We welcome back James, a regular contributor over at our friends WeLoveBetting, who has been a valuable member of the team there for a number of years.
He shares his best betting tips from the lower leagues in Spain and Germany.
Minnesota Utd v Vancouver Whitecaps Sunday, 00:30am
Whilst the international break is very much ongoing, including USA being in action, Major League Soccer will continue this weekend. There is certainly one team who probably would rather they had no game this weekend, and that is Minnesota United. They welcome Vancouver Whitecaps to Allianz Field as they look to maintain their strong start to the new season, but international call-ups have hit them hard.
Three teams have received seven or more call-ups to their respective nations in MLS, one of which is Minnesota. That is one thing, but the issue they have is that all seven of those players started their last league game, indicating their importance to the team. They’ve began the campaign with two wins and a draw, but the fact of the matter is they will be heavily weakened, and as such they’ll have to dig deep into their reserves. Key players such as goalkeeper Dayne St Clair, playmaker Robin Lod and two of their usual back four in the form of Michael Boxall and Kemar Lawrence all won’t be involved.
This therefore presents an opportunity for the Whitecaps to make their mark and really kick-start their season. They have failed to do so thus far as they are winless in four. At least they have back-to-back draws to their name heading into this weekend, including at LA Galaxy last time out, but with Minnesota below strength they’ll feel as though this is a winnable chance for them. The bookies still have them as outsiders, which is understandable on the basis of home advantage being key given the vast distances covered. In this case, it’ll be around a three-hour plane journey for the visitors.
Vancouver have been hit by internationals as well, but only two will represent their country, but both did start their last game in the form of Javain Brown and Andrés Cubas, but it is just so hard to ignore the talent that Minnesota will be missing here. History suggests it might be a tough night for the Whitecaps as they winless in all five trips to Minnesota since the start of 2017, losing three of those. They’ve won only four away matches inside 90 minutes since the start of 2021, so you can never be too confident backing them on the road, even facing an opponent with big major absentees.
Even with Minnesota missing how they’re missing, I still can’t back Vancouver to win away from home, although there is certainly an angle to a case for that. I will however back them to score the first goal, which is priced 6/5 with Sky Bet. MNUFC will surely need a big of time to adjust to fielding something of a thrown together team that won’t be used to playing with one another that often. My hope is the Whitecaps will take advantage of that, and they have actually netted the first goal in all three of their away fixtures this season, before going on to fail to win any of those.
Willem II v Maastricht Sunday, 1.30pm
We’re approaching the business end of the season in the second tier of football in Netherlands and a top of the table clash between Willem II and Maastricht catches the eye this Sunday. Both teams currently find themselves occupied in the play-off positions, and that is really as good as they can hope for as a top two automatic promotion place is realistically well out of reach. Only three points separates these two in the standings.
Willem II, known as Tricolores, saw their eight-year stint in Eredivisie end last season and have very much set their sights on an instant return. It is quite a drop off for a side that finished as high as 5th in the top tier as recently as 2021/21, whilst the last time they played at this level in 2014/15 they returned as champions. Zwolle look likely to gain that tag this time around, but promotion is very much a possibility. One defeat in eight suggests they’re in decent nick.
One common trend they have is that when they do keep a clean sheet they generally come away with three points. Eight clean sheets has resulted in six wins within them, but the fact only three teams have been involved in more games featuring both teams scoring suggests a bit of a defensive problem that they could do with solving. Nine of 14 home games has seen BTTS pay out as well, so an open game is to be anticipated. Willem II have netted two or more goals for four matches running, so they’re more than confident in front of goal right now.
Such an end-to-end game playing out is even more likely given the numbers that surrounds Maastricht. They have an identical both teams to score record than their Sunday opponents, with 69% of their league contests falling into this category. Ten of 14 of their away fixtures has seen each team net, too. Goals very much look on the card this weekend, even more so seeing Willem II scoring in every home game and Maastricht only twice failing to bag a goal on the road.
Taking all of those BTTS statistics into account, you’d suspect you’d get very slim odds for that to repeat again in this match. Think again, as a price of 10/11 is available with Coral to witness another common repeat and each team netting one or more goal. There is no need for either side to approach this cautiously, and the facts and figures prove that isn’t within their respective DNA’s either. Only top two Zwolle and Heracles have scored more than Maastricht, who have seen BTTS pay out in seven successive away games, none of which they have won. The earlier season meeting was also a 3-2 thriller who by Maastricht.
UD Las Palmas v Sporting de Gijón Sunday, 8pm
Our final look at this first weekend of the international break sees us trot across to Spain to take in UD Las Palmas versus Sporting de Gijón. This is another classic case of a team near the top facing one towards the bottom as Las Palmas go in search of a precious three points as they look to wriggle back into the automatic promotion places. The visitors have bigger issues given they sit just outside the relegation zone, but going into the weekend it was at least a four-point gap, meaning no matter what they won’t end the weekend in the bottom four.
Based on the island of Gran Canaria, Las Palmas not only have enjoyed the comforts off the pitch but on it as well. They get the nice weather but they play nice football too as they’ve been positioned inside the top three ever since the third LaLiga 2 game of the season. Only ten games remain for them to climb from third to at least second and return to the Spanish top flight for the first time since 2018. A run of one win in five has halted their momentum, but in general they’ve been tough to beat across the season, losing only four league matches and possessing the second strongest defensive record.
One of those four losses did come in their last match and it was an uncharacteristically heavy one as Tenerife were 4-1 winners on that occasion. This was the first time since October 2021 when shipping over 3.5 goals in any one match. They’ll certainly aim to bounce back here, and they’ll fancy their chances against one of the lesser lights in the division. All four of their defeats came to teams in the top half, and they’ve only conceded a total of four goals combined in all 15 of their matches this season over teams currently positioned 14th and below. That included winning 1-0 away in Gijón earlier this season.
Speaking of Gijón, they’re enduring their sixth consecutive season at this level haven’t spent two thirds of the time between 2008 and 2017 alongside Barcelona, Real Madrid and co in LaLiga.
They finished 17th last season, and with them sitting 18th now it could be argued they are positioned where they roughly should be. However, they finished 4th, 7th and 9th in three of the four seasons before that, and haven’t been in LaLiga quite recently they’ll no doubt have had higher expectations. Avoiding relegation is now the priority.
One big problem they’ve had all season is scoring goals away from home. They have the joint-fewest number of away goals scored in the league, whist seven of their eight away setbacks saw them fail to score in reply. They’ve actually earned points in five of the six away encounters in which they have scored. With Las Palmas so strong defensively and regularly keeping clean sheets, it presents a major challenge for Miguel Ángel Ramirez’s team. Having only took charge in mid-January, the team have scored an average of only 0.7 goals per game.
Las Palmas lead the league for clean sheets with 19 out of their 32 league fixtures, whilst only Real Zaragoza has failed to score in more matches overall, but Gijón haven’t scored in a joint-league high of ten away games. This game screams out bet builder material and one of the angles has to be on the away team not scoring. Just to play it a little safer, we’ll combine it with Las Palmas
Double Chance instead of the hosts winning outright. The slight concern is only Levante have drawn more games than Las Palmas, who themselves have drew three of their previous five. This bet builder is priced 10/11 with Unibet. Quotes of around 29/20 can be found should you wish to back Las Palmas to win to nil.
- Minnesota Utd v Vancouver Whitecaps – Vancouver To Score First (6/5 Sky Bet)
- Willem II v Maastricht – Both Teams To Score (10/11 Coral)
- UD Las Palmas v Sporting de Gijón – Las Palmas Double Chance & Gijón Not To Score (10/11 Unibet)