Fixture Forecast: Best bets for Liverpool, Barcelona and other big clashes

Yahoo Sports

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 …

Liverpool vs. Newcastle United

When Newcastle’s clashes with Liverpool at Anfield yielded 4-3 score lines for two consecutive seasons in 1996 and 1997, the matchup cemented itself as a Premier League classic.

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While their encounters haven’t always been as legendary as those in the 1990s, they have certainly produced plenty of goals. Last season, an 86th-minute Divock Origi goal gave the Reds the win in a pulsating 3-2 win at St. James’ Park. Their corresponding fixture at Anfield on Boxing Day, meanwhile, was a 4-0 walkover for the home side. There hasn’t been a goalless clash between these sides since 1974.

Understandably, the odds overwhelmingly favor Jurgen Klopp’s side for the win. They come into this fixture on a five-match winning streak, they are unbeaten at home vs. Newcastle in 24 Premier League meetings and they remain the only English top flight side with a 100% record this season.

However, Newcastle are not the pushovers they threatened to be at the very start of the season. Steve Bruce’s side have taken four points from their last two matches, including a very impressive smash-and-grab at Tottenham. If they figured out the template for solving Spurs (frustrating them and hitting them hard on the break), it stands to reason that they can cause a threat to Liverpool.

Liverpool figures to beat Newcastle United rather handily at Anfield. (AP)
Liverpool figures to beat Newcastle United rather handily at Anfield. (AP)

The much-beleaguered Bruce also has an impressive record against the Reds as a manager: He’s lost only four of 17 encounters and defeated them in his last meeting, which came with Hull City in April 2015.

Cavalier bettors might put some cash behind the Magpies stealing a point, but the smart money might be on a Reds win with plenty of goals.

Prediction: Liverpool 4-1 Newcastle

Best Bet: Liverpool to win both halves (+111 with PointsBet). The Reds have been winning at halftime and full-time in their last seven league matches.

RB Leipzig vs. Bayern Munich

RB Leipzig’s rise from the lowly regional leagues of East Germany to Champions League stalwarts in their 10-year existence might be considered the stuff of fairytales. Most fans, however, see their cynical energy drink-financed rise as the antithesis of German soccer values, and they are strongly disliked across the nation.

The only Bundesliga team who may be more disliked in Germany are perennial champions Bayern Munich, who will be welcomed to the Red Bull Arena on Saturday.

It’s the Hated-By-Everyone-Else derby!

Not only are Leipzig and Bayern the two most disliked teams in the country, but they also happen to be the two most successful right now. RB Leipzig lead the table with a perfect record this season, with Bayern trailing behind in second, thanks to their unexpected home draw with Hertha Berlin.

Leipzig are on a four-match winning streak and have conceded just twice this season, making theirs the best defense in the league. In Marcel Sabitzer and Timo Werner, they also have the most potent attacking combo in Germany. The former has provided three assists and the latter has bagged three goals, including a hat-trick against Borussia Monchengladbach before the international break.

Bayern, however, are the clear favorites in this one. Despite showing a lack of ideas going forward on occasion, and their slip-up against Hertha, Niko Kovac’s side are poised to take three points.

They’re coming off a 6-1 annihilation of Schalke before the break, they won this fixture by a comfortable 3-0 score line last season and striker Robert Lewandowski is in rude health, with a league-leading six goals from three matches.

Leipzig have won only one of their eight meetings with Bayern, and will be without U.S. midfielder Tyler Adams due to his ongoing groin issues.

Prediction: RB Leipzig 1-2 Bayern Munich

Best Bet: Bayern Munich win and over 2.5 goals (+145 with FoxBet). Bayern and Leipzig’s last four outings have all featured over 2.5 goals.

If Lionel Messi is out again for Barcelona, Antoine Griezmann will have to pick up the slack against fellow Champions League side Valencia. (Getty)
If Lionel Messi is out again for Barcelona, Antoine Griezmann will have to pick up the slack against fellow Champions League side Valencia. (Getty)

Barcelona vs. Valencia

It’s a huge week for Valencia, who travel to the Nou Camp on Saturday before heading to London to face Chelsea on Tuesday in the Champions League. It would, therefore, be a pretty bad time to fire coach Marcelino García Toral. But that is exactly what the club have done.

Marcelino was relieved on Wednesday, after having guided Valencia to Copa del Rey victory (over Barcelona in the final) and Champions League qualification last season. The absence of the popular coach might take the wind out of their sails as they head to Catalunya.

Fortunately for Valencia, Barca have issues of their own to deal with. The Blaugrana have taken just four points from their opening three matches and will have one eye on a tricky midweek visit to Borussia Dortmund.

The Catalan side’s main issue at present appears to be a lack of ideas in the final third, caused by the absence of Lionel Messi. The Argentine superstar may sit this one out, while Luis Suarez is also racing to be fit. A makeshift front line of Carles Perez, Antoine Griezmann and 16-year-old Ansu Fati may be the order of the day.

Barca have a favorable record in the head-to-head and are big favorites with the bookmakers, but a draw represents great value (+350 with FanDuel). Two of their last three meetings with Valencia have ended honors even.

Prediction: Barcelona 1-1 Valencia

Best Bet: Both teams to score and draw (+440 with 888sport). Both teams have scored in this fixture on the last five occasions and they haven’t contested a 0-0 draw since October 2009.

Fiorentina vs. Juventus

It’s been an interesting summer for Fiorentina, who saw their chances of hitting the big time increase when they came under the ownership of New Jersey-based billionaire Rocco Commisso. Spending has thus far been modest, but intent has been shown with the acquisition of Kevin-Prince Boateng, Franck Ribery and Liverpool prospect Bobby Duncan.

La Viola, however, are on a rotten run of Serie A form. In fact, they have failed to win any of their last sixteen league matches, dating back to mid-February. Their form was so bad last season that they only avoided relegation on the final day.

These are not the ideal circumstances in which to face a Juventus side gunning for their ninth consecutive title.

Fiorentina have also had their fair share of grievances with the Old Lady over the years, most notably when the world-record transfer of Roberto Baggio to Turin incited riots on the streets of Florence.

There is, however, a glimmer of hope for the underdog home side. They won this fixture at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in January 2017 against a league-leading Juve.

Fiorentina will also be aware that Juve will be thinking about their Champions League opener on Wednesday at Atletico Madrid — at the same stadium where they lost 2-0 in the knockout stage last season.

Juve have also been less-than-convincing so far this campaign. They scraped a win at Parma in their opener and needed an injury-time own goal to secure a 4-3 win over Napoli before the break.

But these glimmers of hope can’t hide the fact that Juventus are the favorites here. A victory by a narrow score line for Maurizio Sarri’s side seems like a strong choice.

Prediction: Fiorentina 0-1 Juventus

Best Bet: Juventus to win without conceding (+205 with PointsBet). The Turin side have kept a clean sheet in five of their last seven visits to the Stadio Artemio Franchi.

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