Standard Liège v Waregem Saturday, 7:45 pm
One match catches my eye across the Saturday card of European-based fixtures and that comes in the Belgian Pro League when Standard Liège entertains Waregem at Stade Maurice Dufrasne. This is a contest which matches a side chasing down a spot in one of next season’s UEFA competitions, with the opponent very much battling against relegation.
It comes as no real surprise to see Standard Liege priced as odds-on favourites to emerge victorious here. After all, Les Rouches have been flirting with the upper echelons of the table after recovering from a wobbly start to the campaign. Whilst they currently sit 7th in the standings, we can rate them as high as 5th in terms of Expected Goals (xG). They’ve actually only scored seven more goals than Waregem, but the problem for the away team is their defensive record, which is by far the leakiest in the league with 67.
Another pretty big issue for Waregem, who are managed by former Standard Liège striker Mbaye Leye, is that they’re such slow starters. They possess the worst first-half record in the division, with only Eupen conceding more in this period. The fact they’ve shipped the first goal in 86% of their away fixtures, and only claimed six points in those particular games means there is a large degree if vulnerability about them.
Also, only KV Mechelen has failed to score in more away games, yet they did win away at Anderlecht as recently as January, proving that they can cause a shock. That appears unlikely this weekend however, maybe even more so as Standard Liège are aiming to bounce back after losing to Club Brugge last time out. On five occasions after losing this season they’ve backed it up with winning their following league game.
As mentioned, Liège are a short price here, but we can boost this by including goals, so the play is Standard Liège Win and 2 or More Goals in Match, which pays Evens with William Hill. Only twice in 29 league meetings this season has a Waregem match not featured at least two goals, and for Liège, it’s just four.
Young Boys v Basel Sunday, 3:30 pm
One match which always catches the eye is the Swiss Super League calendar is when Young Boys take on Basel; the two top dogs in this part of the world. Once again it looks as though Young Boys will be the team to lift the crown come the end of the season given they possess a huge 16-point gap at the top heading into this weekend. Basel are 20 points adrift on their rivals, and they last won the league in 2016/17, with their Sunday opponents winning four of the five titles since then.
Whilst there perhaps isn’t a great deal running on this game in the form of a top-spot battle, this is certainly a contest that neither will want to lose. You could argue motivation being questioned for Young Boys in recent weeks given their comfort in the league standings, and dropping points in a recent game with bottom side Winterthur may suggest that.
They still remain in the Swiss Cup, however, and they’re keen to win that, so have been rotating their side over the past month or so. They won’t do that here.
Basel are having to cover some miles this week, which make it a less-than-ideal preparation for Sunday’s away match. On Thursday they made the 900km journey to Bratislava to take on Slovan Bratislava in the European Conference League, and the Young Boys side all had their feet up in the warmth of their homes whilst that was going on. This is also a game that Basel just simply don’t enjoy participating in, and that’s proven by the fact they’ve won none of the last eleven head-to-head contests, whilst they’ve not won away in this meeting since May 2016, which is a 14 match winless run at this particular venue.
Young Boys are the fresher team heading into this one, as well as obviously being far superior, and have been for a good few years now. The feeling is that this is just a game Basel could do without right now, they’d much prefer a home game against a lesser club having returned from Slovakia in the early hours of Friday morning, meaning they just simply won’t be as prepared as their opponents.
Only bottom side Winterthur have claimed fewer points based upon their away first-half performances across the season than Basel. Young Boys lead the way for not just first-half home displays, but home & away matches. They was 2-0 ahead inside 25 minutes when these two teams last met, and you have to fancy them being ahead at the break and end of 90 minutes on this occasion. To get a price of 7/4 from BetVictor on the home team in the HT/FT market just cannot be ignored, especially with them having so much in their favour.
Standard Liège v Waregem – Standard Liège Win and 2 or More Goals in Match (Evens William Hill)
Young Boys v Basel – Young Boys/Young Boys HT/FT (7/4 BetVictor)