PSV v Ajax
It’s squeaky bum time in the Netherlands. With four points separating the top four teams in the Eredivisie points mean prizes in the last five games of the season and its Ajax’s to throw away. With a three-point lead over their hosts PSV going into this fixture, reigning champions Ajax will know avoiding defeat could go a long way to securing their 32nd Dutch title.
PSV have spent a majority of this season in top spot. With a relentless strike force scoring 88 goals paired with a competent defence, it looked like Dick Advocaat had the formula spot on to stroll to their first title since 2008.
Recent losses at the hands of teams like Zwolle and Heerenveen however have raised many eyebrows at the title credentials of Eindhoven, with many suggesting they have bottled their major chance.
With a plethora of striking options, Advocaat has had to rotate up front all season. With eight forwards finding the net it’s a headache that has been welcomed in Eindhoven especially seeing the results it has had on the pitch. Lens, Matavz and Wijnaldum all started last weekend away to Williem II with a 3-1 victory and will hope to keep their place in Sunday’s starting line-up.
Without back-to-back victories in nine games, PSV have allowed Ajax to cruise to top spot after five wins on the spin and with the season coming to an exciting climax it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Hitting top spot for the first time four weeks ago, Frank de Boer’s men look to be peaking at the perfect time and with a favourable run-in they look in a strong position to defend their Dutch crown.
With a midfield consisting of Siem de Jong and Christian Eriksen in top form, this partnership has become the envy of the rest of the league, if not Europe. With nineteen goals between them along with eighteen assists, they have been instrumental in Ajax’s successes so far this season.
With the league’s best strikeforce coming up against the best midfield, expect this to be a high-tempo frantic affair. A home win would see PSV edge above their visitors on goal difference, whereas an away win would see Ajax go six clear of PSV with four to play.
Back Ajax to win @ 3.2
Back over 3.5 goals @ 2.5
Cagliari v Inter Milan
The Italian newspapers this week have been full of the Inter President Massimo Moratti and his conspiracy theories regarding the make up of the top four. Moratti’s argument is Milan have more money than Inter and therefore were always destined to finish in a Champions League place.
These passionate and pretty misguided comments followed Inter’s capitulation against Atalanta last week, a match in which we saw all of Inter’s recent failings – defensive uncertainty, bad organisation and an apparent lack of a plan.
Andrea Stramaccioni’s lack of attacking options has become almost comical. Antonio Cassano is injured, joining Rodrigo Palacio and Diego Milito on the sidelines. With Ezequiel Schelotto suspended this means the coach will be entirely dependent on Ricky Alvarez and Tommaso Rocchi. One hugely inconsistent, the other ageing.
Cagliari have been playing well under Ivo Pulga, and their strikeforce of the revelation Marco Sau and the rejuventaed Mauricio Pinilla look to have a good understanding.
I can’t understand why Cagliari are as big as 2.94 for the win here and couldn’t make Inter favourites as they currently are on Betfair – Cagliari 3.0 for the win, Inter 2.6.
Cagliari may be in the bottom half of the table but they have won their last three home games against Torino, Sampdoria and Fiorentina. This Inter team, with injury problems, are no better than any of those sides. Cagliari are an outstanding bet.
Back Cagliari to beat Inter @ 2.94
Real Zaragoza v Barcelona
Zaragoza are winless in 2013. The streak is 13 in total. Finally a stroke of luck – Lionel Messi is likely to sit out the game in preparation for the stiffer challenge of Bayern Munich.
Barcelona’s Liga results have not suffered in the aftermath of Champions League games – they’re W8-D1-L0 immediately following European assignments this season and the draw was at home to Real Madrid.
But their away form has dipped recently (W1-D2-L2), Messi’s absence is a concern and the most consistent trend is for both teams to score. That’s what’s happened in 13 of 15 of Barca’s road games so far this term.
Back Both Teams to Score @ 1.75
Athletic Bilbao v Real Madrid
Real Madrid’s results have suffered for their ongoing Champions League campaign: Los Blancos have won seven of nine after playing midweek in Europe.
Anytime, anywhere, they’ve won seven out of eigh in La Liga, but their away form is not quite so conclusive. Mourinho’s men have won by two or more only twice in 11 since a Clasico in October. We’d be against them, if only Athletic weren’t so eminently capable of imploding – and if only they weren’t so short on eligible players.
Marcelo Bielsa has four players out suspended and perhaps another five absent injured. He’s been tinkering with defensive systems recently and so long as Xabi Alonso and Ronaldo start we’ll take the away win.
Both teams to score also makes some appeal – it’s paid out in each of Real’s last six Liga games – but looks sharply priced at 1.65.
Back Real Madrid @ 1.53