Gear up for a football-filled weekend brimming with decisive matches from different leagues across Europe.
We're focusing on the highly-anticipated fixtures of St Etienne against Valenciennes in France's Ligue 2, Celtic taking on Inverness for the Scottish Cup, PSG wrapping up their Ligue 1 season against Clermont, and an intriguing clash in the Norwegian Eliteserien between Sandefjord and Odd.
With the stakes high – possible relegations, the pursuit of a treble, and the race for top scorer – these games are about more than just collecting league points.
St Etienne v Valenciennes
There is an exciting battle at both ends of the table in Ligue 2 this Friday night, in what is the last round of fixtures of the campaign, and it is a match with potentially relegation consequences that catches my eye on this occasion. St Etienne are the team with no fears heading into the final day, but we have had recent success betting on their matches, and there is no reason for that to change. They face a Valenciennes outfit that could still be relegated. They are one of six teams fighting to avoid finishing in the remaining two relegation spots, with Nimes and Niort already down and out.
Goals is very much the common theme whenever St Etienne are a part of the conversation. That has been the case even more now that any fear of suffering back-to-back relegations was squashed. There is now a freedom about their play where they just want to enjoy and play without fear, and it is turning their matches into something more associated to the basketball court. They sit top of the table in relation to Ligue 2 matches contained both teams scoring, and they also top the league for average amount of goals per game (3.19). Those outcomes combined has been a successful bet in seven of their previous 10 matches. Three of their last four alone featured BTTS and Over 3.5 goals, too.
Of course, Valenciennes don’t quite have the luxury of being able to approach this game without pressure. However, they are in the best position of all the teams in the relegation mix to avoid a final day scare. A win would see them safe, a draw would realistically do so, whilst even a defeat could leave them OK. They are five teams below them with much more pressure concerns, so much so Valenciennes won’t really be paying attention to other results until very late on, you’d think. They went away to league leaders Le Havre and won 2-0 a few weeks ago, so they won’t fear St Etienne. It also shows they won’t necessarily come looking to shut up shop. There is no need to either, as St Etienne will open this game up, so I’m expecting goals here. They’ve scored in seven straight away games, which proves their attacking credentials.
The 1.80 from 10bet on BTTS and Over 2.5 Goals is a play that often pays out in St Etienne games and I’m not prepared to jump off that ship just yet. The price is likely to shorten, but 1.80 is the limit for me.
Celtic v Inverness
It is Scottish Cup Final weekend and unsurprisingly Celtic have made their way to the showpiece event. Victory here would secure a domestic treble for Ange Postecoglou’s side, but they have to get one over an Inverness side, who although play in the division below, have overcome Scottish Premiership sides Kilmarnock and Livingston to reach this point. Still, they are huge underdogs to secure their second Scottish Cup crown, whereas Celtic are going in search of a 41st success in this competition.
There is of course the added incentive for Inverness here knowing that not only would a win see them lift the trophy but they’d also be in Europe for next season. With Celtic already in the Champions League, a Caley win would afford them a spot in the Europa League qualifying rounds, and even losing that gives them a shot in the Conference League. One step at a time though manager Billy Dodds will say. They face a huge task. Although Celtic have dropped their stands recently after winning the title, they looked much more like themselves when ending the league season with a 5-0 home win over third-placed Aberdeen. Inverness narrowly missed out of a play-off spot to potentially join Celtic in the Scottish Premiership, but they’ve lost only twice in 13, winning nine.
Finding angles in a game like this can be tricky, especially when it is hard to build a case against Celtic. The treble would be a big deal for them, and don’t think they are going to take Inverness lightly. They overcame Old Firm rivals Rangers in the semi-final to get to this point, and they won’t have wanted that win to be all for nothing. One angle to get Celtic on side is to back them to win without conceding, and it is a more than acceptable price. Bet Victor have priced Celtic to win ‘to nil’ at 1.90, and that will be the recommended play. They’ve conceded only one goal on their way to the final, and even that was a penalty kick. They’re ranked joint-top alongside Rangers in the Premiership for highest amount of clean sheets. Despite Inverness largely being in strong form, they’ve achieved only four clean sheets in 15 games, so there are clearly some defensive vulnerabilities and they’ve not faced a top side like Celtic in that period.
PSG v Clermont
It almost went unnoticed across the footballing world last weekend but PSG did secure their 11th Ligue title after a rather uninspiring 1-1 draw with Strasbourg. It is of course the minimum expectation for a club such as this, but nevertheless they got the job done. It therefore means the final game is something of a dead rubber in their eyes, and Clermont looking to finish a rather memorable season on a high of their own. Clermont only just missed out on relegation last season, so a top-half finish this time around reflects an excellent campaign.
With PSG confirmed as champions, the question of motivation therefore has to come into the equation. You could argue the only real motivation they have is for star man Kylian Mbappe to end the season as the league top scorer. He is currently that, but only one ahead of Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette, so he may need a goal or two here just to be sure. Even so, recent PSG performances haven’t been at a standard to a very high standard, given their own high standards. A home loss to mid-table Lorient just month and only narrow wins over lowly opposition gives off the impression PSG have been somewhat coasting their way to this title. Now it is under their belts, they can at least try to enjoy this final game and just focus on a good performance.
That opens the door to a side like Clermont, who will view this as a very big game. Every opponent PSG faces will see the opponent have that kind of mental approach. Let’s not forget, PSG have lost three of their last five home games, and that was even when they had something to play for. There has been a lot of noise around the club in recent times, and not positive vibes, and although they’ll receive the league title here, it may not be as jovial as you’d expect. There is still a game to be played, and Clermont sit 3rd in the last ten games form guide, with PSG only 6th.
PSG are still big favourites to win, and of course they are with Mbappe, Messi and co within their ranks, dead rubber or not. We can get Clermont on our side to a degree to force out a better price however, and the nominated play is Both Teams to Score and Over 2.5 Goals, which is available at 1.87 with BoyleSports. PSG began the campaign strongly from a defensive perspective in terms of producing clean sheets, but that is very much a thing of the past. Christophe Galtier’s side have earned only five clean sheets over their previous 25 Ligue 1 fixtures, which will surprise many. Four of their five home league clean sheets came versus teams positioned 14th or below. PSG have their lapses of concentration in games, probably for mental shortcomings more than anything, as they may think games will be easier than they are. Goals looks the play here, and getting Clermont on side in contributing is where the additional value comes from in this play.
Sandefjord v Odd
Finally, we venture across to Norway for our final play of the weekend when Sandefjord welcome Odd. Neither side can say they’ve had the start to the season that they’d have wanted, with both currently positioned inside the bottom-half of the Eliteserien standings. Just avoiding relegation is the sole aim of Sandefjord, whilst Odd are in that pack of clubs hoping to break into the next batch of clubs to potentially contest for a European qualification place.
This match throws together two of the lower-scoring outfits in the league on Sunday. Only Aalesund and Haugesund, the bottom two, have scored fewer goals, but the one saving grace for Odd is that they are at least hard to beat. That is because they’ve only shipped seven goals themselves, which is a figure that can only be bettered by Sarpsborg, who sit in third. It may be argued there is a large degree of fortune in that, as the Expected Goals Against (xGA) for Odd is double the number of goals they’ve actually conceded.
Sandefjord are actually ranked #1 in the league for the highest xGA, so this is a game that presents two defensive weak opponents, whilst also lacking a finish touch going forward. It can present a bit of a conundrum from a betting perspective when that is the case, but I am very much against the prospect of goals in this one. Eight of the nine Odd matches in the league this season has finished with two or less goals, with their matches containing a league-low of 1.44 goals per game. That will likely increase as the season progresses, but they’re just not in enough of a rhythm to expect that to change just yet, certainly in terms of them scoring more goals.
Sandefjord and Odd are within the bottom-five in the division in terms of their Expected Goals (xG) count, so they’re clearly not doing enough at the other end of the pitch to help ease the pressure on their leaky defences, in terms of conceding chances at least. I just really liked the look of the 2.00 on offer from Parimatch on there to be Under 2.5 Goals in this contest. An early goal can always change things but the metrics we can see both of these sides producing in front of goal is not enough to get exciting about. I suspect that 2.00 won’t last much longer.
St Etienne v Valenciennes – Both Teams to Score and Over 2.5 Goals (1.80 10bet)
Celtic v Inverness – Celtic to win ‘to nil’ (1.90 Bet Victor)
PSG v Clermont – Both Teams to Score and Over 2.5 Goals (1.87 BoyleSports)
Sandefjord v Odd – Under 2.5 Goals (2.00 Parimatch)