European football weekend preview9th May 2018 |
Middlesbrough vs Aston Villa (Championship play-off)
Middlesbrough’s strong form in the final few weeks of the regular season earned them a place in the play-offs, with three wins and a draw from their last four games securing a fifth-place finish for Tony Pulis’ men. Aston Villa, conversely, have occupied a play-off spot throughout 2018 and will hope their experience gets them through this two-legged tie with a place in the Wembley final up for grabs. Pulis’ sides are usually associated with defensive solidity but Boro have only kept two clean sheets in their last 10 outings, so I would recommend both teams to score in this one.
Real Madrid vs Celta Vigo (La Liga)
The La Liga campaign has long been of little interest to Real Madrid, who are busy preparing for their fourth Champions League final in five years. The injury sustained by Cristiano Ronaldo in last weekend’s 2-2 draw with Barcelona shows the potential danger of los Blancos’ remaining league games, which are in effect meaningless, but Zinedine Zidane will be keen to keep his first-team regulars sharp ahead of the upcoming Kyiv showdown with Liverpool. Even if a couple of big names are rested alongside the stricken Ronaldo, Madrid should prove too strong for Celta Vigo – a home win with both teams to score could be a good choice at 11/10.
Swansea vs Stoke (Premier League)
The Liberty Stadium played host to what was essentially a winner-takes-all encounter on Tuesday night, with Swansea City and Southampton both knowing victory would essentially guarantee Premier League survival. It was the latter who triumphed on the night thanks to Manolo Gabbiadini’s second-half strike, and the Swans are consequently staring relegation in the face ahead of Sunday’s meeting with Stoke. Only a big win will do for Carlos Carvalhal’s charges, and even that will almost certainly not be enough unless Southampton are thrashed by Manchester City. Nevertheless, I’m backing Swansea to keep up their end of the bargain by beating Stoke – that’s available in the sportsbook at 3/4.
Roma vs Juventus (Serie A)
After a 3-1 victory over Bologna and Napoli’s 2-2 draw with Torino, Juventus now find themselves on the brink of a seventh successive Serie A title. The Bianconeri’s six-point advantage means they will seal the Scudetto by avoiding defeat at Roma, who themselves require just one more point to qualify for next season’s Champions League. Although there will be no formal arrangement between these two sides – they are not the biggest rivals but there is certainly no love lost between Roma and Juve – it is easy to see both teams getting what they want. Consider a draw at 21/10.
Huddersfield vs Arsenal (Premier League)
Huddersfield’s midweek draw with Chelsea secured Premier League survival for the Terriers with a game to spare – a truly brilliant achievement for all involved. Arsenal will be determined to finish Arsene Wenger’s 22-year tenure on a high – and end their long wait for a point away from home in 2018 – and although Huddersfield are not usually the most attack-minded team, they could open up with safety secured. More than 2.5 goals may be the way to go here.
Hoffenheim vs Borussia Dortmund (Bundesliga)
Borussia Dortmund’s shock defeat by Mainz last time out means they have not yet secured Champions League football for next season, although they could still qualify even if they lose to fellow top-four chasers Hoffenheim. That is certainly possible given their poor away form under Peter Stoger, but my tip here is both teams to score in the first half – offered at a price of 7/4 – in what could be an open, entertaining encounter.