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 …
Manchester City vs. Manchester United
Hot on the heels of the goal-tastic Merseyside derby comes its Manchester equivalent. City are aiming to close the 11-point gap separating them from league leaders Liverpool, while United could climb from 10th to fifth if other results go their way.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have endured a disappointing season thus far, with uninspired draws against Sheffield United and Aston Villa in recent weeks. However, they raised their game midweek to comprehensively hand former manager Jose Mourinho his first defeat as Tottenham manager.
However, this weekend’s derby takes place a few miles down the road at Eastlands, where the Red Devils were defeated 3-1 last season.
Pep Guardiola’s side looked unstoppable in their midweek victory over Burnley, offering the perfect answer to their disappointing result at Newcastle last weekend. Lest we forget, when they dropped points against Newcastle last season, they went on to close the season out with 14 straight wins. They will need to replicate this form during a festive period where title rivals Liverpool will be stretched with a game every three days on average until the new year.
The head-to-head record in the last 10 Manchester derbies is a dead heat, with four wins each and two draws. Given this parity, and United’s propensity to raise their game on big occasions, a draw seems to be the best call.
Of course, if United do deny City two points, they will have to live with the fact that they are helping to hand arch rivals Liverpool the title.
Prediction: Manchester City 1-1 Manchester United
Best Bet: A draw is very good value at +475 with MGM, but a draw with both teams scoring is even better at +575. Neither side have kept a clean sheet in their last four league outings, and three of the last four derbies have seen both sides score.
Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Bayern Munich
The Bundesliga is, without doubt the most dramatic and exciting league in Europe right now. Just five points separate the top five teams, and after 13 matches, neither Bayern Munich nor Borussia Dortmund are in the top three.
Last weekend, Bayern participated in one of the most entertaining games in recent memory: a 2-1 home loss to Bayer Leverkusen, where the Bavarians had 21 shots on goal and hit the post four times. How they didn’t come away with a convincing win is anyone’s guess.
Hansi Flick’s men will be hoping to be less wasteful in front goal this weekend when they head north to face league leaders Borussia Monchengladbach. It’s a fierce rivalry whose intensity dates back to the 1970s, when the two sides won nine consecutive titles between them.
In recent seasons, Gladbach have been a constant thorn in Die Roten’s side: They inflicted Bayern’s first home defeat last season with a 3-0 win at the Allianz Arena, and they have been victorious in three of the last five meetings at the emphatically capitalized BORUSSIA-PARK.
A 0-0 draw is priced at a very long +1400 with MGM, and for good reason: Both sides are in strong scoring form and they have only contested one goalless match in the past fifteen years.
Gladbach's Marcus Thuram recently said “everybody can beat everybody” in this league, which makes calling a winner in this match a difficult task. However, Bayern will be highly motivated to bounce back from their wasteful display last weekend and may draw on their 5-1 win at BORUSSIA-PARK last season.
Prediction: Borussia Monchengladbach 2-3 Bayern Munich
Best Bet: Over 4.5 goals at +195 with MGM. There have been two 5-1 scorelines in their last three meetings and an average of 4.5 goals per game in their last four meetings.
Barcelona vs. Mallorca
A peculiar situation is unfolding at Barcelona: They are top of La Liga and have won their last five matches in all competitions ... but there is a resounding feeling that the they are not actually very good.
Last weekend, they were bailed out at Atletico Madrid by a Lionel Messi masterclass and a sensational performance for goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen. There is a growing perception that Messi — who now owns six Ballons d’Or — is carrying the weight of a team who have suffered without him in this campaign. Under Ernesto Valverde’s stewardship, the Blaugrana are lacking ideas, several players are underperforming and they are conceding needless goals.
This Saturday, however, should provide a platform for Barca to put on a show for their frustrated fanbase.
Opponents Mallorca may have pulled off a shock win over Real Madrid in October, but they are hovering a point above the relegation zone, with just a single win in their last six outings.
The newly promoted Balearic Islands side haven’t faced Barcelona since 2013, but have lost their last five meetings with them. Their last victory at the Camp Nou came at the end of the 2007-08 season, a game which helped manager Frank Rijkaard lose his job only to be replaced by a young upstart named Pep Guardiola.
Barca have scored at least four goals in their last three home league games and will be looking for an opportunity to improve their one-goal differential lead over Real Madrid in the Primera.
Prediction: Barcelona 4-1 Mallorca
Best Bet: Barca to win and both teams to score at +160 with MGM. The Blaugrana have only kept one clean sheet in their last five league matches, while Mallorca have only failed to score in one of their last five matches.
Lazio vs. Juventus
Serie A leaders Inter Milan host high-flying Roma on Friday, but the more intriguing calcio clash of the weekend may be second-placed Juventus’ visit to third-place Lazio.
The Roman side are on a run of six consecutive league wins and lead the league with 33 goals — eight more than Juve have managed in 14 matches. Their secret weapon is Ciro Immobile, who leads Europe’s top five leagues with 17 goals. The striker could have had even more, but has unselfishly offered up penalties to teammates on several occasions.
A penalty, meanwhile, offered Juventus talisman Cristiano Ronaldo his first goal since October when he converted last week in his side’s disappointing 2-2 home draw with Sassuolo.
It is possible the Old Lady will be susceptible to Lazio’s furious counter attacking style at a packed-out Stadio Olimpico, which would confirm the host’s ambitions to play a significant role in the title race. But it’s a close call, and it’s also possible the result will be quite different when these two sides meet in Saudi Arabia in two weeks’ time in the new Italian Super Cup format.
In Rome, however, the odds suggest Maurizio Sarri’s side may just bring Lazio back down to earth. Juve have won each of their last three meetings and Lazio haven’t beaten them at the Stadio Olimpico since a Coppa Italia meeting in January 2013. A narrow away win may be the best move here.
Prediction: Lazio 1-2 Juventus
Best Bet: A Juve win with both teams to score is priced at a generous +333 with MGM. Juventus have conceded in six of their last seven away trips and Lazio have scored at least three goals in their last five home matches.
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