After another busy week of European action — the games just seem to keep on coming and coming at the minute — this weekend is a return to domestic action sandwiched inbetween the two-legged ties of Champions and Europa Leagues.
For most of you, hopefully, this may well be the last weekend spent watching the footy at home. From Monday, pub gardens will be open in England, which means Saturdays and Sundays can once again be spent in the sunshine in the company of mates, the footy on, and a cold pint — paid for with the week’s winnings — in your hands.
For now, we’ve got three mouthwatering fixtures sure to wet your whistle even in the comfort of home. Again, all on Saturday, we start in Manchester to see the champions-elect take on one of the most — if not the most — entertaining side in the country before taking a quick trip to Germany for two pivotal Bundesliga clashes, with the title and European qualification on the line.
I hope you’ll be reading next week’s from the pub gardens, but for now, from the comfort of your sofa, let’s get into it.
Wow. What an opening game. Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds cross the Pennines to take on Pep Guardiola’s imperious Manchester City.
Guardiola admitted Leeds were “the worst” possible opponent to face inbetween the two-legged Champions League quarter-final against Borussia Dortmund: “Leeds is the worst opponent we can play between the Champions League (legs). The worst.” he said.
City’s tightly fought home win against Leeds’ twin-city club in Dortmund on Tuesday will not have done Pep any favours. They need to go to Germany and be at their best next week, and Leeds will be hoping to take full advantage of what is likely to be a vastly rotated City side.
The Whites themselves go into this afternoon’s fixture on the back of successive 2–1 wins against Fulham and Sheffield United, and the fact that they are now comfortably mid-table and 99% safe from the drop will do nothing to mellow Bielsa — Leeds’ post-promotion celebration at Derby last season, where they were almost certainly hungover after a two-day bender, ended up being the game in which they recored their highest running stats all season.
And despite the fixture congestion leaning heavily towards Leeds, it would be ludicrous do discount City whatsoever. They’ve won 27 of their last 28 in all competitions, and have scored in every game barring their 2–0 defeat to Manchester United. They have also scored 2+ goals in nine of their last 10 games.
Both sides have based their respectively successful seasons on productive attacking output — Leeds more so than City — and it’s no surprise that the two are amongst the most prolific this season. City are averaging 2.10 goals per 90 minutes from an xG/90 of 1.95, whilst Leeds average 1.50 from an xG/90 of 1.53. But whilst City’s defence seems fairly tight, Leeds are suspect to a few leakages, conceding, on average, 1.53 goals from an xGA/90 of 1.53.
The game, quite frankly, screams goals. City, victim to the fixture congestion that comes with challenging for the quadruple, will be vulnerable in terms of both rotation and fatigue. Leeds — not being one to step the foot off the gas wether they be mid-table, 4–0 down or 5–0 up in the 90th minute — will go hell-for-leather in the hope of a big result.
The reverse fixture, whilst only finishing 1–1, produced one of the most exhilarating games of the season, akin to a basketball game, as both sides went for it. Leeds have Raphinha this time and City have Kevin De Bruyne at the peak of his powers. City would have wished for a stroll this weekend. Leeds don’t plan on giving them one.
A quick trip to the Bavarian heartland takes us to the home of the champions-elect in the Bundesliga. Bayern Munich’s win against RB Leipzig last weekend all but sealed the title for Hansi Flick’s side, but they were quickly brought back down to earth on Wednesday as they were beaten 3–2 at the Allianz Arena by PSG.
An injury stricken side — without the talismanic Robert Lewandowski, as well as Douglas Costa and Serge Gnabry — managed 31 shots and an xG of 3.1 to PSG’s 1.5 on Wednesday, but looked impotent in-front of goal in comparison to the French wonderkid Kylian Mbappe.
A frustrating night for Die Bayern — frustrations which are likely to be taken out on their opponents this afternoon; Union Berlin. Even without the injured Lewandowski, Bayern will be eager to put the anger of midweek behind them at the Allianz, and it seems that Urs Fischer, the Union manager, may well be the fall guy.
Bayern are the most potent side in the division by some margin. They average 2.93 goals per 90 minutes from an xG/90 of 2.17, and have scored 3+ goals in 15 of their 27 league games. Their games average 2.19 goals by half-time and there has been a goal either scored or conceded by the break in every league game featuring Bayern this season, with 2+ total goals in 70% of those games.
Bayern themselves average 1.41 goals by half-time in the Bundesliga and have only drawn a blank on five occasions all season. Union, on the other hand, have conceded by the break in 10 games thus far.
Expect Bayern to start this game as they finished their last: ferocious out of the blocks.
The final game of this week’s treble is another pivotal Bundesliga clash, this time in the context of Champions League qualification, as Borussia Dortmund travel to the Mercedes-Benz Arena to take on Stuttgart.
Last week’s defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt may well have spelled the end of any European hopes for Edin Terzic’s side, however a hugely encouraging performance against Man City midweek will have injected some life into BVB. They won’t be crowned European champions by any means, but there will be hope of a Frankfurt slip up in the league, allowing them to sneak into 4th spot come the end of the season.
Two games without a goal defines a goal drought for Erling Haaland — who averages 1.01 goals per 90 minutes in all competitions this season — and his performances against both Frankfurt and City will have frustrated the Norwegian goal-machine.
The only thing worse than facing Haaland is facing Haaland when he’s angry and in the search for goals — which, admittedly, is always true, but especially so this afternoon.
Stuttgart wont be helped by their leaky defensive record. The Schwabenmetropole (I have no idea how to pronounce it either) concede, on average, 1.48 goals per 90 minutes from an xG/90 of 1.51, which increases to 1.92 when playing against sides that are above them in the league.
Expect Dortmund to make a statement this evening, and expect Haaland to end his ‘drought’ against Stuttgart. Dortmund will want to go into the 2nd leg with winning momentum, and they’ll likely win the only way they know how: goals.
The above treble comes in at 2.69/1. We’ve taken it down to three this week in light of the fixtures ahead, but make no doubt this one is yet again highly-researched in order to pull the best odds from Europe’s major leagues.
All-in-all it’s three massive games ahead for the respective sides, and something to make today a very interesting day. Like I said, hopefully next Saturday this will be read in a more social and enjoyable place, wherever it be. But for now: enjoy.
As always, have a great weekend!
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