24-26 Feb Weekend Football Report
Manchester City’s dream of winning the quadruple may have died at the hands of Wigan this week but Pep Guardiola’s table-toppers will still be looking to complete the first-leg of a treble by winning the EFL Cup (Carabao Cup) at Wembley on Sunday.
There’s also a crunch clash in the Premier League as Manchester United host Chelsea, a North East derby between Sunderland and Middlesbrough in the Championship, and a clash of the FA Cup giant-killers in League 1. We’ve also got a round-up of all the best of the action from around Europe.
EFL Cup Final (Sunday 4.30)
If past records float your boat, it’s worth noting that Manchester City have won the EFL Cup four times compared to Arsenal’s two. City also have the better recent record with two of their victories coming in 2014 and 2016. City have also lost just one EFL Cup Final, whilst Arsenal have lost five. The two teams have played each other twice before in the EFL Cup, with City winning 3-0 in 2010 and Arsenal winning 2-1 in 2004. More recently, Arsenal won their 2014 Community Shield clash in 2014 and also beat City 2-1 in extra-time in their 2017 FA Cup semi-final. Meanwhile, City won their latest Premier League match at the Etihad 3-1 in November. However, it’s Arsenal who have the best recent record at Wembley away from the EFL Cup. They’ve won six FA Cup Finals between 2002 and 2017 and have also won five of the seven Community Shields they’ve played in this century. That record compares very favourably to City’s one win and one defeat in FA Cup Finals and one win and two defeats in the Community Shield.
The big match of the weekend in the Premier League is Sunday’s match between Manchester United and Chelsea and, as it kicks-off at 2.05, it should be a great afternoon of football with the EFL Cup Final to follow. Although the Premier League Title looks beyond both teams, this is still a massive game with second-placed United just two points and two places above Chelsea. Victory for either team could be massive in regard to securing a Champions League spot for next season; in a battle that is still any three from four of Chelsea, United, Tottenham and Liverpool to join Manchester City in next season’s Champions League. Manchester United won last year’s fixture 2-0, and are favourites to win again, but that was United’s only win in the last 14 matches between the two teams.
The Premier League relegation battle is nearly as tight and there are just five points between eleventh-placed Bournemouth and Southampton in eighteenth place. Bottom placed West Brom are five points adrift of their nearest rivals Stoke though and they’ll surely need a win over seventeenth-placed Huddersfield this weekend to kick-start their hopes of Premier League survival. The other bottom-half clash is Brighton vs Swansea and victory for either side would earn them some breathing space over their relegation rivals.
There are also some big matches in the Championship, with fifth-placed Fulham hosting leaders Wolves. The bookies have made Wolves slight favourites in the early exchanges but their recent record against Fulham suggests they should be shorter with five wins and a draw in their last six matches against them. However, Fulham have now won seven home matches on the trot in the league, so don’t expect them to make it easy for Wolves. If you prefer betting on the goals markets, it might be wise to go high with the last six matches between them ending 3-0, 3-0, 2-0, 3-1, 3-2 and 4-4.
If you can cope with three matches in a row on Sunday, you might also want to watch Cardiff vs Bristol City which kicks-off a 12.00. Both teams have lots to play for with Cardiff determined to remain in second to avoid the play-offs, whilst Bristol City will be delighted to cling on to sixth-place to give them a play-off shot of earning promotion to the Premier League. A shade of odds-against looks generous for Cardiff as they’ve won six of the last seven renewals of this fixture. They did however lose at Bristol earlier in the season but paid the price of having a man sent-off when the score was 1-1.
Bottom of the Championship Sunderland will also have more than survival on their minds this weekend as they take on local rivals Middlesbrough in the North East derby. However, it’s Middlesbrough who have won the last five matches between the two teams, and they’ll have plenty of motivation as they sit just three points outside the play-off places.
Football fate is a funny old thing, and this weekend’s matches sees the two teams who made ripples in the FA Cup last week thrown together as Wigan take on Rochdale. Both teams need to put the FA Cup to the back of their minds though, as Wigan are favourites to win League 1, whilst Rochdale must start to win some of their games-in-hand if they are to avoid relegation to League 2. The pair last played each other in a friendly match in 2016, which Rochdale won 4-1, but it was Wigan who won both their league matches that season.
The top three teams in League 2 are all at home this weekend but, if you’re thinking that looks a certain treble, then you might want to reconsider when you see the stats. Accrington have only won one of their last four matches against Cambridge, whilst Luton have failed to win any of their last four matches against Cheltenham. Wycombe have also won just one of their last four matches against Morecombe.
Both Barcelona and Real Madrid are around the 1/6 mark to respectively beat Girona and Alaves this weekend and it will be a big shock if either fails to land the odds. If there is to be a minor upset this weekend in Spain then it could come in the match between Sevilla and Atletico Madrid. Sevilla recently won both legs of their Copa del Ray tie and also won this fixture last season.
PSG showed no ill effects from their 3-1 defeat against Real Madrid as they beat Strasbourg 5-2 last weekend and it’s no surprise they’re long odds-on to beat Marseille this weekend. However, though PSG have won 11 of their last 13 matches against Marseille, they have drawn two of the last three, making the draw look a big price at 5/1 or bigger.
Bayern Munich are long odds-on against Hertha Berlin despite having drawn their last two matches however, as both those matches were in Berlin, it’s worth pointing out that Bayern have won the last three renewals of this fixture to nil. If an odds-on shot is to get turned over this weekend in Germany, it may be Bayer Leverkusen who haven’t won either of their last two matches against Schalke 04.
Napoli and Juventus continue to slug it out toe-to-toe for the Serie A title and both won last weekend. It looks likely to be more of the same this weekend with Juventus having won their last eight home matches against Atalanta, whilst Napoli have won their last four matches against Cagliari. The only problem with putting Napoli in your accas this weekend is you’ll have to wait until Monday evening to collect if it’s a winner.