After the success of last weekend's football cheat sheet, James O'Rourke hopes to continue his winning form with 6 more of his bests bets for this weekend's football.
Genoa vs Perugia
Genoa find themselves in control of their own promotion destiny with just six matches of the Serie B campaign remaining. The top-two go straight up, and Genoa currently occupy second position, enjoying a four-point advantage over Bari in third. Those two meet on the final day of the season, so it is crucial for Saturday’s home team to keep this gap as it is for as long as possible, or even extend it.
They’ll expect to do that this weekend when Perugia are the visitors to Luigi Ferraris Stadium. Perugia are deep in relegation trouble in the Italian second-tier, and as things stand they would play out an end-of-season play-off to determine if they stay up or go down. An unlikely win here could even lift them out of the bottom-five, but that may look rather wishful thinking. One win in seven, including back-to-back defeats in their last two, leaves them searching for confidence at this important stage of the season.
As expected, you are looking at slim odds for a Genoa win here. This type of game does scream out bet-builder material, especially when you take Genoa’s defensive record into account. Alberto Gilardino’s side have conceded only 21 league goals all season, whilst only top of the table Frosinone have claimed more clean sheets. They are however joint-first for home clean sheets; a whopping 75% success ratio. On the flip side, only three teams have failed to score in more games than struggling Perugia. A slightly safer angle is to approach this going for a Genoa Win and Under 3.5 Goals at Evens with Unibet. Only four times has a Genoa Serie B clash featured a minimum of four goals.
Rangers vs St Mirren
Last Saturday’s Old Firm Derby was seen as Rangers’ last chance to stake a claim for the Scottish Premiership crown, but a 3-2 defeat looks to realistically have ended those already rather slim aspirations. They still have plenty to play for this season however, especially with Celtic being their Scottish Cup Final opponents at the end of the month. It is key they go into that clash in good shape, so two wins from two will be the minimum expectation before heading to Hampden Park.
This Saturday they welcome St Mirren to Ibrox, and The Buddies have been something of the surprise package in the division. They currently sit fifth in the standings and look set to participate in the Championship Group when the league divides after the final two games of the regulation season. They travel with no real expectations upon them to return with anything, but they’ll relish the challenge. After all, they’ve beaten Celtic and drew with Rangers earlier before the World Cup break.
Rangers boss Michael Beale will have surely spent the week leading up to this game lifting his players and ensuring they respond to the Celtic setback with a win to please the supporters. When they last lost to Celtic in the League Cup in February, they responded by going on a five-match winning streak. St Mirren deserves great credit, but this play is more on Rangers fighting back, and they played well enough at Celtic Park to warrant getting something out of the game, some would argue.
The hosts should come quickly out of the blocks as only Celtic has a stronger first-half record. Furthermore, St Mirren have only scored four first-half away league goals all season, with only Kilmarnock achieving fewer points based on first-half away performances. A handy bet-builder of Rangers HT/FT and Over 1 Goal pays 20/23 with Bet365, and helps boost our chances given Rangers are expectedly very short to win the contest.
Caen vs Paris FC
Ligue 2 is France was very profitable for us on this column last week and we of course have to return this time around, and Caen against Paris FC is one which catches the one for a particular reason. It may look a bit of a mid-table clash by taking a quick glance at the league table, but goals have followed these teams around all season. Let’s set a bit of context first.
Caen sit retain an outside shot of spoiling the promotion party. It may look hopeful viewing trying to overcome a ten-point gap to the top-two with only eight-games remaining, but that will be their motivation to avoid their season petering out. They had won back-to-back fixtures before losing to Quevilly Rouen last time out; a slow start costing them on that occasion. Paris FC are six-points behind their Saturday opponents, and they sit nine-points above the drop zone and would ideally like another win or two to make them totally safe.
Caen are favourites to win, and having the second-best home record in the league means that makes perfect sense. Goals tend to flow when these two play, so I can’t be super confident on the home win. I’m much more in favour of simply backing Over 2.5 Goals at 13/10 with William Hill. I am a little surprised the odds are as generous as they are. These two are ranked in the top-six in the division in terms of games featuring at least three goals. Paris FC’s last two games have finished 5-4 and 4-2! With Caen only keeping two clean sheets in ten then going down the goals route is the more sensible play as opposed to backing the home favourite.
Dinamo Zagreb vs Slaven Belupo
Only once in the last 17 seasons has a team not named Dinamo Zagreb won the Croatian top flight league title. They currently enjoy a nine-point advantage at the top of proceedings in the 2022/23 edition, so it looks as though they will earn a sixth straight first place finish. They did suffer back-to-back defeats last month and were recently knocked out of the cup, but they are still well on course to achieve their main objective.
Slaven Belupo are the next opponent for the league leaders, and it is not necessarily going to be a routine evening for the home team. They sit fifth in the table, but third is well within reach. That is the case for several clubs however as third to eighth in this ten-team league is only separated by five points. Belupo last won this head-to-head renewal in July 2021, but they are a stubborn team that can be hard to beat. They’re one of only two teams to have double-digit number of draws this season.
Despite sitting top, only two teams have managed to achieve fewer clean sheets than Dinamo Zagreb. They are not the most reliable defensively in that regard, and yet they have conceded the fewest goals in the league. A somewhat funny statistic to say the least! They’re very reliable at home though and winning 12 and drawing twice over their 14 in front of their own supporters reflects that.
The hosts are slim odds so again we have to be creative with our bet-builder selection. I have landed on Dinamo Zagreb to score Under 3 Goals and have 4+ Corners at 20/21 with Bet365.
Only three times across 15 matches since the start of 2023 has Zagreb scored at least three goals in any game inside 90 minutes. In Belupo’s 12 clashes since the start of the year they have not conceded 3+ goals in any match, yet have only won three times in that period. The corners will help boost our odds too, and with the home team averaging just under five corners per game it is a handy little nugget to throw into the mix. Belupo will play a defensive game here and get bodies behind the ball, so expect Zagreb to exploit the wide areas and get plenty of balls into the box.
Union Berlin vs Bochum
Our first of two selections across the German footballing card on Sunday allows us to take in Bundesliga surprise package Union Berlin take on relegation-threatened Bochum. Seven games remaining in the season and it is probably asking a lot for Union to overcome a seven-point gap to league leaders Bayern Munich. It is possible of course, but making the top-four and reaching the Champions League is not a bad second prize.
Bochum do have survival in their own hands with them sitting outside of the bottom-three. Recent back-to-back wins over Koln and Leipzig lifted them out of the drop zone, but losing to Stuttgart last time out, who know is just below them in the table, was a bump back to reality they could have done without. One big issue they do have is their away record, but in addition to an away win at Koln they also drew to Frankfurt. Therefore, four of their overall seven away points have been claimed on their last two road trips.
The issue for them is Union are very impressive at home. Home turf is something of a fortress for Urs Fischer’s side and they will expect maximum points here. They remain undefeated here, whilst only Borussia Dortmund has earned more points at home this season. The markets have tended to generously price them recently, such as being priced 2.15 to beat lowly Stuttgart at home, and they did so comfortably. We obviously have to get the home team on our side once more.
A Union Berlin Win and Over 1 Goal is priced at Evens with Bet365 on the bet-builder. Only three times have they failed to score two or more at home, and one of those occasions was against Bayern Munich. This has been a winning selection in all nine of their home victories. Furthermore, ten of Bochum’s 11 away defeats has featured a minimum of two goals. This is my favourite play of the weekend.
Wolfsburg vs Bayer Leverkusen
Finally, Wolfsburg against Bayer Leverkusen rounds off our weekend footballing focus and what a game it could be. Bayer Leverkusen are just ‘the team’ at the moment and are winning games left, right and centre. After a fairly sluggish start under Xabi Alonso, everything has aligned and European qualification looks extremely likely. Champions League qualification remains possible if they win the Europa League, but they don’t appear to be having many issues negotiating the two competitions at present.
If the season was a little longer, Alonso’s men mean could even target Champions League qualification through the usual league table route, but it looks to be too much of a stretch with only seven fixtures remaining. Wolfsburg have targets of their own, but they really could be doing with winning this match. They sit four-points off the final top-six spot, which is occupied by Leverkusen, so defeat could would be a huge blow to their end of season goal.
They received a pretty big blow in their last league game anyway when departing from Monchengladbach with a 2-0 loss. This did end a five-match unbeaten streak, although it did contain three frustrating home draws. The fact is they are not a team to ever have maximum faith with, and their league record of W10, D9 and L8 is a perfect reason why. One thing they are reliable on, particularly at home, is to present goals, both for and against.
Ten of their 13 Bundesliga home battles this season contained at least three goals, whilst Leverkusen top the overall 2.5 goal line table, with no team seeing this line beaten more. This game can be expected to be quite open and end-to-end at the best of times, but with Wolfsburg really needing the victory then it should present chances at either end. Wolfsburg have only twice failed to score at home, whilst BTTS has paid out in seven of Leverkusen’s previous eight league encounters.
I can only see goals and a recommended play of Both Teams To Score and Over 2.5 Goals priced at Evens with BoyleSports does look the way to go.
Genoa v Perugia – Genoa Win and Under 3.5 Goals (Evens Unibet)
Rangers v St Mirren – Rangers HT/FT and Over 1 Goal (20/23 Bet365)
Caen v Paris FC – Over 2.5 Goals (13/10 William Hill)
Dinamo Zagreb v Belupo – Dinamo Zagreb to score Under 3 goals & have 4+ Corners (20/21 Bet365)
Union Berlin v Bochum – Union Berlin Win and Over 1 Goal (Evens Bet365)
Wolfsburg v Leverkusen – Both Teams to Score and Over 2.5 Goals (Evens BoyleSports)