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. Tottenham
For the third time in eleven days, the reigning Premier League champions will face Tottenham in a high-stakes encounter. In Wednesday’s dramatic completely defense-free clash at the Etihad, Pep Guardiola’s side were 4-3 winners, but saw their passage to the Champions League semifinals cruelly snatched away when Raheem Sterling’s injury-time goal was ruled out by VAR.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side progressed on goal difference and will return to the scene of their continental triumph this Saturday, where there will be no VAR to help their quest to maintain a position in the top four. They sit only one point within the Champions League qualification berths, with Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United waiting for them to cede ground. With at least two more Champions League matches now on the docket, their run-in just got even trickier.
For City, of course, the stakes are even higher. They know they can retain the title if they win all five of their remaining games, but they must face the team who ended their quadruple dream this weekend, and local rivals Manchester United in their midweek game-in-hand. Jurgen Klopp’s side face Cardiff this weekend, and will have a chance to open up a five-point lead at the summit if City slip up.
All signs suggest the title race will stay tight, however, as City make a statement this weekend. Pep’s side have beaten Tottenham in four of their last five meetings and the Lilywhites have conceded eight goals on their last two trips to the Etihad.
The home side are heavy favorites with the bookmakers, not least because of the visitors’ lengthy injury list: Harry Kane and Serge Aurier are likely to be joined by Moussa Sissoko, Harry Winks and Eric Dier on the sidelines. Spurs’ central midfield looks light and Poch may have to resort to 18-year-old Oliver Skipp.
City will be looking to bounce back from their unedifying midweek European exit, and it is likely that they will do so.
Prediction: Manchester City 3-1 Tottenham
Best bet: Raheem Sterling first goalscorer (16/5 with SkyBet).City are the masters of scoring early (they have 18 goals in the opening 15 minutes at home this season) and Sterling is very generously priced for a forward with four goals in his last two starts.
PSG vs. Monaco
It’s not one of the formal derbies in French soccer, and “El Cashico” has diminished levity this season as Monaco have battled to avoid relegation for most of the campaign. But all eyes will be on the Parc Des Princes on Sunday as Paris Saint-Germain attempt to secure the league title, against the team that beat them to the honor in 2017.
PSG’s form has been poor lately, having suffered a 3-2 defeat against strugglers Nantes in the midweek round (which prevented them from winning the league) and a 5-1 humiliation at the hands of Lille last weekend. However, the Parisians should be buoyed by the return of several notable players from injury — most notably, Neymar. The megastar forward should return to action following the foot injury which has kept him out since January. Marco Verratti, Kylian Mbappé, Edinson Cavani and Juan Bernat should also be available for selection.
The reigning Ligue 1 champions have missed three consecutive opportunities to seal the title in recent weeks, but will be strong favorites to do so in this one. Monaco have scored only one goal in their last four meetings with PSG, while conceding 18. Expect a similarly weighty scoreline.
Prediction: PSG 3-0 Monaco
Best Bet: Neymar first goalscorer (10/3 with SkyBet). The Brazilian will be keen to make his mark upon his return and scored eight in the eight games that preceded his injury.
Only three clubs have never been relegated from La Liga since its inception in 1929: Barcelona, Real Madrid and Athletic Club. Hence, all three have had the time to build up a healthy rivalry with one another, and this weekend brings about “El Viejo Clásico” (“The Old Classic”).
Both Los Blancos and Bilbao had rather forgettable starts to the season, but have seen their respective fortunes improve. The Basques have climbed from the relegation zone in December to within three points of European qualification, while Zinedine Zidane is steadying the Madrid ship (albeit with a few bumps along the way).
Athletic Club traditionally put up stiff competition for Spain’s big two, but they are much stronger at home than on the road. Furthermore, the Basque side have not won at the Bernabeu since 2005. However, they have taken points from Real Madrid in each of their last three meetings (which all ended in draws) and have scored in their last three visits to the Casa Blanca.
The form book suggests another draw is on the cards, but given Madrid’s home record against Athletic Club, it may be wise to back a fourth consecutive home win for Zidane’s side.
Prediction: Real Madrid 2-1 Athletic Club
Best Bet: Karim Benzema first goalscorer (9/2 with SkyBet). The resurgent Frenchman has seven goals in his last six games.
There’s a huge battle for Champions League qualification in Serie A this weekend, as Inter Milan look to consolidate their top-four status with a home victory over Roma, who currently sit just one point below the hallowed finishing spots.
After a shaky start under Claudio Ranieri, the Giallorossi are undefeated in three, and will be boosted by the fact that they have only lost once to Inter in their last six meetings.
Luciano Spalletti’s side, meanwhile, are also in good form, but are markedly better on the road: they have failed to score in their last three matches at the San Siro, but have netted 10 goals in their last three away trips. Their attack should also be spearheaded by Mauro Icardi, who has re-established himself after his bizarre spat with the club.
The bookmakers fancy a home win, but the last two meetings between the sides have ended in a stalemate. We expect more of the same.
Prediction: Internazionale 1-1 Roma
Best Bet: Under 2.5 goals (8/11 with SkyBet). There have been under 2.5 goals in seven of Inter’s last eight league matches at home.
LAFC vs. Seattle Sounders
It’s a huge battle in the Western Conference on Sunday night as Bob Bradley’s free-scoring Los Angeles side host the undefeated Seattle Sounders. LAFC are coming off their first defeat of the season, a 1-0 midweek loss in Vancouver, and will look to bounce back against a potential MLS Cup opponent whom they beat 1-0 in both meetings last season.
Seattle will have their work cut out for them facing Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi, the top two scorers in the league, and an L.A. offense that has had an incredible 108 shots in their eight games. Brian Schmetzer’s side, however, are the form team, who have scored an average of 2.5 goals per road game this season. They will have a point to prove in the raucous confines of Banc of California Stadium this weekend.
There’s little to separate the sides, but the odds favor a narrow LAFC win — which Seattle may vindicate when the two sides meet again in Washington next weekend.
Prediction: LAFC 2-1 Seattle Sounders
Best Bet: Both teams to score (8/13 with Ladrbokes). L.A. have scored no fewer than two goals per home game this season and Seattle have only been shut out once.