw. They kept their opponents at bay after taking the lead they never let go, although a lucky goal conceded in the final minutes of the game denied them a chance for a historic victory. The bottom line is that they shouldn’t be underestimated and punters should also contemplate a handicap wager on Estonia as they travel to Budapest tonight.

Meanwhile, Turkey has a new coach as Fatih Terim was once again summoned to save whatever can still be saved and he didn’t let his fans down. The visitors are three points behind Romania and are still to face the Netherlands in the last game of the qualifying campaign, but they didn’t lose faith. Bulut and Ilmaz did a fine job in scoring four of the five goals against Andorra, a couple of weeks after scoring one goal each in the 2-2 draw against Ghana.

While their offensive shows clear signs of improvement, the Turks need to be particularly concerned about their defenses, as they allow an unreasonably high number of goals. This is exactly the weakness that coach Piturca hopes to capitalize on, after employing a successful strategy in Istanbul a couple of months ago. Back then, Romania played a defensive minded game and once it took the lead it never let go, a very likely scenario for the second leg.

Depending on the bookmaker they choose to wager with, punters can expect odds ranging from 2.20 all the way up to 2.40 for a home victory. Granted the Romanians wouldn’t be too upset if the game ended in a draw, this outcome is improbable, as the visitors will put any precaution away if the match will be heading into this direction. Whether they score the winning goal or sink themselves deeper into a hole, the draw is not an outcome to consider although the odds are above 3.00.

Fiorentina hopes to kick-start season with victory

fiorentinaIt’s been quite a while since Fiorentina achieved anything significant in the domestic championship, but the season they have a competitive squad. It all begins with a single step, and winning the opening match against Catania is a must for the hosts, if they are to stay within striking distance of the leading pack. All the better team of Serie A won their first games and this only amplifies the pressure on Fiorentina ahead of this fixture.

On the bright side, the club has played several friendly games after the regular season came to an end and won most of them. Twice they have scored seven goals in a single match, although it is only fair to mention that their opponents were teams playing in the inferior Italian leagues. Sporting Lisbon on the other hand made short work of Fiorentina and scored three goals without conceding one, proving that the road to recovery is still a long and twisted one for the former Italian champions.

Fiorentina will be fighting a battle on two fronts as they are involved in the Europa League as well and have good reasons to be optimistic ahead of the second leg. They’ve won in Switzerland by two goals to one against Grasshoppers and are overwhelming favorites to advance to the group stage. Meanwhile they need to deal with an opponent that never gave them too many headaches, especially when traveling to Florence. The head to head record translates into seven victories for the hosts and one draw.

While the visitors are still seeking their first victory away from home, they are also aware of the difference in skill and experience between the two sides. Interesting enough, Catania didn’t play a single friendly game since the regular season came to an end, which makes it very hard to estimate their form. The statistics posted at can give an insight about how this team performs on the road, and should help punters reach a profitable conclusion.

What is certain is that Bergressio will feature up front as the only striker after scoring 13 goals last season and being the most prolific striker for Catania. It is this player that Fiorentina will have to contain tonight if they are to keep a clean sheet and add the eighth home victory over this opponent. The odds are not extraordinary, but they reflect the difference between the two teams and they can be boosted by placing the half time/full time wager or trusting the hosts to cover the -1.5 goals spread.

Porto and Guimaraes aim another trophy in 2013

Porto and Guimaraes aim another trophy in 2013Porto was undefeated in the domestic championship but even so had to wait until the very last rounds to win the trophy. Runner-ups Benfica gave them a run for their money and things could’ve actually gone either way for the reigning champions. Guimaraes on the other hand, didn’t fare too well in the national competition but emerged victorious in the Portuguese Cup. With one trophy secured in 2013, the two teams will aim the second and bookmakers regard Porto as overwhelming favorites.

There appears to be a consensus among bookies to price the visitors at odds that don’t exceed 1.30, which represents no value whatsoever. A quick glance at the head to head record shows that Porto was indeed the dominant force in previous encounters and won by two or three goals. To be more precise, the two teams met 19 times and the favorites emerge victorious on 17 occasions, with Guimaraes having a single victory to brag about.

This match will be played on a neutral venue, at Aveiro on the municipal Stadium which means that no team will have home pitch advantage. Guimaraes drew most of the games played away from home and are tempted to defend with two lines on such occasions, especially when they are pit against a better opponent. Fernando Russi and Marco Matias are their best strikers and they will pair up front tonight, with coach Rui Vitoria being faithful to his 4-4-2 starting formation.

It goes without saying that his team will be under a barrage of shoots and veteran goalkeeper Douglas Jesus will need to play his A-game to deflect all of them. Brazilians are not famous for being amazing goalkeepers, but Guimaraes management doesn’t seem to care as both Jesus and his reserve come from this country. In fact, there are Brazilian players scattered throughout all lines and their appetite for offensive plays causes them to come up front quite often.

Porto prefers Colombian strikers and although they failed to keep Rodriguez in their lineup, they can still rely on Martinez and Quintero. The young and promising player left for Monaco, where he will play alongside his more famous countryman Falcao. The Portuguese team will need to replace him and coach Paulo Fonseca is experimenting with different players to find one to pair up with Martinez. He was the top scorer in 2012 with 26 goals to his name and this is the main threat for Guimaraes.

Porto doesn’t field a particularly offensive starting formation but their advantage resides in the fact that opponents are more concerned about preventing them from scoring than taking the initiative. This is very likely to happen tonight when Guimaraes will wait for their opponents to commit a mistake and score on the counterattack, without exposing themselves too much. To make the game more exciting, punters can place a medium stake bet on the underdogs not to lose by two goals or more. Most bookmakers offer odds that exceed 2.00, which cover the risk of Porto winning by a landslide.

Partizan hopes that experience supersedes form

The Serbian team suffered quite a scare the previous round, when they were unable to defeat a modest opponent from Armenia. Eventually they advanced to the next qualifying round due to the fact that they scored a goal away from home and settled for a scoreless draw in Belgrade. Once again, they will be playing the first round on the road but this time they encounter a much more difficult opponent, the Bulgarian team Ludogorets. Their opponents are favorites to prevail in the first round, at least if we are to listen to what bookmakers have to say as that given odds that revolve around the value of 1.80.


There are a couple of arguments besides odds in favor of the Bulgarian team, including their whole performance against Slovan Bratislava in the previous round. They fielded a highly offensive starting formation featuring three strikers, all of them from Brazil hoping to reverse a 2-1 defeat in Bratislava. They did exactly that by scoring three goals without conceding one, but what is surprising is that none of the strikers got their names on the scoring board.

The midfield on the other hand was brilliant and Dani Abalo stood out from the crowd once again by scoring twice in less than 10 min. Their opponents were clearly overwhelmed by the offensive prowess of Ludogorets and didn’t expect the hosts to be so aggressive in the first half. This is where Partizan’s superior experience might come in handy as the Serbian team is quite used to playing decisive games that grant access to European cups. The Serbian team will be aiming another draw and then hope that the second leg played in Belgrade will once again deliver the much needed victory.

It would be an overstatement to say that Partizan did a good job in the previous round, because drawing 1-1 in Armenia against a modest opponent was no reason to celebrate. Nevertheless, coach Rasovic will use  a single striker upfront, the young Kojic who missed several opportunities in the double legged round against Shirak. He has several alternatives and replacing Kojic in the second half regardless of result wouldn’t come as a surprise as Rasovic performed that moved in recent official and friendly games.

The odds for the hosts to prevail are simply too low for this type of bet to hold any value, not to mention that Ludogorets is yet to prove its worth in Europe. The Bulgarian side has the advantage of better form and it definitely helps that the domestic championship has begun and players got some games in their boots. What they don’t have is a track record in European competitions and even making the group stage in the Champions League is an intimidating task.

A more profitable wager appears to be backing the visitors not to lose this game, now that bookmakers offer even odds for this outcome. We don’t expect them to last for too long, but punters who act quickly can capitalize on them and it is very likely for them to double their investment.

Viktoria Plzen aims its second trophy in 2013

After winning the championship, Viktoria Plzen will try to grab another trophy by defeating Jablonek in the Super Cup and bookmakers seem to agree that they are favorites tonight. It was a rather long and tedious championship, but at the end of the year Viktoria Plzen prevailed at the expense of the two teams from the capital city. Sparta and Slavia Prague had to settle for the second and third place, while Jablonek finished outside the podium and won’t even play in Europa League this fall.


What they can do, is winning the Super Cup and in order to cause a major upset in Plzen they resort to an offensive starting formation featuring three strikers. The problem resides in the fact that the 4-3-3 squad relies on one prolific attacker, and except for Cizek they have very few players capable of penetrating Viktoria Plzen’s defenses. The main concern remains sealing off the defensive gaps and finding a way to contain Marek Bakos, the Slovenian striker that the hosts will used up front.

He scored 10 goals last year and firmly stands at the top of the list, which makes him a permanent threat for the visiting team. Over the course of time, Jablonek earned more points but recently they struggle to stay afloat and had to settle for draws in most games. Sometimes numbers speak louder than letters and can provide punters with rock-solid figures. They all suggest that Viktoria Plzen is the team to back tonight, with the average odds standing at 1.80.

Saving face in Confederations Cup

With Brazil hosting the tournament and Italy playing in the same group, it was only natural for Japan and Mexico to fight for the third place. What few people expected in the wake of Confederations Cup was that none of these two teams would have one point after two rounds. Now that they meet in the final game of the group stage, the outcome is irrelevant because regardless of winner Italy and Brazil will advance to the next round. This doesn’t make it any less important for the two teams to win, because nobody wants to leave without a point from a tournament aimed at preparing them for the World Cup.


Japan is the slight underdog in this confrontation, with most bookmakers offering odds of 2.80 for a regulation time victory. Granted they lost both games against Brazil and Italy, they were impressive in the final match and scored three goals against the Europeans. After taking an early lead, the Asian team extended it just a couple of minutes later but the second half shattered their dreams of advancing further in the competition. Italy scored three times and even though Japan tied the scores with a couple of minutes left in the game, they couldn’t hold on and eventually lost 3-4.

This says a great deal about their defensive issues, but on the other hand proves that they’ve got what it takes to keep one of the best defensive teams in the world under pressure. The fact that Italy conceded three goals is surprising and gives punters the heads-up ahead of the game against Mexico. The North Americans lost two games as well, but they only scored once and they were never in control of either games. Obviously, they will try to change their fortunes in the last game and save face by defeating Japan, but this means that they will take more chances defensively.

The game could easily go either way, but those who seek value in odds have to go with Japan tonight as 2.8 is a great offer from bookmakers. Another way to tackle this game would be to bet on more than 2.5 goals to be scored, counting on another defensive meltdown from Japan. This type of wager has the benefit of turning into a winner even if the two teams don’t go at each other’s throats from the first minute, because in both cases the offensive is more effective than the defense.


No happy ending in Deportivo vs Sociedad

In the final rounds of any regular season, many teams choose to field their second squad or deliberately play a very defensive football. This happened because a draw benefits both teams or at least helps one without hurting the other, which makes it unnecessary for the two coaches to throw everything at each other. Fortunately for those who plan on watching Deportivo vs Sociedad fixture tonight this is not the case as the two teams are going to fight until the bitter end for a worthy goal.


The visitors have lost their slight advantage over Valencia and are now trailing their rivals by two points which makes it mandatory to win. Assuming they prevail in La Coruna, they still count on Sevilla not to lose at home, a not so impossible scenario given this team’s impressive home record. They’ve lost control over what happens, but Real Sociedad is known for staying positive and focused for all 90 minutes and they won’t give up tonight either.

Punters who are wondering whether it is worth backing them at these odds, could find the article at enlightening. This is not the first time that Sociedad finds itself in a do or die situation and so far the Basques rose to the challenge. What makes this game particularly intense is the fact that the hosts are in dire straits as well, and unless they win, it is very likely that they will be playing in Segunda Division next season.

There are some good news that need to be told, with one of them being the fact that Deportivo doesn’t depend on the other teams to win or not to lose. If they prevail at home against Real Sociedad, they are guaranteed to remain in Primera Division for one more season, which would be a just reward for an impressive late-season rally. Another positive thing is that all of their players have been recuperated except for midfielder Marchena, which gives coach Vazquez plenty of room to maneuver.

Their Portuguese strikers are in great form and now that top scorer Riki is fit to play, he will be the only Spanish striker to feature in the 3-4-3 starting formation. Being compelled to win, Deportivo will need to capitalize on home pitch advantage, without exposing themselves to dangerous counterattacks. This is not going to be an wait-and-see game, but an all-out war, which explains why the best choice for punters is to bet on more than 2.5 goals to be scored.

A Real challenge for Sociedad

Real Sociedad is sitting on the fourth place, the last one sending the team to the Champions League but their advantage over Valencia is negligible. Appearances can be deceiving, because the runner ups have an easier schedule in the remaining two rounds and are only separated by the head to head results. Now that the Bats will face Granada at home in a game that they are overwhelming favorites to win, Sociedad is bound to prevail at home against Real Madrid.


This appears to be a tall order, especially if we are to take into consideration the fact that the visitors won seven consecutive games. Real Sociedad is in a very similar situation to what Tottenham was a couple of weeks ago as stated at In order to avoid their fate, the host must field an aggressive starting formation featuring three strikers.

Normally this would not be a problem, but with Vela suspended for consecutive games, they will need to place all their hopes on Agirretxe. He scored 13 goals in 32 games and will pair up with French striker Griezmann, while Ifran will be kept on the bench and used in the second half if Sociedad fails to score. Estrada and Elustondo are the other two absentees for the hosts, but their role in the midfield is not that significant and replacing them is not a challenge for coach Montanier.

The visitors have injuries concerns of their own, with Sergio Ramos, Varane and Alonso missing due to injury while goalkeeper Casillas will be once again kept on the bench. His conflict with Mourinho caused him to miss most games this year and the iconic goaltender is definitely thrilled with the prospect of the Portuguese coach departing at the end of the season.

Those who will feature in the starting formation are not too motivated to win and will give their best in the final round, as this game will be played at Santiago Bernabeu. Bookmakers are offering virtually identical odds for the two teams to prevail, with Real Sociedad’s superior motivation being the reason for why the hosts are not underpriced. Punters should consider the prospect of backing them at full stakes, but mitigate the risks of the game ending in a draw, by using the cover of an Asian handicap.

Barcelona tries to pick the pieces at home

Following their humiliating exit from the Champions League, the Catalans are trying to appease the fans by winning the home game against Betis. They are struggling with some important injuries, and morale is at its lowest while motivation virtually inexistent. Messi is uncertain for this game and the most likely thing to happen is for the Argentinian striker to feature only a couple of minutes in the first half.


There is no point in aggravating his ailment so Villanova will replace him immediately after noticing any signs of distress. Fabregas, Puyol and Mascherano are also sidelined, which means that the backline and midfield gaps will once again be filled with less experienced players. Bayern made short work of the sub-par team fielded in the second leg, and Betis could cause another upset at Nou Camp.

The visitors are fighting for a chance to prove their worth in Europa League, but they stand four points behind Valencia and are huge underdogs to qualify. Normally, Sevilla would gladly settle with for single point in Barcelona but this time they have nothing to lose and need to take more chances upfront. After squandering an excellent opportunity of closing the gap separating them from the sixth place by drawing at home against Deportivo, coach Pepe Mel will need to aim higher.

Football fans and punters alike are in for a treat because the visitors will do something they’ve never attempted in more than a decade. Betis will field an overly aggressive starting formation with two strikers, Molina and Castro scoring a combined 27 goals in 29 games. The best chance the visitors have is to force the hosts into their own half and shoot as often as they can towards the net defended by Valdez. This strategy could easily backfire and if Barcelona suddenly awakens from its slumber, the visitors could suffer a humiliating defeat.

The odds for something like this to happen are slim and bookmakers are once again overpricing Barcelona despite the recent results. One way for punters to tackle this is by backing the visitors not to lose by two goals or more, with the odds hovering above 2.10. Everyone expects more than 2.5 goals to be scored and the odds are reflecting this reality, so there is no real value in betting on a scoring festival.

The Champions League within reach

If there is one thing for which Manchester City deserves the respect of both fans and competitors, then this has to be the fighting spirit displayed by the team throughout the season. History gives them plenty of reasons to stay motivated and never give up, as the Blues have won the Premier League title one year ago in the final round. There are now 12 points behind their city rivals, but with one game in hand and a rather easy schedule for the remaining rounds they have solid arguments for keeping the dream alive.

Manchester City

Winning at White Hart Lane against Tottenham is easier said than done, especially with the two teams having identical records. The Hotspurs won half of the 16 games played at home, just like City did away and even their goal average is very similar. The difference resides in the fact that Manchester city won four consecutive games while their opponents drew the last three games. What is particularly worrisome for Tottenham is that they’ve conceded two goals in each of the last four rounds.

Their morale is at its lowest after failing to advance in the semifinals of Europa League against Basel following another, thrilling double legged round. Lady luck no longer smiled benevolently upon them as she did in Milan and now Tottenham has only the Premier League to focus on. The stakes are as high as they get because a string of convincing performances in the remaining rounds could see them climbing as high as the third place.

By accomplishing something like this, they would play in the Champions League at the end of 2013 and the only question is whether they will advance directly or following a playoff. Either way, the hosts need to hand Manchester City the first defeat in over a month, and this can only be done if the defensive gaps are hermetically closed. The visitors are chasing what many regard as an elusive objective, but they have nothing to lose and will throw everything they’ve got at Tottenham.

The worst-case scenario is to present their opponents with sufficient openings in their defense and suffer a rare defeat, but this won’t jeopardize their place. Chelsea is seven points away and will meet some very difficult teams in the remaining rounds, not to mention they are also playing in the Europa league semifinals. This promises to be an exciting game to watch, and a juicy side bet on over 2.5 goals to be scored should generate some profits as well.