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FESIG League Preview – (Liverpool’s final acid test in Premier League title race)

Liverpool face arguably their toughest challenge left in the title race when Tottenham Hotspur visit Anfield on Sunday with the likelihood the Reds would have dropped to second place by the time they kick off with Manchester City playing a day earlier at Fulham. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund continue their battle at the top of the Bundesliga with both teams looking for who would blink before next week big showdown – Die Klassiker in Munich. In Spain, Atletico Madrid would be weary of old enemies and city rivals – Real Madrid would have found a new breath of life under club legend – Zinedine Zidane. Los Rojiblancos need all three points at Mendizorrotza to hold on to second position. There might be new life at Beneamata following victory in Derby Della Madonina for Inter Milan who need to consolidate on that victory to hold off city rivals AC Milan in the Champions League race.

We begin in France;

NANTES v LILLE OSC – SUN. 31 MAR 2019, 16.00HRS
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Nantes take on Lille in front of their fans at  Stade de la Beaujoire – Louis Fonteneau in what is expected to be a very interesting game. Nantes have been struggling in front of goal of late, with the team failing to score in previous two league fixtures. Les Canaris are not currently in danger of being dragged into the relegation fight but will be eager to move further away from the danger zone in the league standings. Lille are enjoying a season to remember, with the team sitting in second place in the standings ahead of Matchday 30. Les Dogues have been impressive this campaign and against all odds, might secure a Champions League spot by the end of the campaign. Will the vocal crowd in Nantes lift their team against the high-flying visitors who suffered a surprise home defeat last time out against Monaco?

VERDICT – Lille have the better head-to-head record between these two sides; 16 victories in the last 31 meetings compared to Nantes four wins. Christophe Galtier’s team won the reverse fixture in the first half of the season and will aim for a league double over the Canaris. There has been under 2.5 goals scored in each of Nantes previous five league outings so do not expect a high scoring affair at Stade de la Beaujoire.

TOULOUSE v PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN – SUN. 31 MAR 2019, 20.00HRS
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It is only a matter of time before PSG are crowned domestic champions again. Since their surprise exit from the Champions League, Thomas Tuchel’s side have been producing excellent displays in Ligue 1 and the directors at the club seem to believe he is still the right man for the job having offered him a contract extension with raised pay. Toulouse might be 10 points clear of the relegation zone now but their current form of one league victory in the six needs to improve if they are to avoid a late scare. Alain Casanova is a seasoned Ligue 1 campaigner who will be drilling his side and ensuring they stay focused on the job at hand. However, the visit of the capital team isn’t one of those games Les Pitchouns fans would expect much returns.

VERDICT – Kylian Mbappe and Angel Di Maria lead the stats table for goals and assist in the division. For PSG, it is about setting and breaking records. The French World Cup winner has scored 10 league goals away from home this season with his team averaging 2.54 goals per game. Max-Alain Gradel is Toulouse top scorer with five league goals at home. He would be carrying the weight of expectation of the 33,000 fans at Stadium de Toulouse. We are unlikely to see an upset here, PSG to win comfortably.

To Germany;

BORUSSIA DORTMUND v VfL WOLFSBURG – SAT. 30 MAR 2019, 15.30HRS
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Borussia Dortmund needs to build on their recent fine performances when Wolfsburg come calling at Signal Iduna Park. This is perfect preparatory game for Lucien Favre’s team ahead of their trip to Munich next week. Die Borussien are indisputable at home in the Bundesliga with 11W & 2D in 13 home league matches. On the other hand, Wolfsburg are still in the Europa League chase; they are level on point with sixth placed Bayer Leverkusen and have one of the best away record in the league with seven wins away from the Volkswagen Arena. Regardless of their solid away record, history in the fixture will need to be rewritten if they are to stand any chance in Dortmund. However, recent record favors Dortmund; they have won 5 of the last 6 meetings and their home form this season should come for the Yellow and Black Army.

VERDICT – Wolfsburg recovered from their drubbing at Bayern to hand Bremen a proper thrashing at home and that should Die Wölfe confidence ahead of their travel. However, Dortmund have won five of the last six meeting against Wolfsburg and with a solid home record this campaign, all arrows point in just one direction. We anticipate an intense game with both teams leaving everything on the pitch but the home team just about has an edge here. Expect home win and over 2.5 goals at Signal Iduna Park.

SC FREIBURG v BAYERN MUNICH – SAT. 30 MAR 2019, 15.30HRS
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Mid-table Freiburg welcome Bayern Munich to Schwarzwald-Stadion with Christian Streich’s team 11 points off relegation play off zone. There is no pressure on them ahead of this game and not much would be expected from them except for Borussia Dortmund fans. Bavarian giants – Bayern Munich are in full confidence ahead of this game. Nico Kovac’s team has won 13 of its last 14 Bundesliga matches and would look to improve their goal difference better in this game before facing Dortmund next week. Bayern were impressive before the international break, winning six consecutive league matches and were rampant the last three against Borussia Moenchengladbach, Mainz and Wolfsburg scoring 17 goals and conceding just once. Their away form in the league is excellent as well, winning 10 of 13 and five of the last six.

VERDICT – Is anyone expecting an upset at Schwarzwald-Stadion? We don’t think so. Freiburg do not stand a chance against Bayern’s quality so the question is how much damage control will Christian Streich try to put in place to avoid a tennis score? Bayern look to be in the mood, they would be expected to dominate from start to finish. Bayern to win both halves will improve odds.

To Italy;

AS ROMA v NAPOLI – SUN. 31 MAR 2019, 14.00HRS
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Fifth place Roma entertain Napoli in second spot at the Olimpico on Sunday afternoon in one of the biggest games in week 29. Roma’s caretaker boss Claudio Ranieri’s suffered his first defeat back at the helms at Spal – a loss which sets back the Giallorossi in their Champions League qualification hope. Napoli seem to have lost a bit of motivation in the Serie A – they are out of the title race but have a decent point advantage over the remaining chasing pack for Champions League spots. Carlo Ancelotti might have his eyes on Europa League as he targets silverware for the Partenopei in his first season in charge.

VERDICT – The hosts have lost once at home in the league (8W, 4D, 1L) while the visitors have lost thrice on the road (7W, 3D, 3L). Napoli have managed two wins from the last six away matches while Roma have four wins in their last six home matches. Defeat to Spal makes this game a must win for Roma with Lazio and Atalanta closing up on them. There is less pressure on Napoli – their second spot isn’t under threat and they might just thrive on the back of it. Expect an open game at the Olimpico; over 2.5 goals.

INTER MILAN v LAZIO – SUN. 31 MAR 2019, 19.30HRS
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Inter Milan have had an up and down season so far; however, they would hope to find some consistency following their Derby victory last time out. Lazio travel to the San Siro on the back of a victory over Parma and are just six points behind fourth place Milan with a game in hand. AC Milan face Sampdoria on Saturday and, should the Rossoneri win, they could well open up a nine-point advantage over Lazio, which would make this game close to a must win for the Biancocelesti. The pre-match focus has been on the potential return of Mauro Icardi with on form Lautaro Martinez sidelined due to injury. Inter have been very strong at home, with just two defeats in their 13 games at San Siro. Lazio have struggled all season against the top half sides in the league, winning just two of their 11 meetings, both of those coming against Fiorentina.

VERDICT – Both teams have met twice this season – the first league meeting ended 3-0 in favor of Inter at the Olimpico while Lazio managed some sort of revenge in the Cup dumping the Nerazzurri out. Lazio have a poor record at the San Siro; they have managed just two league wins there in 19 years. A score draw is the top tip for this close encounter.

To Spain;

ALAVES v ATLETICO MADRID – SAT. 30 MAR 2019, 20.45HRS
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LaLiga title race is definitely over but the race for second place is still alive between the two giant Madrid clubs. Atletico Madrid make another trip north this weekend to face overachieving Alaves at their tricky home ground – Mendizorrotza. Abelardo’s team is currently on a six match unbeaten run and has taken some major scalp at home this season including a victory over Real Madrid. Atletico haven’t been imperious on the road lately – losing at Betis and more recently in Bilbao. Alaves will be more motivated to improve their recent poor showings against Atletico Madrid considering Diego Simeone troop won the reverse fixture three nil in Madrid earlier in the season.  

VERDICT – Atletico have won the last three meetings between these two teams despite some of them being narrow victories. Alaves have failed to find the net in five of the sides’ last six matchups too and the last time the Babazorros managed a win over Los Colchoneros is as far back as 2003. The international break was ideal for Atletico to retool and we expect Diego Simeone’s team to be fully recharged for the final stretch of the campaign. An away win is on the cards.

SEVILLA v VALENCIA – SUN. 31 MAR 2019, 15.15HRS
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Sixth place Sevilla host Valencia seventh on the log at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in the battle for European places on Matchday 29. Three points is all that separates both sides with the final Champions League slot still not out of reach for both teams. Joaquín Caparrós has been drafted in once more to save Sevilla season following Pablo Machin’s dismissal and he would be charging his team to make it three consecutive league victories on the trot. Valencia haven’t had the best season till date but Marcelino has steadied the ship quite comfortable. They have been difficult to beat and boast of the 16 draws in the campaign till date. Los Che are on a 15-game unbeaten streak in all competitions with several first team regulars back from injuries and finding their feet once again. 

VERDICT – This game has a special history between both teams. Sevilla haven’t beaten Valencia in four head-to-head meetings since November 2016. The visitors snatched a 2-0 win on their last trip to to Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, which was their only win here in 15 years. Both sides shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw at Mestalla earlier this term, as Mouctar Diakhaby found the last-minute equalizer for Los Che. It is difficult separating those teams so another score draw might just be it.

To England;

MANCHESTER UNITED v WATFORD – SAT. 30 MAR 2019, 16.00HRS
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Manchester United announced Ole Gunnar Solskajer as their new permanent manager on Thursday. It would be interesting to see the effect of this appointment on the team’s performance but most often than not, it is usually positive. United will be seeking to return to winning ways following the setback at Arsenal last time out. Visiting Watford have their own ambitions as well; they can record a fourth win in six matches and could climb above Wolverhampton Wanderers into seventh place. The Hornets have the FA Cup semi-final on the horizon so Javi Gracia might be tempted to start shuffling his pack to keep his best legs available for the Wembley game. What effect will Solskajer permanent appointment have on Manchester United?

VERDICT – Man Utd have won 12 of their last 13 matches against Watford in all competitions. United have lost successive matches and need to bounce back in the race for a top-four finish. atford are eighth in the league and the highest position they can hope for this season is seventh. The Hornets have lost successive away league matches at Liverpool and Manchester City conceding eight goals in the process. Gracia is likely to adopt a more conservative approach at Old Trafford but the buzz around Solskjaer permanent appointment means United have got to be favorites in front of their fans.  

LIVERPOOL v TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR – SUN. 31 MAR 2019, 16.30HRS
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Liverpool need to win to preserve their Premier League lead as well as maintain their unbeaten league run at home this season, while Tottenham Hotspur are seeking their first league victory in five to keep themselves ahead of rivals Arsenal in the race for Champions League. The Reds have a solid home record against Spurs, winning 15 of the last 24 and the last home defeat against the Londoners was in May 2011. Spurs have lost their last three away matches and their current form doesn’t inspire confidence though they earned a creditable draw at Anfield last season. It is important to note that Liverpool have dropped points just twice at Anfield this season and are unbeaten in 36 home league matches.

VERDICT – Liverpool snatched a 1-2 win at Wembley earlier in the season with goals from Wijnaldum and Roberto Firmino. Jurgen Klopp’s team are a force to reckon with at home but this is a game where Spurs cannot afford another meltdown if they aim to stay in the race for Champions League next season. Liverpool are not playing particularly well but they have not lost any of their past 10 league games and they are in a very good position. In spite of Spurs recent poor form, they still have the league’s second best away record this season. That said, the Reds have their eyes are on the prize now. They know how big this game is, and have to get the result they need.

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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