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FESIG League Preview – (Boxing Day Special)

The Premier League title race is getting more exciting; six points is all that separates the top three teams in the league and for the first time, the top three teams have over 40 points after 18 round of games. Tottenham Hotspur put themselves right back in race with a commanding victory at Goodison Park. Liverpool will hope for a favorable outcome at the end of season by putting an end to the top of log at Christmas hoodoo and having to win the title in May ill-luck. They are the only team in the last 10 season’s top of the table at Christmas but failed to win the title in May. Juventus travel to Bergamo for a tricky fixture against an inconsistent Atalanta and at the Giuseppe Meazza, San Siro, Inter Milan face in-form Napoli on a special Boxing Day schedule in the Serie A.   

Here is our preview of matches in the Serie A and Premier League.

We begin in Italy;

ATALANTA v JUVENTUS – WED. 26 DEC 2018, 15.00HRS
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League leaders Juventus travel to Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia to face Atalanta who have to do this without three key players. Max Allegri’s team has found a way to edge opponents with narrow victories over Inter Milan, Torino and AS Roma. The runaway league leaders have maintained their eight point gap over Napoli and will hope to keep their unbeaten run as we approach midweek point in the season. Allegri might be forced to rotate his squad during this busy Christmas schedule to keep his squad fresh. Cristiano Ronaldo is probably one of the players to miss the trip to Bergamo with Douglas Costa likely to take his place in the starting XI. Gian Piero Gasperini has Rafael Toloi and Jose Luis Palomino suspended for this game while Marten de Roon is ruled out through injury. The Orobici have lost just once in their last five outings at home against Napoli and they have beaten Parma, Inter, Pro Sesto, and Lazio in this period scoring a total of 11 goals in the process.

VERDICT – Juve are unbeaten against Atalanta in Serie A since a 2-1 result at the Stadio Azzurri d’Italia in February 2001, followed by 23 victories and four draws. However, the last two trips to Bergamo both ended 2-2. Juventus have earned 31 wins in 41 matches overall, which should have them very confident in search of points now too. Atalanta are struggling for consistency this season after losing 3-1 to Genoa last weekend while Juventus have won 16 times in 17 league games this season.  

BOLOGNA v LAZIO – WED. 26 DEC 2018, 15.00HRS
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For the first time in the Serie A, two brothers will square up against each other in opposing dugout of Boxing Day with the Inzaghi’s coming together at Stadio Renato Dall’Ara. Neither sibling will be bearing gifts for each as the points are too precious to simply give away. Bologna sit 18th on the table below the dreaded line but are just a single point away from safety while Lazio climbed back into the top four having ended a five game winless run in the league. Simone’s team have not won on the road in four matches managing two draws against Sassuolo and Chievo then a defeat at Atalanta. The Rossoblu are on a poor run, with no victory in their last six league matches and Pippo is scrapping to keep his job.

VERDICT – Lazio are unbeaten against Bologna since a 3-1 result at the Olimpico in March 2012, managing five wins and five draws in which they scored 17 and conceded six. The last defeat at the Dall’Ara was 3-1 in January 2011. Bologna have kept two clean sheets in a row but also failed to score in both matches. They are beginning to find solution to their defensive problems but are equally struggling to score. Lazio returned to winning ways last weekend with their attacking display very pleasing to watch. They should have enough to come away with a victory even if it is a narrow one.

INTER MILAN v NAPOLI – WED. 26 DEC 2018, 20.30HRS
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It is the Boxing Day special and this massive fixture between third place Inter Milan and second place Napoli could see Juventus become biggest beneficiary depending on the outcome of the game. However, the biggest news from Inter is the disciplinary issues with Radja Nainggolan. He has been turning up late for training and new director Beppe Marotta has wasted no time welding the big stick (The Belgian has been suspended temporarily from football activity for disciplinary reasons and fined €100,000) to serve as an example to everyone. Napoli will be aiming to capitalize on the internal issues at Inter and extend the gap between both clubs which stands at eight going into this game. The Partenopei will need to keep the Serie A title race alive with a victory in Milan but key players like Dries Merten and Lorenzo Insigne will need to improve their record against Inter for them to seal all three points.

VERDICT – Napoli have lost only one of their last seven Serie A trips to Inter, winning two and drawing three. They’ve also been beaten just once in their last 11 league meetings with the Nerazzurri, home and away, with five wins and as many stalemates. Inter have dropped seven points in their last four games; fortunately for Luciano Spalletti, none of the teams below have capitalised. Napoli are grinding out wins and have won their last four Serie A matches. Last season fixture saw a boring goalless draw, fans trooping out to the San Siro will hope for more on a special day like Boxing Day.

To England;

LEICESTER CITY v MANCHESTER CITY – WED. 26 DEC 2018, 16.00HRS
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The Foxes host the Citizens for the second time in eight days after their League Cup meeting last week and both teams come into this game with surprising results from the weekend. Leicester won at Chelsea while Manchester City lost at home to Crystal Palace. Leicester’s win at Chelsea last time out means they have suffered only two defeats in the last nine matches though they’ve managed two league victories in their last six. It is obvious Jamie Vardy is an important player for Leicester, it would be interesting to see how the manager handles the difference between himself and his player. City have suffered two league defeats this season and are now four points behind leaders Liverpool as we approach the busy Christmas schedule. There is a bit of pressure on Pep Guardiola and his team as they have to play catch up. Fernandinho was sorely missed in the game against Palace, Stones did a decent job but didn’t meet up with the standard set by the Brazilian.

VERDICT – Man City have won eight of their last 10 Premier League Boxing Day matches including the last four in a row. They are equally unbeaten in their last five in all competitions against Leicester City. Leicester win at Chelsea has eased the pressure on Claude Puel with his opposite number now under pressure as they cannot afford further slip ups in the title race. The champions need to respond to avoid back-to-back defeats in the Premier League for the first time in two years. An open attacking game with goals is anticipated at the King Power Stadium.

LIVERPOOL v NEWCASTLE UNITED – WED. 26 DEC 2018, 16.00HRS
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Unbeaten Liverpool welcome former manager Rafa Benitez and his Newcastle team to Anfield for this Premier League Boxing Day fixture as they aim to consolidate their position at the top of the table. The Reds produced a very solid performance at Molineux to open up a four point lead at the top of the table thanks to a 2-0 victory over Wolves last Friday. Newcastle became the first team not to score against Fulham in the Premier League this campaign in front of the diehard Geordies to increase pressure on owner Mike Ashley who is planning to sell the club or provide the manager with funds to bring in better players. The trip to Merseyside is one most Toon Army faithful will not look forward to considering their poor record against the Reds.

VERDICT – Newcastle have won only two of their last 10 Premier League matches against Liverpool, drawing four and losing four. Both victories were at St James’ Park. Liverpool haven’t lost a home league match on Boxing Day since 1986/87, winning eight and drawing three since. The Reds are undefeated in their last 29 Premier League home matches and the Magpies haven’t won at Anfield since 1995. An away victory is very unlikely at Anfield.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR v AFC BOURNEMOUTH – WED. 26 DEC 2018, 16.00HRS
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Spurs turned on the style in the 6-2 vicotry over Everton on Sunday to close the gap on defending champions City to two points and fully relaunch their title chase. Tottenham Hotspur go into the match having lost only one of their last eight Premier League fixtures while Bournemouth’s win over Brighton & Hove Albion last time out was their first victory in three. The Cheeries did well to end a poor run but a trip to face in-form Spurs isn’t one they might be too confident about considering their record against their host. We know how good Tottenham are but there are times we’ve questioned their ability to mount a proper title challenge. Perhaps it’s time for Mauricio Pochettino’s team to prove many wrong by maintaining the high level they played at against Everton. It’s a tough ask but that is what it takes to mount a title challenge in a tough competition like the Premier League.

VERDICT – Spurs are unbeaten in six matches against AFC Bournemouth in all competitions (5W, 1D). Spurs have won all three of their Premier League home matches against the Cherries, scoring eight goals and keeping a clean sheet on each occasion. Bournemouth have only won two of their last eight Premier League matches, losing the other six. They have lost their last three away from home. The Cheeries will need to produce an exceptional performance at Wembley to earn points considering their current run. Spurs can see themselves as title contenders and should put in the performance and result to keep the chasing group behind them at bay. A home win is on the cards.

This wraps up our Boxing Day preview. Predict and win big by visiting our Sports shop Babaijebu.ng for mouthwatering offers in all twenty games across the Serie A and Premier League on this special day. 

Merry Christmas!

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