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FESIG League Preview – (The North West Derby)

One of the biggest derby in the England – the North West Derby between fierce rivals sees top four contender – Manchester United battle it out against title chasing – Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday. Bayern Munich can level up on points with leaders Borussia Dortmund in a revenge game against Hertha Berlin at the Allianz Arena before Lucien Favre’s team play Bayer Leverkusen in Sunday. In Spain, Sevilla’s formidable LaLiga home record will be tested when leaders Barcelona arrive in Andalusia in search of three points to keep the chasing packing at bay. Quadruple chasing Manchester City have the opportunity to retain the EFL Cup in Sunday final against Chelsea at Wembley with Maurizio Sarri seeking his first title as a football coach.

Here is our preview of matches across top five European Leagues.

We begin in France;

PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN v NIMES – SAT. 23 FEB 2019, 17.00HRS
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PSG cemented their spot at the top of Ligue 1 thanks to a midweek victory over Montpellier in rescheduled league game. The French champions cruised to a 5-1 victory but Coach Thomas Tuchel did not believe it was his team’s best performance, believing there is room for more. Les Parisiens are 15 points clear at the top, a healthy 60+ goal difference and a game in hand makes one wonders what should they offer in a one team competition. Visiting the capital isn’t an enviable feat, however, Nimes can be very content with their current campaign in Ligue 1 so far. They have no relegation threat and are just four points off a European spot. The visitors managed to tie two victories in a row and they have been playing pretty well lately.

VERDICT – Nimes are overachieving with their performances so far, they have been playing well lately but are huge underdogs in this one as they are facing one of the best European sides. The reverse fixture earlier this season produced a thrilling encounter which included a nasty incident between Kylian Mbappé and Téji Savanier. PSG superior quality means they should continue their winning streak at Parc des Princes and book their 13th league victory at home.

AS MONACO v OLYMPIQUE LYON – SUN. 24 FEB 2019, 21.00HRS
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Improving Monaco welcome Lyon to Stade Louis II for a Ligue 1 clash which used to be a feisty game in the past. The situation with Monaco this season means their ambition is to secure their Ligue 1 status while Lyon hope to close the gap on second place Lille. Lyon will make the 55 minutes trip by air to Monaco in full confidence having won four of their last six league matches as well as forcing Barcelona to a goalless draw in the Champions League Round of 16 game. Monaco have won two league matches at home since Leonardo Jardim returned and he will be targeting a third home win in a bid to move up the table.  

VERDICT – One of the positives for Monaco in the past month has been the performance from Gelson Martins who has hit the ground running since joining from Atletico Madrid in January. His form might propel Monaco as they slowly climb the table. Lyon are in good form; on the back of their midweek performance against Barcelona, they would be confident of securing all three points at Stade Louis II but will be wary of their defeat at the same venue last season. There should be goals from both teams on Sunday evening to entertain the fans.

To Germany;

BAYERN MUNICH v HERTHA BERLIN – SAT. 23 FEB 2019, 15.30HRS
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Bavarian giants Bayern Munich should be quite happy with results in the Bundesliga in recent weeks with Dortmund showing signs of weakness or playing with their handbrakes on. Nico Kovac team can put more pressure of the league leaders who don’t get to play till Sunday with a home win over Hertha, the team that handed them their first Bundesliga defeat in September. Pál Dárdai’s Hertha have been unbelievably inconsistent, their remarkable start to the season has fizzled out with the capital club dropping out of European qualification places but they are team who can spring surprises. They have lost once in the last five league matches but this trip to Munich isn’t one Hertha fans will look forward to with much enthusiasm.

VERDICT – Bayern Munich have the momentum, they are full of confidence at the moment. They are where they would love to be, having closed the gap at the top of the Bundesliga. They have taken 21 points from a possible 30 at home so far this season (6W, 3D, 1L). Those four games where Die Roten dropped points is the Hertha would feel they’ve got a chance at the Allianz Arena. Hertha’s recent record against Bayern is solid, they are undefeated in the last four Bundesliga outings though Bayern required extra time to knock them out in the Cup. The home team have the edge and should find a wau through.

BORUSSIA DORTMUND v BAYER LEVERKUSEN – SUN. 24 FEB 2019, 18.00HRS
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This is the game of the best teens in the land; Jadon Sancho taking on Kai Havertz. A new revolution is underway at Bayer Leverkusen under former Dortmund coach Peter Bosz. Kai Havertz and Julian Brandt are the talented duo saddled with the responsibility of reviving Bayer 04 with the focus on securing Champions League qualification for next season. Three successive draws has seen Dortmund’s lead been cut down to three points and they could be on same points with Bayern by kickoff time on Sunday evening. The next visitor at Signal Iduna Park is their former coach who was shown the door in December 2017; Dortmund are not likely to get any favors from him.

VERDICT – Leverkusen are the Bundesliga’s form team in 2019, with 12 points from a possible 15, 13 goals scored and only three conceded. Kai Havertz has scored three times in five appearances in 2019, and is currently Bayer’s top league scorer on nine goals. Dortmund will be eager to welcome back Marco Reus; they have won only one of the three league matches Reus has missed this season, drawing the other two. We are expecting an explosive game with pace and technique; goals are guaranteed in this one.

To Italy;

PARMA v NAPOLI – SUN. 24 FEB 2019, 18.00HRS
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Parma excellent campaign in the top flight is starting to fall apart in 2019; the Crociati have taken one point from a possible 12 and that point came in the unexpected game against Juventus in Turin. Roberto D’Aversa needs to turn around the fortunes especially at home as they are yet to beat any of the teams in the top six spot at Tardini. Carlo Ancelotti will hope his team can consolidate their second position on the log by keeping both Milan clubs further away from them in the Champions League race. The Partenopei are seven points better than Inter but 13 away from Juventus. Parma good start to the campaign has helped in easing relegation battle worries but poor results week in, week out means they might be dragged in sooner than expected.

VERDICT – Carlo Ancelotti has lost just one of his last 19 meetings against Parma (13W 5D) – a run that includes a 3-0 win earlier this season. Ancelotti was able to rest key players for Thursday Europa League victory over FC Zurich but will have to prosecute this game with suspended skipper Lorenzo Insigne and Raul Albiol who is still out injured. Parma have shown already this season that they can ruffle the feathers of the big Serie A teams but Napoli are favourites for this one. Under 3.5 goals

FIORENTINA v INTER MILAN – SUN. 24 FEB 2019, 20.30HRS
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Fiorentina coach Stefan Pioli will have a special interest in this considering his past relationship with Inter. Both teams head into the clash in search of points for their respective European places qualification. La Viola sit eight on the table, three points of sixth place Atalanta while third place Inter have Milan on their tail in the Champions League qualification race. Fiorentina are unbeaten in their last six league games but have managed just two wins in that period. Will Icardi be recalled to the team after he was stripped of the club’s captaincy or the Nerazzurri will soldier on without their talisman forward? Inter have thrived in his absence, winning all three matches including Thursday 4-0 drubbing of Rapid Vienna so he might not be a huge miss after all. 

VERDICT – Fiorentina will aim to continue their goal scoring form against Inter, having failed to score once in their last 13 fixtures all competitions. We have 31 goals in the last seven encounters between these two teams though Inter don’t have good memories at Artemio Franchi recently. They managed a draw last season but lost on their previous two trips. Both teams to get on the scoresheet and Over 2.5 goals for late Sunday evening showdown.

To Spain;

SEVILLA v BARCELONA – SAT. 23 FEB 2019, 16.15HRS
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Fourth place Sevilla welcome leaders Barcelona to the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan – one of the formidable grounds in LaLiga. This game is coming at a time the home side is struggling with just two wins in their last five matches in all competitions. However, Los Rojiblancos still maintain a strong home record in the league (4W, 2D) in their last six LaLiga outing. This is the exact same form Barcelona have on the road currently. The Catalans are not at their imperious best but Leo Messi continues to lead the way. Ernesto Valverde and his team are getting sticks for their reliance of La Pulga which is a cause for concern amongst Los Cules fans.

VERDICT – Barca have won thrice in the last six visits to Sevilla with the home team managing just a solitary victory in the same period. The home team will need to produce their European form on domestic scene if they are to stand a chance. The visitors are not also at their best, they have failed to beat Valencia, Lyon, Athletic Club and Real Madrid in recent time. Goals have always been a part of this fixture and we are certain both teams will find the back of the net in what might end in a stalemate.

LEVANTE v REAL MADRID – SUN. 24 FEB 2019, 20.45HRS
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Last week’s home defeat to Girona brought Real Madrid’s title dream down to earth with a shambolic second half collapse at the Santiago Bernabeu. Santiago Solari has to pick his team up and press on but there is no doubt the Whites have not hit expected height this season with several big names not showing up. Levante turned the corner with a superb performance at Balaidos, the Granotas produced were excellent in Vigo and deserved all three points from the game against Celta. Paco Lopez will be looking for his team to build on that result and performance when Real Madrid visit Estadio Ciutat de Valencia for this week 25 fixture. Without suspended Sergio Ramos, Los Merengues revenge mission will be much difficult.

VERDICT – There would be no room for rotation from Solari this weekend; Vinicius Jr, Modric, Carvajal and Reguillon are likely to return to the starting XI for this game while Levante will have to face the capital club without Borja Mayoral who is on loan from Real Madrid. Levante beat Real Madrid in October at the Bernabeu; the European Champions will be seeking revenge in this game. Los Blancos have four wins and draw from their last six LaLiga away matches, the last away defeat was at Eibar in November. Levante are not likely to change their approach for this game but might come out empty handed against a good Real Madrid side.

To England;

MANCHESTER UNITED v LIVERPOOL – SUN. 24 FEB 2019, 15.05HRS
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Manchester United are looking to extend a nine-match unbeaten run since a 3-1 defeat by Liverpool in December while second place Liverpool are hoping to extend their five-match sequence without a defeat. Manchester United have a solid home record against the fierce rivals Liverpool, winning seven of their last nine home league matches and would love nothing more than putting a dent in the Reds title aspiration which is to the advantage of another enemy. Jurgen Klopp will be seeking his first league victory at Old Trafford and the Reds would be looking to do the league double over Manchester United for the first time since 2013-14 season. Under Klopp, Liverpool have lost just one of their last 13 Premier League away matches. We have seen Manchester United grow in confidence and style under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his team performances against the top sides has been remarkable.

VERDICT – Liverpool have scored in every single one of their away league matches this season, though Jurgen Klopp’s side have only won one of their last four on their travels in all competitions. Manchester United were excellent at Chelsea in the FA Cup. Paul Pogba was impressive again at Stamford Bridge and he is showing his ability to lead his team. This will undoubtedly be one of Liverpool’s more difficult league games between now and the end of the season in the Premier League; the Reds will have to put in an excellent performance to come away with anything from Old Trafford. We expect both teams to score.

EFL Cup Final

CHELSEA v MANCHESTER CITY – SUN. 24 FEB 2019, 17.30HRS
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Manchester City continue to set the pace in England; Pep Guardiola’s team will look to emulate Manchester United that won the EFL Cup back to back in 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons with a victory on Sunday. Under fire Chelsea coach, Maurizio Sarri can ease the pressure a bit if he is able to secure his first title as a coach on Sunday but his team recent form and performances suggest otherwise. Chelsea have proven to be competitive finalist in the past and should provide City with a good fight. They will be better on Sunday no doubt but will their best be enough?

 VERDICT – City are obviously after bigger prizes, but would not miss out on every opportunity to celebrate a silverware. Chelsea have their backs against the wall; they have lost to Manchester City at Wembley this season so another defeat will not sit well with their fans who registered their displeasure on Monday night during the FA Cup game against Manchester United. Maurizio Sarri is a good coach but it hasn’t worked out for him at Chelsea. No one know how much time he has left but it doesn’t seem like he would be celebrating much on Sunday.

This wraps up our preview for the week. Predict and win big by visiting our Sports shop Babaijebu.ng for mouthwatering offers in league matches across top five European leagues this weekend. 

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