Top 4 Clashes and More

This week we feature a couple top four matchups, two of the oldest and most successful clubs in France, the new number 2 in Italy, and an FA Cup Giants matchup.

  1. Atletico Madrid vs. Villarreal ~ Estadio Vicente Calderon, Madrid

Sunday, February 21st at 2:30 pm EST on beIN Sports Connect

This weekend, we see the fourth place team travel to the capital to face the team in second.  These are the top two defensive teams.  Atletico Madrid has conceded just 11 goals this season.  Villarreal has conceded 18.  That is some tough defense and makes you think this is going to be a tight affair with few chances.  Since their loss to Barcelona, Atletico has won both of their games, including a clean sheet last weekend.  Villarreal is in the middle of an 11 game unbeaten run.  They have kept 3 straight clean sheets.  Atleti needs to find a way to break that streak as they will need to keep pace with the other two.  Villarreal is fairly secure in their 4th place spot as they have an 8 point lead on Sevilla.  Jose Gimenez is out due to a ban so Stefan Savic should start in the back.  Look for Torres to keep his place in the attack over Vietto.  For Villarreal, Jonathan Dos Santos is out after being stretchered off on Thursday.  This is a top four showdown that will be a really tough event.  Look for both teams to be very resilient at the back.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Atleti 8/15, Villarreal 13/2, Draw 14/5

First Goalscorer – Griezmann 3/1, Torres 9/2, Vietto 5/1

Predictions

My Pick – Atleti 1, Villarreal 0: Goal by Torres

James’ Pick – Atleti 1, Villarreal 1: Goals by Baptistao and Griezmann 

  1. Bayer Leverkusen vs. Borussia Dortmund ~ BayArena, Leverkusen

Sunday, February 21st at 9:30 am EST on Fox Soccer Plus

This weekend is another #2 vs. #3 weekend for Borussia Dortmund.  Two weeks ago, they faced Hertha Berlin and were held to a scoreless draw.  This weekend, they travel to Leverkusen to face the new third place team.  The difference in points between the two teams is 13 points, so it is not very tight at the top.  Dortmund is in the middle of a 4 game unbeaten run having kept 3 straight clean sheets.  Leverkusen is in the midst of a 6 game unbeaten run.  This has led to them climbing up into the top 4.  They will need at least a point to stay in the top four this weekend.  The race for the last two Champions League spots is very tight and points will be at a premium.  Both of these teams featured in the Europa League on Thursday.  This could lead to some rotation in the squads.  For Leverkusen, Chicharito, Kruse, Lars Bender, and Charles Aranguiz are all out.  Kevin Kampl is a doubt but should feature.  Tin Jedvaj and Roberto Hilbert should compete for a spot at right back.  Mehmedi and Calhanoglu are in competition for the starting spot on the left wing.  For Dortmund, Nuri Sahin and Sven Bender are out which means that we will not have a Bender in the Bender family derby.  Castro, Ginter, Ramos, and Durm could all be in line for start.  This should be a very competitive game.  Look for a lot of chances to be created during the game.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Leverkusen 12/5, Dortmund 11/10, Draw 5/2

First Goalscorer – Aubameyang 4/1, Reus 11/2, Kiessling 11/2

Predictions

My Pick – Leverkusen 2, Dortmund 3: Goals by Brandt, Mehmedi, Aubameyang, Reus, and Castro

James’ Pick – Leverkusen 0, Dortmund 2: Goals by Reus and Mkhitaryan. 

  1. Napoli vs. AC Milan ~ Stadio San Paolo

Monday, February 22st at 3:00 pm EST on beIN Sports

After 6 weeks on top of the league, Napoli is now in second following their late defeat to Juventus.  The big question now is how they will respond.  In their first game after the defeat, Napoli lost 1-0 away at Villarreal in the Europa League.  The first Italian team to ask this question of them is AC Milan.  Milan has been better lately as they have gone 7 games unbeaten.  They sit in 5th place, just 6 points from the Champions League spots.  A win this weekend could go a long way for them towards their return to European football.  Napoli is seemingly focusing on the league and that is their main goal.  Maurizio Sarri should rotate his squad back to his strongest 11 after applying some rotation against Villarreal.  They have no missing players right now as well.  The focal point will be Higuain who has 24 goals this season.  AC Milan are without Diego Lopez, Rodrigo Ely, and Juraj Kucka.  Bonaventura and Niang are both expected to be back.  Boateng and Balotelli look set for places on the bench.  This is a big game for Napoli and a must win.  Milan could use that to their advantage, but they will need to stop Higuain if they want 3 points.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Napoli 4/7, Milan 5/1, Draw 3/1

First Goalscorer – Higuain 3/1, Gabbiadini 5/1, Mertens 11/2

Predictions

My Pick – Napoli 2, Milan 1: Goals by Higuain, Insigne, and Bacca

James’ Pick – Napoli 1, Milan 2: Goals by Higuain, Bacca, and Honda. 

  1. Marseille vs. Saint-Etienne ~ Stade Velodrome, Marseille

Sunday, February 21st at 8:00 am EST on beIN Sports Connect

The two most successful teams in Ligue 1 meet this weekend when Saint-Etienne travel to Marseille.  Saint-Etienne has won 10 league titles and Marseille has won 9.  Both of these teams have had very disappointing seasons so far as they struggled out of the gate.  Marseille is sitting in 11th place and has never really looked like challenging for the title or a Champions League place.  Saint-Etienne has seemingly righted the ship and is getting involved in the Champions League races.  They are currently in 4th place and level on points with Nice in third.  A win for Saint-Etienne this weekend could send them into the Champions League places.  In the last 6 matches, Marseille has dominated the matchup, winning 3 of the games and drawing 2 of them.  Remy Cabella should return to the lineup for Marseille.  Mauricio Isla looks set to start with Brice Dja Djedje out injured.  Saint-Etienne should give starts to January signings Alexander Soderlund and Ole Selnaes.  Perrin, Corgnet, and Pierre Gabriel are all a doubt.  This is a much bigger game for Les Verts (Saint-Etienne) and we will see if the fatigue will get to them, or if they can make a big statement towards reaching the Champions League.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Marseille 10/11, St.-Etienne 7/2, Draw 23/10

First Goalscorer – Batshuayi 11/4, Rabillard 5/1, Beric 11/2

Predictions

My Pick – Marseille 1, St.-Etienne 2: Goals by Batshuayi, Soderlund, and Tannane

James’ Pick – Marseille 1, St.-Etienne 0: Goal by Thauvin. 

  1. Chelsea vs. Manchester City ~ Stamford Bridge, London

Sunday, February 21st at 11:00 am EST on Fox Sports 2

The FA Cup returns this weekend in England and we have two of the English heavyweights meeting in the Fifth Round.  This is one of three matchups this weekend that features two teams from the top flight.  This game features two teams that are trending in different directions as well.  Chelsea has seen their form greatly improve since the firing of Jose Mourinho.  They lost their first game since the manager change this week when they lost 2-1 in Paris.  Manchester City, on the other hand, has lost their last two games in the Premier League.  This is going to be an interesting matchup and could be a big boost to the winner.  Chelsea should feature Asmir Begovic in goal.  John Terry, Kurt Zouma, and Falcao are all out injured.  Alexandre Pato is still unfit.  City has a long list of injuries and should rotate their squad with Champions League and the League Cup coming up.  Look for a lot of young talented City players to get a shot.  Guus knows what it takes to win this competition and it is probably Chelsea’s best shot at a trophy this season.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Chelsea 4/5, Man City 15/4, Draw 29/10

First Goalscorer – Costa 4/1, Remy 5/1, Aguero 11/2

Predictions

My Pick – Chelsea 2, City 1: Goals by Willian, Costa, and Sterling

James’ Pick – Chelsea 2, City 0: Goals by Fabregas and Costa. 

Champions League Recap

This week we saw four games take place in the Champions League.  Here is just a quick recap of those four.

Paris Saint Germain 2, Chelsea 1: A late strike from Cavani gives PSG a slight advantage, but there is still hope for the London club.  A big chance to advance if they can get it right at home in a couple weeks.

Benfica 1, Zenit St. Petersburg 0:  Benfica left it to very late, but they were able to win the game in the 91st minute when Jonas headed in Nicolas Gaitan’s free kick.  This two-legged tie is far from over as we head to Russia for the second match but it was a vital late goal.

Gent 2, Wolfsburg 3: With 30 minutes to go in the game, this game looked set to be over as Wolfsburg had a 3 goal lead thanks to goals on either side of halftime from Draxler and one from Max Kruse.  Then in the last 10 minutes.  Sven Kums and Kalifa Coulibaly scored for the home side.  It is still a massive 3 road goals and a win for Wolfsburg.

Roma 0, Real Madrid 2: Roma came with a nice plan that lead to Real not getting a shot on target in the first half, however, Ronaldo broke the deadlock just before the hour mark.  Then late on in the game, Jese doubled their advantage and give Real Madrid one foot in the Quarterfinals.

Other Games on TV This Weekend

Spain – La Liga

Las Palmas vs. Barcelona – Saturday at 10:00 am EST on beIN Sports

Malaga vs. Real Madrid – Sunday at 10:00 am EST on beIN Sports

Italy – Serie A

Internazionale vs. Sampdoira – Saturday at 2:45 pm EST on beIN Sports

Frosinone vs. Lazio – Sunday at 12:00 pm EST on beIN Sports

Roma vs. Palermo – Sunday at 2:45 pm EST on beIN Sports

Germany – Bundesliga

Bayern Munchen vs. Darmstadt 98 – Saturday at 9:30 am EST on Fox Soccer Plus

Schalke 04 vs. Stuttgart – Sunday at 11:30 am EST on Fox Soccer Plus

England – FA Cup

Arsenal vs. Hull City – Saturday at 7:45 am EST on Fox Sports 1

Reading vs. West Bromwich Albion – Saturday at 10:00 am EST on Fox Sports 2

AFC Bournemouth vs. Everton – Saturday at 12:15 pm EST on Fox Sports 2

Blackburn Rovers vs. West Ham United – Sunday at 8:30 am EST on Fox Sports 2

Shrewsbury Town vs. Manchester United – Monday at 2:30 pm EST on Fox Sports 1

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