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. Chelsea
The closest Premier League title race in years could be set for its most critical weekend. Liverpool sits just two points ahead of Manchester City, who has a game in hand, and they face their sternest remaining domestic test: a visit from Chelsea.
After this weekend, Wolves represents Jurgen Klopp’s only remaining top-half opposition, so this is the Reds’ biggest hurdle if they are to maintain their lead.
Liverpool is on a run of six consecutive wins and boasts a 37-game undefeated streak at Anfield in the league. They have scored at least twice in eight of their last nine home league games and they have had an extra day of rest, following their routine Champions League win over Porto.
The Reds are heavy favorites with the bookies … but we’re predicting an upset in this one.
Chelsea is also in rude health, having claimed maximum points in their last three league matches, and scoring five unanswered goals in their last two. What should be most concerning for Liverpool fans, however, is Chelsea’s superior head-to-head record. The Reds have failed to win in any of their last five meetings with the Blues.
And although Anfield is a fortress, Chelsea is more than accustomed to breaking down the proverbial walls; Liverpool hasn’t won any of their last six home league games against their London counterparts, losing twice and drawing four times.
Chelsea is also a bogey team for Liverpool’s attackers. Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have all failed to score against the Blues in their last three meetings. Firmino may have seven goals in his last six home league games, but he has failed to find the net in any of his five league matches against Chelsea.
The Reds famously ceded the title race against Chelsea at Anfield in April 2014, thanks in no small part to Steven Gerrard’s unfortunate slip. (Coincidentally, Salah was in Chelsea’s team that day.)
The Blues have ruined the league title party for Liverpool before — and they might just do it again here.
Prediction: Liverpool 0-1 Chelsea
Best Bet: Eden Hazard first goal-scorer (15/2 with SkyBet). The Belgian came off the bench in the Blues’ midweek Europa League game, so he’ll be relatively fresh. He’s coming off a sensational performance against West Ham and has been involved in more goals than any Premier League player this season (16 goals and 12 assists).
Crystal Palace vs. Manchester City
In the event that Liverpool does succumb to Chelsea on Sunday, all is not lost in the title race. Earlier in the day, Manchester City must head to Crystal Palace.
On paper, this sounds like a routine win for the reigning champions. But soccer is played on grass, not paper, and Pep Guardiola’s side doesn’t seem to like sharing the grass with the Eagles.
Last season, City’s incredible 18-game Premier League winning streak ground to a halt when they visited Selhurst Park. Only Ederson’s injury-time penalty save salvaged a point.
And back in December, Palace left the Etihad Stadium with their first away victory over City in 28 years, thanks in part to Andros Townsend’s epic goal of the season contender.
Palace comes into this one on the back of a victory at Newcastle, while City’s FA Cup semifinal win over Brighton last weekend was one of their least-convincing performances in recent memory.
This will be a tough test for City, which must also face Tottenham and Manchester United in the next couple weeks. But ultimately we expect them to squeeze a narrow victory.
They have won 22 of their last 24 games, and they have the best squad depth in Europe. It’s also worth noting that Roy Hodgson’s Palace is eleven points clear of relegation and has little to play for.
Despite the last two slip-ups, City has still won seven of nine league clashes with Palace. Pep won’t let the Eagles ruffle his feathers this time.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 0-2 Manchester City
Best Bet: Under 2.5 goals (4/7 with SkyBet). City is mastering low-scoring victories against lesser sides recently and there have been under 2.5 goals in Palace’s last three games.
AC Milan vs. Lazio
It’s been a rough few weeks for AC Milan, which has claimed only a single point from the last four outings. With the specter of fresh Financial Fair Play concerns hanging over Milan, this weekend clash with Lazio could prove pivotal to the season.
The Rossoneri are tenaciously clinging to fourth place in Serie A, but with a win, Lazio could jump up from seventh and take the coveted Champions League berth position thanks to their superior goal difference. They also have a game in hand.
Fortunately for Milan, the Romans have also stumbled in recent weeks, with a home draw against Sassuolo following a surprise defeat at SPAL. And the Biancocelesti have only won one of their last 12 visits at Milan’s San Siro.
There’s very little to separate the sides, who have drawn in each of their last four meetings (including a deadlocked Coppa Italia bout that Milan won on penalties).
However, based on Milan’s dour form and Lazio’s recent away win over Inter, we foresee a narrow win for Simone Inzaghi’s side.
Prediction: Milan 0-1 Lazio
Best Bet: Under 1.5 goals (12/5 with SkyBet). Three of their last four meetings have been goalless draws.
Fenerbahce vs. Galatasaray
Two of the Turkish Super Lig’s biggest and oldest sides face off on Sunday as reigning champions Galatasaray head across Istanbul to face last year’s runner-up Fenerbahce.
The Intercontinental Derby (named as the teams sit on opposite sides of the European and Asian divide in Istanbul) is renowned as one of the most fiercely contested in the world. Suffice to say, there will be an intense atmosphere and no love lost between the rival fans.
Fenerbahce — whose starting XI features former Premier League talent including Martin Skrtel, Victor Moses and Roberto Soldado — is currently enduring one of the worst seasons in the club’s modern history. The 28-time league champion sits just five points above the relegation zone, with only four wins in its past 15 outings. (Frankly, that’s what you get for playing Soldado up front).
Galatsaray, meanwhile, finds itself five points behind league leader Medipol Başakşehir, which is gunning for its first ever Turkish title.
In this edition of the derby, both teams will be desperate for points, but for very different reasons.
Form would suggest that Gala is the favorite, but Fener actually has shorter odds in this one. Galatasaray hasn’t won any of the last eight derbies and hasn’t won at the fiercely partisan Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium since the 1999-2000 season.
Prediction: Fenerbahce 2-1 Galatasaray
Best Bet: Mbiaye Diang anytime goalscorer (13/8 with SkyBet). The Senagalese Gala forward is the league’s top scorer with 26 goals, and has scored five in his last three matches.
LAFC vs. FC Cincinnati
After mauling D.C. United last weekend, Los Angeles Football Club is shaping up to be MLS’ hottest prospect. This weekend, the Western Conference leaders host league newbie Cincinnati, which is also off to an impressive start with two wins and two draws from six debut MLS appearances.
The most obvious talking point is LAFC’s fire power. The Black and Gold have outscored opponents 19-5 this season and have had a phenomenal 80 shots in their six games — an average of over 13 per match.
Evidently, Bob Bradley’s defense is also something to be reckoned with, having kept clean sheets in the last two outings.
This should be an exciting end-to-end match, but it is hard to see Los Angeles giving up their 100% record to a team still finding its feet in the league.
Prediction: LAFC 3-1 Cincinnati
Best Bet: Over 3.5 goals (21/20 with WIlliam Hill). Four of LAFC’s matches have featured over 3.5 goals, and the other two had three.
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