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FESIG League Preview – (Unai Emery takes on compatriot Pep Guardiola)

Paris Saint-Germain travel to Stade Groupama to face Lyon in the big clash in Ligue 1 without Brazilian super star Neymar who is out of football action for 10 weeks. The top four battle in Italy is getting more intriguing with a big game in Rome between fifth place Roma and fourth position Milan. Resurgent Valencia travel to the Camp Nou in decent form as they prepare to face red-hot Barcelona and Arsenal have a mountain to climb if they aim to secure all three points at the Etihad against a wounded Manchester City. 

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

We begin in France;

SAINT-ETIENNE v STRASBOURG – SUN. 03 FEB 2019, 17.00HRS
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Red-hot Strasbourg travel south to face Saint-Etienne at their intimidating ground – Stade Geoffroy-Guichard. Les Verts would aim to return to winning ways having lost their last home game in the Rhone-Alpes Derby and could only manage a draw at Nantes during the week. Jean-Louis Gasset’s team occupy one of the Europa league places with their guest in the other and both teams are separated by two points. Strasbourg are in good form ahead of their trip to Saint-Etienne, they are on a four game winning run in Ligue 1 and have booked their place in the Coupe de la Ligue final on Wednesday night. The next challenge for Thierry Laurey and his team will be to overtake Saint-Etienne on the table on Sunday evening.

VERDICT – Saint-Etienne will be without suspended Yann M’Vila though Mathieu Debuchy could make his return to the starting XI after injury. New Strasbourg signing Sanjin Prcic could make his top-flight debut for the club after coming off the bench against Bordeaux in a Cup game. Les Verts have a midfield crisis which Le Racing should capitalize on. Saint-Etienne will hope to avoid a second successive home defeat in the league against a confident Strasbourg side. This promises to be an exciting encounter where either side could take all three points.

OLYMPIQUE LYON v PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN – SUN. 03 FEB 2019, 21.00HRS
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Dominant Paris Saint-Germain travel to Lyon on back of four successive league victories with Ligue 1 top scorer Kylian Mbappe expected to lead the team’s attack in Neymar’s absence. Argentine midfielder Leandro Paredes could be handed his debut at Stade Groupama against a side Lyon who are on a decent patch too; winning three and earning three draws in their last six Ligue 1 games. This fixture has always produced classic encounters in the league and both teams current form means we can anticipate a mouthwatering clash. PSG thrashed Lyon 5-0 in October which means Les Gones will be looking to draw blood in front of their fans.

VERDICT – PSG took care of business last week without Neymar but will be aware Lyon are a different challenge compared to Rennes. It is interesting to note that PSG have won five of their last six matches against Lyon in all competitions. However, the home team are unbeaten in their last six league matches. Both teams looked well balanced for this game, fans at the Groupama should enjoy a spectacle filled with top quality football and goals from both teams.  

To Germany;

BAYER LEVERKUSEN v BAYERN MUNICH – SAT. 02 FEB 2019, 15.30HRS
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Bayern Munich face Europa League chaser Bayer Leverkusen at BayArena as they chase down league leaders Borussia Dortmund. Peter Bosz team cruised to a comfortable 3-0 away victory at Wolfsburg which was their fourth Bundesliga victory in the last six. Leverkusen take care of business against lower opposition but struggle against the superior teams and Bayern visit doesn’t require a special notification. Bavaria giants Bayern Munich are the in-form team in the league winning their last seven on the bounce as they aim to keep tabs with Dortmund. The reigning champions will be confident of extending their excellent run against Leverkusen who haven’t beaten them since May 2015. Bayern’s leading scorer Robert Lewandowski is also gunning down top scorer Luka Jovic in a personal duel for the golden boot award this season.   

VERDICT – Leverkusen have taken 16 points from their last eight Bundesliga matches; only Bayern and Dortmund have fared better. However, Leverkusen have won just four home league matches and lost the other four. Bayern are the form team in the league but struggled during stages of their last home victory over Stuttgart. The home side will look to target Nico Kovac’s weak defense as they aim to keep moving right up the table. We expect an intense game with chances at both ends as well as goals from both teams.

EINTRACHT FRANKFURT v BORUSSIA DORTMUND – SAT. 02 FEB 2019, 15.30HRS
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League leaders Borussia Dortmund will be hoping they can keep the division’s top scorer Luka Jovic quiet as they gear up for a tough test at Eintracht Frankfurt at the Commerzbank-Arena on Saturday. Frankfurt are just three points of Champions League places but have shown mixed form lately with 2W, 2D and 2L in their last six league matches. Die Adler are strong on home turf, winning four of their last six and producing solid displays. Dortmund dismantled Hannover last weekend to record their third straight league victory and five in their last six. Lucien Favre’s team have shown their attacking prowess in the league all season scoring at least twice in 12 of their last 15 games. The Swiss tactician is recovering many of his players from injury and should travel to south with an almost full squad.

VERDICT – Frankfurt have lost all of their meetings with top-five opposition so far this season, but they’ve beaten Dortmund on three of their last four Bundesliga visits to the Commerzbank-Arena. Frankfurt Luka Jovic is the league’s top scorer is 13 goals and he is closely followed by Dortmund’s duo of Paco Alcacer and Marco Reus who have 12 goals each. Dortmund will hope to retain their six-point advantage at top of the table with a fourth straight win. They have won six of their nine matches on the road and are in strong form. We expect an intense match between two attack-minded sides.

To Italy;

NAPOLI v SAMPDORIA – SAT. 02 FEB 2019, 18.00HRS
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Fresh from equaling Gabriel Batistuta’s 1994 record of scoring in 11 consecutive league matches, Sampdoria captain Fabio Quagliarella returns to face his hometown club on Saturday evening days after his 36th birthday. Should the veteran manage to score at the San Paolo, it would be a new all-time record in the league. Carlo Ancelotti will be asking his strikers to be more prolific in front of goal by emulating the opposing the skipper having fired blank in their last two matches against the same opponent (Milan). The Partenopei are now 11 points behind Juventus in a title race that seem to be completely over except Juventus suffer an unexpected collapse which leaves the Neapolitans hoping for unlikely miracles.  

VERDICT – Sampdoria handed Napoli their first league defeat of the season in Marassi beating them 3-0, but haven’t won home and away in a single season since 1997-98. The Blucerchiati managed just two draws and eight defeats at the San Paolo in Serie A since a 2-0 result in April 1998. Sampdoria travel to Naples with nothing to lose and Quagliarella chasing an all-time league record at the ground where he can achieve it. Napoli need to rediscover their scoring touch and provide their fans with a cheering result following their Coppa exit.  

AS ROMA v AC MILAN – SUN. 03 FEB 2019, 20.30HRS
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Both teams had contrasting results in Coppa Italia midweek; Milan beat Napoli with new striker Krzysztof Piatek opening his Milan goal account with a brace while Roma were walloped by Fiorentina in Florence 7-1. Both managers have been under pressure this season but Eusebio Di Francesco is the man who needs to motivate a deflated side against a rival for the final Champions League spot in Italy. The number of absentees for Di Francesco will make his task tougher with Steven Nzonzi and Bryan Cristante suspended for this game. It felt like money well spent on the new goal sensation for the Rossoneri with the former Genoa striker proving to be the genuine goal getter Milan have been craving for years. Milan will be travelling to the Eternal city in confident mood believing they can secure a similar result to last season on current form.

VERDICT – Milan have won their last two Serie A games against Roma, but haven’t made it three on the bounce since 1996. Eusebio Di Francesco is under immense pressuring following their last two results at Atalanta and Fiorentina. Another poor result here could prove disastrous for a man who has been on the chopping block for some time. It looks like a game with intriguing prospect and one that Roma cannot afford to lose else Milan could open up a four-point lead. However, it is difficult backing Roma’s horse with some factors against them.

To Spain;

BARCELONA v VALENCIA – SAT. 02 FEB 2019, 18.30HRS
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Valencia will travel to the Camp Nou with renewed confidence following their heroic performance against Getafe in the Copa del Rey. However, they will be aware Barcelona are on a different level therefore they cannot afford a slow start like it happened at the Mestalla on Tuesday night. League leaders Barcelona turned on the style in their 6-1 win over Sevilla to overturn their 1st leg Copa del Rey quarter final result. Ernesto Valverde’s team are on a winning run in the league, winning their last eight and will be quite confident they can make it nine on the bounce. Marcelino’s team have improved in recent weeks, winning three of the last six and have moved up the table to seventh. With the new momentum, can Los Che cause a huge upset in Catalonia on Saturday?

VERDICT – Barcelona haven’t lost in the league since they suffered a shock home defeat to Real Betis in November but they have lost twice in the Cup in January. Rodrigo Moreno scored his first Valencia hat-trick in their victory over Getafe midweek. This new found belief in Los Che is refreshing as they travel up north in search of a victory at the ground they tasted victory last in April 2016. In spite of Valencia’s improved form, this challenge might be too steep to conquer at the moment considering Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi form in Barcelona attack.

REAL BETIS v ATLETICO MADRID – SUN. 03 FEB 2019, 16.15HRS
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Atletico Madrid continue their pursuit of leaders Barcelona when they travel to Andalusia to face Real Betis at Estadio Benito Villamarin. Quique Setien’s team are one of the most unpredictable teams in the Spanish top-flight. On their day, they can stun the Barcelona at the Camp Nou and on another, they can be very flat in Bilbao. Diego Simeone’s team are enjoying a fine run in the league, having crashed out of the Copa early, Los Colchoneros have had sufficient time to prepare for games on a weekly basis and are fresher when they play. Betis are still involved in the Cup, they knocked Espanyol out on Wednesday but are likely to be stretched by the capital club.

VERDICT – Atletico have kept a clean sheet in nine of their last 11 matches against Real Betis in all competitions. They are also undefeated in their last 18 LaLiga matches, keeping five clean sheets in their last seven league matches. Los Verdiblancos have won just two of their nine matches in all competitions which represents poor form from the home team. That said, they managed to win a highly contested game at the death against Girona in their last home league match and will hope to draw inspiration from that performance. Atletico are well rested and fresher; which could give them an advantage in a high press game.

To England;

LEICESTER CITY v MANCHESTER UNITED – SUN. 03 FEB 2019, 15.05HRS
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Leicester City are looking to build on their commendable performance and draw at Anfield in midweek, while Manchester United are hoping to return to winning ways after their six-match winning streak was broken by Burnley in Tuesday night’s 2-2 draw at home. The Foxes will aim to claim another scalp against one of the top six considering they beat Chelsea and Manchester City as well as forcing Liverpool to a draw. Claude Puel has been criticized by his fans for his unattractive style but results are proving otherwise. Ole Gunnar Solskajer is gradually restoring confidence and belief attributed to Manchester United back as shown in their fightback on Tuesday night. The Red Devils are fully in the race for a top four position having fought their way back with Arsenal and Chelsea stuttering recently.  

VERDICT – Youri Tielemans could be handed his debut in this home game against United while should have Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba available. Leicester have won only one of their 12 home Premier League matches against United coming in the 5-3  win in September 2014 . Leicester appear to struggle against lower opposition but are fired up for games against the big teams with results achieved against the top sides in December and January. A closely fought game is anticipated at the King Power Stadium with both teams capable of scoring at opposing ends.

MANCHESTER CITY v ARSENAL – SUN. 03 FEB 2019, 17.30HRS
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Manchester City are looking to bounce back from their surprise defeat by Newcastle United in midweek with a fifth win in six matches, while Arsenal can record a fourth victory in five if they are successful at the Etihad. City can take solace in the fact that league leaders Liverpool didn’t take full advantage of City slip up which is welcome news at the Etihad. Arsenal managed a victory over Cardiff and have overtaken Chelsea on the table thanks to goal difference. Sunday’s game is important for both teams with either side fighting for their respective season ambition – City chasing Liverpool for the title while Arsenal want to return to the top four after two years hiatus. The Gunners will need a special performance on Sunday considering Unai Emery’s poor record against Pep Guardiola; in 11 matches, he has no win, four draws and seven defeats, scoring seven goals and conceding 25.

 VERDICT – Manchester City have won their last three Premier League matches against Arsenal and can make it four in a row in the top flight against the Gunners for the first time since April 1937 while Arsenal have lost 11 of their last 19 away Premier League matches, keeping just one clean sheet. The midweek defeat was damaging to Pep Guardiola’s team that are struggling to replicate the exceptional heights of last season which should bother their manager. He would be demanding a response from his team but Arsenal can seize the moment and inflict more misery on the Citizens? An explosive game should be on the cards at the Etihad, goals are guaranteed in City – Arsenal matches.

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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