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FESIG League Preview – (Derbies; El Clasico, Rome, North London and Merseyside)

It is a weekend of derbies across Europe with some of the fiercest rivals locking horns. It doesn’t come bigger than the El Clasico in Spain; the irresistible force of Lionel Messi and Barcelona up against the immovable object of Sergio Ramos and Real Madrid in the second part of two El Clasico taking place in a space of four days. In Italy, we have the Eternal City derby also known as Derby della Capitale between in-form AS Roma and city rivals SS Lazio. The North London derby is a derby for pride and honor; Tottenham Hotspur host Arsenal in Wembley while the Merseyside derby is at Goodison Park between Everton and Liverpool should bring the city of Liverpool to a standstill.

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

We begin in France;

OGC NICE v RACING STRASBOURG – SUN. 03 MAR 2019, 15.00HRS
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Tenth place Nice host eight placed Strasbourg at the Allianz Riviera on Sunday afternoon with revenge on their mind following their two nil loss in December at Stade de la Meinau. Both teams have 37 points in the Ligue 1 table, but Strasbourg have the better goal difference to stay ahead. The main difference has been scoring; Nice have the second poorest goal scoring record in the division team this season, managing a paltry 19 in 26 league matches. Their defense is one of the best and that’s the reason they are high up the table. However, Nice have lost their last two league matches against Amiens and Angers conceding four times in these two league matches.  Strasbourg has drawn the last two league matches, against Caen and Lille. The visitors haven’t won away in the last three outings while Nice has won their last three at home without conceding a goal.

VERDICT – In 15 previous meetings, the head-to-head is almost even. Nice have five victories to Strasbourg’s four and six games have ended in a stalemate. Patrick Vieria’s team have built their reputation on a solid defense, making it extremely difficult for visitors to get anything out when they visit Allianz Riviera. Thierry Laurey adopts a slightly different approach, with emphasis on attack. They have failed to score in only two of their last eight outings. Under 2.5 goals is your best bet.

OLYMPIQUE MARSEILLE v SAINT-ETIENNE – SUN. 03 MAR 2019, 21.00HRS
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Marseille welcome Saint Etienne to the Orange Velodrome with knowledge that a victory in front of their fans will see them leapfrog the Saints into fourth position which the visitors currently occupy. Rudi Garcia’s team head into this match in good form; winning three of their last four Ligue 1 matches with winter acquisition – Mario Balotelli on getting amongst the goals. The visitors are not at their best, they have lost three of their last six league matches and manager Jean-Louis Gasset has a long list of injuries to deal with as they make the 332km trip south to Marseille. Saint Etienne won the reverse fixture but Marseille have been the better scoring team this season. They will need goals to win and I’m backing them to do so.

VERDICT – History and records favors Marseille, Les Phocéens winning their last two home league fixtures with comfortable margins. However, the January defeat to Les Verts should still fresh in the minds of the hosts when they entertain Jean-Louis Gasset team. Marseille and Saint Etienne hold no prisoners when they met so we are guaranteed attacking display from both teams. Over 2.5 goals is anticipated as a good outcome.

To Germany;

EINTRACHT FRANKFURT v HOFFENHEIM – SAT. 02 MAR 2019, 15.30HRS
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After four consecutive draws, Frankfurt won convincingly at Hannover and leapfrogged Leverkusen to sixth. The battle for Europa league places in the Bundesliga is getting more exciting as the week goes by with changes in position based on outcome of matches. Four point is all that separates eight placed Hoffenheim and fifth place Wolfsburg. At Commerzbank Arena on Saturday afternoon, two evenly matched sides will face each. Frankfurt will be full of confidence having returned to winning ways, they are unbeaten in their last six league matches while top-six wannabe Hoffenheim arrive in similar form as well – unbeaten in five. A fierce match in all sense awaits the fans considering what’s on offer.

VERDICT – Hoffenheim have lost just four of their 19 Bundesliga meetings with Frankfurt, including the 2-1 loss at home earlier in the season. The visitors have lost just one of their last 16 Bundesliga matches, but have drawn nine of their last 12. Frankfurt are unbeaten in their first six league matches in the six half of the season for the first time in 29 years. Both teams are in good form and they always find the back of the net. We expect goals at the Commerzbank Arena; over 2.5 goals.

BORUSSIA MOENCHENGLADBACH v BAYERN MUNICH – SAT. 02 MAR 2019, 18.30HRS
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Borussia Moenchengladbach and Bayern Munich rivalry dates back to the 1970s when both teams enjoyed domestic success and healthy rival. They will look to renew this at Borussia Park on Saturday when Bayern Munich come calling. Gladbach stunned Bayern in Munich in the reverse fixture but their current form doesn’t suggest they are unlikely to replicate similar feat with Bayern looking to avenge the defeat. On the other hand, Bayern need to keep winning to put pressure on Dortmund while ensuring they increase the gap between them and third place Moenchengladbach to 11 points with an away victory. The Foals have enjoyed a strong home form in the Bundesliga this season until recently, losing their last two league matches in front of their fans. Will Bayern make it three straight home defeats for Dieter Hecking’s team?

VERDICT – This is a derby game with both sides motivated for a victory. The form book is in favor of the visitors while the home will hope to revive their formidable home record until recent weeks. Bayern Munich have the edge in quality but their recent record against Gladbach isn’t cheering. This game can go either way, both teams getting on the scoresheet is almost a given.

To Italy;

SS LAZIO v AS ROMA – SAT. 02 MAR 2019, 20.30HRS
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Lazio square off against city rival Roma in Derby Della Capitale as Champions League race hots up. Simone Inzaghi’s team sit sixth on table, six point behind rivals Roma and a point further off the final Champions League spot held by Milan. Le Aquile head into the derby in poor form, winless in their last four matches in all competitions with three defeats in this run. The team from the other side of the City are in better form, Eusebio Di Francesco team have won their four of their last six league matches and lost once in the last 12 Serie A matches. Champions League qualification is within reach for the Giallorossi, they are one point behind fourth place Milan and three behind Inter in third. With a busy schedule ahead, Di Francesco will be demanding for maximum output from his team during this good run.  

VERDICT – Form is usually thrown out of the window during the derbies. However, the last time Lazio won the derby was on 1st March 2017. Two years later, on the 2nd of March, they would be hosting their city rival Roma who is in better form, winning their last three league matches. When these two sides met last September, Roma won convincingly 3-1. Can the Giallorossi record a league double over their city rival? A tough call but both teams should get on the scoresheet.

NAPOLI v JUVENTUS – SUN. 03 MAR 2019, 20.30HRS
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Unbeaten Juventus will have their unbeaten league record on the line when they visit San Paolo on Sunday evening to play second place Napoli. Carlo Ancelotti’s team are realistically out of the title race but they can hurt the Old Lady by inflicting them with their first league defeat of this season. Max Allegri’s team is on course to win their 8th consecutive Serie A title but they haven’t been at imperious best despite winning their last 3 Serie A away matches. Juventus have been monitoring Ronaldo’s ankle knock, he is still a doubt but we can be certain he would make the cut for this game. For the Partenopei, they produce the goods at home, scoring 28 goals and conceding just seven times.  

VERDICT – Napoli will come into the match in much higher spirits. They won four and drew two of last six games across competitions. Carlo Ancelotti’s men demolished Parma four nil away at Stadio Ennio Tardini last weekend and there are no doubts they will be highly motivated to inflict Juventus with their first league defeat of the season. Juventus are the only unbeaten side left in Europe’s top five leagues this season but are not playing at their best at the moment. They have become the masters of grinding out results even when they are not at their best. This is a very close game but we expect both teams to score.

To Spain;

REAL MADRID v BARCELONA – SAT. 02 MAR 2019, 20.45HRS
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The second part of a four-day double header El Clasico sees Lionel Messi lead Barcelona out against Sergio Ramos and his Real Madrid teammates. On Wednesday night, Barca cruised to a comfortable Copa win at the Santiago Bernabeu to leave their fierce rivals ruing missed chances. The league clasico might not have significant impact on the current status on the competition but Santiago Solari and his troops will be aware that a second straight home defeat to their hated rival will not be accepted by a demanding crowd. The Argentine manager is probably in a fix with an eye on next week Champions League game against Ajax. Barcelona should feel confident in securing another result having won on their last four trips to the Bernabeu.

VERDICT – The loss in the Copa will surely hurt Real Madrid, and more than that, the number of chances that missed in the first half. Karim Benzema will be required to spearhead the team’s attack and amply supported for exciting newcomer Vinicius Jr. Solari and his troops cannot afford a third consecutive home loss; with Girona and Barcelona walking away from the Bernabeu as victors in the last two home games. Barcelona are on a solid run, unbeaten in their last nine matches in all competitions and will aim to see of their rivals again on Saturday evening even if they are not at their best.

REAL BETIS v GETAFE – SUN. 03 MAR 2019, 16.15HRS
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Overachieving Getafe travel to Andalusia to face Real Betis in another exciting LaLiga fixture on Sunday afternoon at Benito Villamarin. Azulones are currently in dreamland, the thought of Champions League football at Coliseum Alfonso Perez will undoubtedly be the biggest achievement for the tiny Madrid club. Real Betis have to switch focus back to LaLiga and their European football pursuit following their elimination from the Copa del Rey which came to an end in the semi-final. Quique Setien’s team need to inspire themselves against a motivated Getafe side that is just three points and three places above them on the log. 

VERDICT – Betis just like Getafe can begin to dream of Champions League football. They can move lock on points with Getafe in fourth with a victory here in front of their fans. Los Beticos have the edge in the head-to-head race, however, Betis have paid the price of playing in three different competitions lately with fatigue being their biggest undoing. Jose Bordalas sets his team up perfectly in a system to maximize the super dangerous attacking qualities of Jaime Mata and Jorge Molina. It might not be a festival of goals but we can be guaranteed a couple at Estadio Benito Villamarin in a game where either side can win.

To England;

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR v ARSENAL – SAT. 02 MAR 2019, 13.30HRS
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Tottenham Hotspur will be looking for a response after successive defeats has seen their title ambition vanish into thin air with them nine points off top spot, while Arsenal can move within one point of their north London neighbours with victory at Wembley. Mauricio Pochettino’s team have to look over their shoulder now with Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea closing in; a home defeat will blow open the last two Champions League spots in England. The Gunners travel to face their fierce rival in confident mood having crushed Bournemouth on Wednesday though they would be aware of their poor record at Tottenham recently. The Gunners have failed to score in their last two away matches to Tottenham and are winless in the last three.

VERDICT – Arsenal are looking to complete a Premier League double over rival Spurs for only the fourth time (2004/05, 2007/08 and 2013/14). Spurs haven’t lost three consecutive league matches since November 2012, the third defeat of which came against Arsenal. This is an all-important tie for both sides with implication depending on the outcome. Both teams love to play on the offense so backing both teams to score is the best option for this game.

EVERTON v LIVERPOOL – SUN. 03 MAR 2019, 17.15HRS
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Everton are looking for back-to-back wins following their midweek victory at Cardiff City while table-topping Liverpool aim to further improve their record-breaking unbeaten run against their Merseyside rivals. This will be the 200th top-flight meeting between Everton and Liverpool with the Toffees winless in their last 18 encounters against the Reds across all competitions (D9 L9), their longest winless run against the Reds. Liverpool have no option but to win their remaining ten games in the league in their bid to win their first league title in 29 years. Everton might not have much at stake but local rivalry and getting one over a title chasing city rival could give the passionate Toffees supporters something to celebrate.

VERDICT – Both teams picked up midweek wins to boost their confidence ahead of the Merseyside derby. It is a difficult game for Liverpool anyway because they are top of the league, going away to their local rivals, and they have got absolutely everything to lose. One thing that might motivate the visitors is the fact that Everton has conceded just a single goal fewer at home than Huddersfield, the bottom team in the table. Marco Silva’s team will need to put in a gritty performance in other to stand a chance against the Klopp’s team.

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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