Fixture Forecast: 5 must-see matches this weekend, with predictions

Yahoo Sports
Mohamed Salah and Liverpool trail Manchester City by one point with two matches left in the Premier League season. (Getty)
Mohamed Salah and Liverpool trail Manchester City by one point with two matches left in the Premier League season. (Getty)

Predicting the beautiful game can be a fool’s errand, but fortune favors the bold. Yahoo Soccer has run the stats and analyzed the form books for five of the biggest games this weekend …

Newcastle vs. Liverpool

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Liverpool currently finds itself 3-0 down at the halfway stage of a crucial Champions League tie — which is the exact situation in which the Reds found themselves at the 2005 Champions League final. On that night, they were spurred on to (a highly unlikely) victory by Rafa Benitez — the man whom they will face at St James Park on Saturday.

The Spanish manager will forever be adored by the Reds, but he has the potential to seriously impinge their pursuit of the Premier League title. Liverpool remainS a point behind Manchester City and it will meet a Magpies team which has won six of its last seven home league games, scoring at least twice in each victory. Furthermore, the Reds have taken only a single point in their last three visits to St. James’ Park.

However, it can be no surprise that Jurgen Klopp’s side are heavy favorites with the bookmakers. They’ve won their last two meetings with Newcastle by an aggregate 6-0 scoreline, and will be looking for their eighth successive league win.

More importantly, with an almighty task ahead of them in the Champions League, Liverpool will be looking to make a statement this weekend. If they leave the northeast without maximum points, they may have seen their shot at two trophies disappear in the space of four days.

One huge factor working in Klopp’s favor is the fact that Newcastle are now assured of Premier League soccer next season. A few of the Magpies’ finest might already be visualizing their summer beach vacation.

Prediction: Liverpool over Newcastle, 1-0

Best Bet: Mo Salah as the first goalscorer (3/1 with bet365). Salah has scored in his last two encounters with Newcastle.

Derby County vs. West Brom

While the Premier League title race remains incredibly tight, there’s also plenty of nail-biting action happening in the quest to join England’s top flight. Norwich and Sheffield United have secured the automatic promotion spots, which leaves the battle for the playoffs on the final day of the Championship regular season this Sunday.

Leeds, West Brom and Aston Villa are all assured of reaching said playoffs, but Derby County can lose its spot to either Middlesbrough (which faces relegated Rotherham) or Bristol City (which visits a Hull side in poor form).

After missing the chance to secure a playoff spot midweek at Swansea, it’s likely Frank Lampard’s Rams will need maximum points to head into the postseason.

Standing in their way is potential playoff rival West Brom, which is undefeated in its last four outings. The Baggies have superior recent form, and will want to keep their momentum going. However, they will likely rest key players (as they are guaranteed to finish in fourth place) and Derby are in fine home form, comfortably winning their last three matches at Pride Park.

A playoff-clinching narrow win for the Rams seems like the winning ticket, and it will certainly reflect well on Lampard in his first season as a manager.

Prediction: Derby over West Brom, 2-1

Best Bet: Over 2.5 goals (4/6 with SkyBet). Four of West Brom’s last five games have featured three or more goals, while Derby have scored 12 in their last three home matches.

Werder Bremen vs. Borussia Dortmund

Borussia Dortmund’s Bundesliga title aspirations took a severe dent last weekend, when it capitulated at home to fierce local rival Schalke. However, Bayern Munich could only draw at Nuremberg, so the Bavarians hold a slim two-point lead in the table, with three games to play.

BvB will aim to keep applying pressure with its visit to Bremen, which is coming into this one on the back of three consecutive losses (although, to be fair, two of those losses were against Bayern). Die Werderaner have otherwise been in good form in the second half of the season, and cling to a faint hope of Europa League qualification.

Lucien Farvre’s side won their league fixture against Bremen in December, but suffered a DFB-Pokal exit at their hands in February. However, BvB have a good record at the Weserstadion, where it has been victorious in two of its last three visits.

Dortmund is favored to come away with three points, which it will sorely need, as its title rivals Bayern host relegated Hannover. But Bremen will certainly not make it easy — particularly as they will be without suspended captain Marco Reus and fullback Marius Wolf.

Prediction: Borussia Dortmund over Werder Bremen, 2-3

Best Bet: Over 3.5 goals (6/5 with SkyBet). Both sides have seen more than four goals in their last two outings, and both teams have scored against one another in their last 11 meetings.

Willem II vs. Ajax

It’s a pretty great time to be an Ajax fan. Not only did they leapfrog PSV Eindhoven to reach the summit of the Eredivisie last month, but they have become the darlings of the continental game with their sensational youthful side.

The Amsterdammers have the opportunity to take the first steps towards an incredibly unlikely treble this weekend as they take on Utrecht in the KNVB Cup Final.

Erik ten Hag’s side are high on confidence and knocked out cup holders Feyenoord at the semifinal stage. But they have a surprisingly poor record in the competition: Despite their status in Dutch soccer, they haven’t lifted the domestic cup trophy since 2010.

Ajax should field a full-strength XI in this one — even though it welcomes Tottenham to Amsterdam on Wednesday — and will likely add to their streak of five consecutive wins in all competitions.

After seeing what they have done against some of Europe’s finest this season, it may be churlish to bet against them here.

Prediction: Ajax over Willem II, 0-2

Best Bet: Donny van de Beek as the first goalscorer (8/1 with bet365). The 22-year-old midfielder scored in five games in April, including Ajax’s first goals against Tottenham and Juventus.

New York Red Bulls vs. LA Galaxy

It’s rarely quiet when the New York Red Bulls and LA Galaxy meet, and given Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s controversial encounter with Nedum Onuoha last weekend, there is likely to be some spirit in this one too.

The Galaxy are riding high in the Western Conference, boasting the highest points-per-game average in the league (2.4), and having dropped only two points in their last seven. They were also victorious on their last trip to Red Bull Arena in May 2017, where a 3-1 win was a rare highpoint in a bitterly disappointing season.

And speaking of bitterly disappointing, the Red Bulls have lost six of their last nine outings in all competitions and only managed to arrest their slump with a midweek win over MLS newbies Cincinnati.

Seeing as much of the Galaxy’s good fortune this season has come on the west coast, the bookmakers are backing a home win for Chris Armas’ side. However, based on their respective form, this doesn’t seem to be good value. We expect the Californian visitors to get the better of a goalfest in Harrison, New Jersey.

Prediction: La Galaxy over New York Red Bulls, 2-3

Best Bet: Over 3.5 goals (3/2 with Ladbrokes). The last five encounters between these two sides have averaged 3.8 goals per game.

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