Standard Liege v Charleroi
The Belgian Jupiler Pro League is taking something of a fairly familiar look to it 17 games into the season, with the exception being Club Brugge being well behind the pace. You have the usual faces towards the top of the pile in the form of Royal Union SG, Anderlecht, Gent and Antwerp, whilst Standard Liege finds themselves battling to be a part of that next group of clubs hoping to end the season in the Championship Group before the split. They have a home encounter with Charleroi this weekend, a team that has been around the bottom of the table for pretty much the entire campaign. They’ve picked up a bit of late, meaning only four points separates the two clubs. With three games to go before the winter break, it is vital clubs pick up as many points before then.
Liege have had an almighty tough run of fixtures of late in both league and cup. One win in six doesn’t read well, especially when three of them were defeats without scoring, including a 6-0. However, when you consider they’ve faced Anderlecht twice, Club Brugge, Genk and Antwerp, they can be forgiven slightly. September and October was a really profitable period for them in terms of gaining wins, particularly at home. During this one win in six run, only two came at home, earning four points in the process. They lost their first two home encounters of the season, both 1-0, but since then they’re unbeaten in seven at Maurice Dufrasne Stadium.
Charleroi are a team that knows all about being strong at home. They’ve claimed five of their 17 points this season in front of their own supporters, and when they go on the road you just can’t have that much faith in them. A record of drawn two and lost six on their travels, scoring four in the process, is clearly nothing to be proud of. Whilst you could argue they’ve had a tough beat in terms of quality of opposition on the road, Liege is not easy place to go and is a very hostile environment. The fact is Standard Liege are much more reliable at home compared to Charleroi are when playing away.
With that being the case, I’m a little surprising we can go odds-against on the home victory. The 2.16 on offer from Unibet on Standard Liege snapping up three points has to be the play. It almost looks too good to be true, and maybe it is, but it is worth the punt! I was thoroughly expecting to see Standard Liege priced at a slight odds-on to claim maximum points here, and there is every chance that’ll be the case closer to kick-off.
West Brom v Stoke
Following a midweek round of games in the Championship, all 24 clubs are back in action again across the weekend, and a Midlands derby clash between West Brom and Stoke is your televised action on Sunday and it certainly catches the eye in more ways than one. Under Carlos Corberan, WBA have been one of the best-performing sides across 2023 in the league, whilst Stoke are now adjusting to life after Alex Neil, who exited after the home loss to Sheffield Wednesday last weekend. Getting something here could really get Stoke back up and running, and caretaker boss Paul Gallagher would love to guide his team to victory here. Albion got back to winning ways following back-to-back losses when overcoming struggling Rotherham on Tuesday. Gallagher oversaw Stoke’s home draw with Swansea, conceding late when leading.
This isn’t necessarily the big derby for either of these clubs, but there is certainly no love lost here and a competitive encounter is anticipated at The Hawthorns. The last three head-to-head meetings has brought about 20 yellow cards, including two for the same player triggering a red, so expect a few tackles to be flying in. However, the reality is that is for now there is a little bit of a gulf in class between the two. West Brom have an identity and know exactly what they are doing tactically when taking to the field. Everyone knows their roles and responsibilities, which is ultimately why they’ve been in good form for around a year now. Stoke changed formation in midweek and Neil never really knew his best eleven, even if the injury situation often worked against him. Gallagher is now working on something different and players are being given a chance. West Brom are settled, whilst Stoke simply are not.
Jed Wallace made a welcome and earlier than expected return from injury in the Rotherham game for WBA, scoring a goal in the process. They too have their injury issues as a squad, but that is steadily improving, even in the likes of Daryl Dike and Matty Phillips will be out. Only Leicester, Huddersfield and Sunderland have left with three points at The Hawthorns in 2023 and I just can’t see Stoke adding to that given the unrest around them right now. They’ve been particular poor on their travels for a while, whilst still possessing the ability to earn a shock result, but all known form is pointing towards WBA here.
With that being the case, a West Brom win and Under 4.5 Goals looks a sensible play at 2.00 with Sky Bet. It’ll initially be tight with Stoke aiming to be hard to beat but I can only see West Brom breaking through and gaining a fairly comfortable win. Only five of 42 West Brom and Stoke combined Championship games this season have featured at least five goals.
Las Palmas v Cadiz
Las Palmas and Cadiz certainly aren’t amongst the shining lights in La Liga from a profile perspective, but it does present an intriguing looking contest this weekend. Many view Las Palmas have something of an advantage when playing at home due to being based on Gran Canaria, and losing just once at home this season may back that up. They take on a Cadiz outfit this weekend that are yet to win on their travels, but have recently drew at Celta Vigo and Mallorca, suggesting they can be a stubborn outfit. The hosts are favourites to win here, which is more than understandable.
A look at the recent form produces a further case for backing the home win on this occasion. Since the start of October, only Real Betis and Rayo Vallecano have managed to defeat Las Palmas, and even they were both 1-0 on each occasion. This is a rather unique team in how they approach games. Expect to see them dominating possession; their average ball possession figures are on a part with Real Madrid and amongst the top few in the league. Yet their game average just shy of 1.70 goals per game, so don’t expect them to batter Cadiz here from a win margin perspective. They are the sort of team to win 1-0 convincingly. All bar one of their league wins this season came by exactly one goal. Only three home clean sheets is a slight worry however.
Then again, this is a Cadiz team that tends to reserve their better performances and results when facing teams lower down the table. They are winless in eight clashes with current top-half opposition this season, drawing two and losing six. The xG battle may suggest this should be quite a close game, and I suspect that is why the odds aren’t weighted even further in favour of Las Palmas, who you’d assume should be a very, very slim price all things considered. Las Palmas are rather fortunate based upon their xGA figures, which suggests they should have conceded around nine goals more than they have done. We get dig deeper into that and it may suggest there is a reason for that, but I just can’t build a case for Cadiz here.
1.97 is available on the home victory here. When you consider Atletico Madrid and Real Sociedad have both been to Estadio Gran Canaria this season and failed to win further enhances claims of this being a classic tough place to go. Las Palmas aren’t the sort of team to make life too comfortable for anyone with a financial wager on them, but at just below even money you have to jump on board. It’ll be shorter come kick-off, I’m certain of it.
Standard Liege (2.16 Unibet)
West Brom & Under 4.5 Goals (2.00 Sky Bet)
Las Palmas (1.97 Vbet)