Football Focus – Who Will Secure Champions League Spot
This week’s football focus starts with a look at Friday’s televised Championship clash between Millwall and Cardiff. We also take a look at Saturday’s lunchtime Premier League match between Tottenham and Arsenal, as well as the important Premier League relegation battle. There’s also a quick round up of all the important games in League 1 and League 2, as well as a look at the FA Cup. We finish with a brief round-up of all the big games in La Liga, Ligue 1, the German Bundesliga, and Serie A.
Cardiff Chasing Automatic Promotion
Millwall vs Cardiff (Sky Sports, Friday 7.45)
Betting Guide: Millwall 17/10, Draw 5/2, Cardiff 15/8
Cardiff, who currently occupy fourth place in The Championship, will be looking to use this game in hand to move closer to an automatic promotion spot, and a win will take them level on points with second-placed Derby. After bouncing back from a 2-0 FA Cup defeat against Man City with a 4-1 away at 10th placed Leeds, they also look in the mood for success.
The reverse fixture this season ended 0-0 and, despite both teams being amongst the goals of late, matches between the two teams tend to be tight affairs. Indeed, their last seven matches have ended 0-0, 0-0, 1-0, 0-1, 0-2, 0-0, and 0-0, meaning at least one team has failed to score in each of those matches, including four 0-0 draws. The other big statistic is that seven of the last 11 matches between the two teams have been draws.
Crucial London Derby
Tottenham vs Arsenal (BT Sport, Saturday 12.30)
Betting Guide: Tottenham Evens, Draw 3/1, Arsenal 2/1
There’s no love lost between Tottenham and Arsenal and this weekend’s London derby carries even more importance than usual with both teams chasing Champion League places for next season. Tottenham are currently in fifth spot on 49 points, one point behind fourth placed Chelsea and two points behind third placed Liverpool, and victory would keep the pressure on their rivals.
However, Arsenal are four points behind Tottenham in sixth place, and defeat at Wembley would leave them with a small mountain to climb if they fall seven points and more behind the other teams battling for Champions League places with just 11 games to go.
Spurs managed Mauricio Pochettino certainly had one eye on this game when Spurs played Newport in their FA Cup replay, as he rested Harry Kane. Spurs have also been in great form at home in recent weeks, taking 16 points from a possible 18 from their last six home games. Tottenham also won this fixture 2-0 last season.
However, whilst Arsenal’s away from has been poor of late, Gunners’ fans will be hoping their new-look forward line-up can restore their former dominance over Spurs. Henrik Mkhitaryan and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang certainly impressed in Arsenal’s latest win over Everton, with Mkhitatyan notching up three assists, and Emerick-Aubameyang getting on the scoresheet on his Arsenal debut. The three matches prior to Tottenham’s win in this fixture last season were all draws and, with much more than just an age-old London rivalry at stake, this match could be a close affair.
Premier League Relegation Watch
There are no double-headers this weekend in the battle for Premier League survival, as none of the bottom six clubs play each other. Swansea take on Burnley, Huddersfield host Bournemouth and Stoke must overcome Burnley, but they have easier games than Southampton and Newcastle who respectively Liverpool and Manchester United.
Meanwhile, bottom club West Brom will be hoping that the headline-talk about Chelsea Manager Antonio Conte being the next Premier League manager to be sacked continues to settle a Chelsea side who have lost their last four matches. West Brom are a best priced 10/1 to continue Chelsea’s misery and make it five defeats in a row for last year’s Premier League Champions.
League One Top Three Treble
Wigan remain at the top of the League 1 Table, with Shrewsbury and Blackburn hot on their heels. All three teams are odds on for their respective matches against Southend, Plymouth and Walsall, and a they could easily land punters a tasty little treble this weekend.
The big match in League 1 this weekend though is fourth placed Scunthorpe against fifth placed Rotherham, and Rotherham will be hoping to close the four-point gap on their potential play-off rivals as they also have a game in hand to come.
League Two Play-Off Places
Luton may be running away with League 2 at the moment, but it’s amazingly close in behind them in regard to the automatic promotion and play-off places.
Wycombe sit second on 55 points, with Accrington also on 55 points, Notts County 54 points, Mansfield 54 points, Exeter 51 points and Swindon 51 points. There are two big matches this weekend that could affect those position though, which are Exeter vs Wycombe and Swindon vs Mansfield.
FA Cup News
Just like last season, the last-16 of the FA Cup sees all six of the lower league teams drawn against Premier League opposition though, hopefully, at least one or two of them can pull off shock results.
FA Cup Draw:
Leicester vs Sheffield United
Chelsea vs Hull
Sheffield Wednesday vs Swansea
Brighton vs Coventry
West Brom vs Southampton
Huddersfield vs Manchester United
Rochdale vs Tottenham
Wigan vs Manchester United
FA Cup Betting
Man City 9/4, Man United 4/1, Chelsea 9/2, Tottenham 5/1, Leicester 14/1, Southampton 33/1, West Brom 40/1, Brighton 50/1, Swansea 80/1, Huddersfield 100/1, Sheffield Wednesday 150/1, Wigan 250/1, Hull 500/1, Coventry 750/1, Rochdale 750/1
European Football Watch
Barcelona remain nine points clear of Atletico Madrid, and the gap is unlikely to close as Barcelona entertain 28/1 shots Getafe. The gap looks likely to remain the same though as Atletico are also odds-on away to Malaga. Meanwhile, Real Madrid’s fall from grace sees the continued speculation of who will replace Zinedane Zidane as Real Madrid’s Manager.
Mauricio Pochettino is a popular choice with punters, with speculation that the appointment of the Spurs Manager may also lead Real Madrid signing the supposed “priceless” Harry Kane.
It’s a similar situation in France with PSG enjoying a comfy 11 points lead over nearest rivals Marseille. PSG head to 15th placed Toulouse this weekend and you can have odds of 17/1 for PSG to lose (small pun intended). PSG are a best priced 3/14, and they’ll probably be in plenty of accas this weekend.
Bayern Munich look to already have the German title wrapped up with what looks an unassailable 18 points lead, however they do perhaps look under-priced at 3/10 against a Schalke side who have managed to secure three draws in their last six games against them.
The Italian top division is the closest of all the big European league, with just one point separating top placed Napoli and second placed Juventus. Napoli look to have the toughest game this weekend as they entertain third placed Lazio, whilst Juventus travel to twelfth placed Fiorentina. However, Napoli are a shorter price to win at home than Juventus are to win away, though, Juventus remain the favourites to clinch the title.