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2019-20 FESIG League Preview – (El CLasico edition)

The irresistible force of Barcelona led by talismanic leader Leo Messi comes up against the immovable object of Sergio Ramos, Real Madrid inspirational leader in this weekend El Clasico, a league match which could probably shape the destination of the 2019-20 Spanish league title. In Italy, Antonio Conte’s team cannot afford to drift further behind in the three-horse race for the Scudetto; the Nerazzurri travel to Turin to face leaders Juventus who would be looking to rebound following the lethargic showing in Lyon midweek. Meanwhile Lazio can move into top spot 24 hours earlier with a home victory against Bologna. In England, Pep Guardiola and Manchester City should arrive Wembley on a high to pick up their first silverware of the season in the Carabao Cup final against Aston Villa on Sunday afternoon. A victory in London would see the Citizens lift the trophy for three consecutive seasons.

Let us take a preview of some of the most exciting matches in this FESIG edition.

We begin in France;

TOULOUSE v RENNES – SAT. 29 FEB 2020, 20.00HRS
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The race for third is starting to hot up as the season begins to enter its final 12 games. Lille sit on 43 points with Monaco, Strasbourg and Lyon all in the mix but it’s currently Rennes who are in the driving seat with 44 points. Les Rennais got a massive win last week to keep them in that place beating ten-man Nîmes with a goal in the 89th minute. You look around the first division and cannot find any team as poor as Toulouse. Les Violets have lost 16 of their last 17 matches in all competitions with a single draw against 19th placed Amiens their only reprieve in this awful run of form. They’ve had three different managers this season with reserve coach Denis Zanko the latest to have taken the reigns. It looks really gloomy at the basement club, they are 14 points of safety.

VERDICT – Given the lack of confidence in the home team and Steven Moreira missing the game through suspension, it will take a brave man to stake on Toulouse at the moment. However, the visitors have shown a weaker side on their travels this season but with their eyes set on a place in the Champions League, this is a must win game to retain their position in the standings.

FC NANTES v LILLE OSC – SUN. 01 MAR 2020, 15.00HRS
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Nantes will be looking to build on a splendid 3-1 win at Olympique Marseille when they face Lille at their Stade de la Beaujoire – Louis Fonteneau. The Canaries put an end to their five-game winless run in the Ligue 1, with the team keeping their Europa League hopes alive. Despite not winning many games, they have been impressive in the final third with 16 goals in their last nine games since the end of the winter break. On the other hand, Lille bounced back from their defeat to Olympique Marseille, with victory over rock-bottom Toulouse. Les Dogues were on a good run before the Marseille set back and will look to keep the momentum in the race for the final Champions League spot.

VERDICT –    Lille have won four of their last five matches with nine goals scored and just three conceded in this time. Nantes have also been brilliant in the final third as of late with 16 goals netted in their last nine matches, however their defence has struggled with 14 conceded in this time. Both teams have scored in the last four clashes between these sides with Lille winning the last three. It is a tricky game for either sides but with more at stake for the visitors. Both teams to score.

To Germany;

HOFFENHEIM v BAYERN MUNICH – SAT. 29 FEB 2020, 15.30HRS
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Hoffenheim will aim to end a four-match winless run against the same team in which the poor streak started. Bayern Munich produced another emphatic display in the Champions League against Chelsea to record a comfortable away victory but the win came at a heavy price. Goal-machine Robert Lewandowski suffered a knee injury which could keep him out for a month. The Bavarian giants travel to Sinsheim with their Polish striker which leaves Hans-Dieter Flick with a selection headache. His attacking options are limited due to other missing players. Hoffenheim have their own injury concerns as well, Munas Dabbur will not have the opportunity to face Bayern after suffering a knee injury against Gladbach last weekend.

VERDICT – Bayern Munich have a dominant record against their host – 15W, 5D, 3L in 23 duels. Interestingly, they lost the reverse fixture at home to Hoffenheim and will be eager to avenge that loss this time. Bayern look different this time but Lewandowski’s absence will be huge but Hoffenheim are low in confidence at the moment. This could swing either way but our prediction is over 2.5 goals.

RB LEIPZIG v BAYER LEVERKUSEN – SUN. 01 MAR 2020, 15.30HRS
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RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen square off against each other at the Red Bull Arena with just five points and three places separating them on the table. Die Roten Bullen produced their best performance of the season last weekend, with the team rolling over Schalke in Gelsenkirchen to maintain their hot pursuit of the leaders. Julian Nagelsmann’s troops are brimming with confidence ahead of the visit of Bayer Leverkusen but will need to approach the game with the right mentality because the visitors can deliver top class performance on their day just like they produced in the Europa league victory FC Porto on Thursday. Die Werkself have a side filled with exciting, pacy youngsters such as Kai Havertz, Leon Bailey and Moussa Diaby, while the likes of Karim Bellarabi and Lucas Alario inevitably gravitate towards the final third.

VERDICT – Leipzig are undefeated in eight home Bundesliga matches going into this fixture and have won four of their last seven league meetings against the visitors. Both of these two teams have been enjoying an impressive run of form lately. However, Leipzig’s recent home form may make them slightly more convincing than Leverkusen to take all three points on Sunday.  

To Italy;

LAZIO v BOLOGNA – SAT. 29 FEB 2020, 15.00HRS
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Lazio continued their improbable push for the title last weekend, coming through with a 3-2 victory in a difficult clash with Genoa. This weekend offers a great opportunity for the capital club move out in front. With Juventus taking on Inter on Sunday, Simone Inzaghi’s men can move top temporarily with a win and who knows if they could finish the weekend as leaders. Bologna scraped a last-gasp 1-1 draw with Udinese last week at Stadio Renato Dall’Ara. The Rossoblù was on track for their second defeat in a row, not the best way for Sinisa Mihajlovic to celebrate his 51st birthday. Mihajlovic will be facing a former teammate when he returns to his former club where it is expected that he will not be handing them any favors. 

VERDICT – Bologna have won just one of their last 18 Serie A trips to Lazio, in March 2012, but have drawn here three years in a row. Lazio leading scorer Ciro Immobile is a doubt for this game due to illness but his absence should be covered adequately with the form of Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. On paper, it looks like another Lazio victory but football is not played on sheets. Home win all the same.

JUVENTUS v INTER MILAN – SUN. 01 MAR 2020, 20.45HRS
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All eyes will be on Allianz Stadium when Juventus and Inter face each other in this weekend’s Derby d’Italia. This derby will be a quiet one due to the Coronavirus outbreak that will affect five league matches in the Serie A this weekend. Luckily for Antonio Conte, he will be getting no sweltering reception at his old ground. Beyond all the pre-match shenanigans, neither side cannot afford a defeat in the derby with Lazio finely poised to take full advantage of the situation to snatch the leadership or become the main challenger. Juventus had a disappointing performance in Lyon midweek while Inter took care of Ludogorets but both sides need to turn their attention to this very important game in Turin.

VERDICT – Both teams have strength in attack and defense and the battle spills over to the touchline with Sarri trying to outdo Conte with the former got the better of the latter in the reverse fixture. Inter’s record against Juve is miserable; they have won just one of their last 14 Serie A meetings, 2-1 victory in September 2016, along with five draws and eight defeats. They haven’t picked up a victory in Turin since November 2012. And, they are ones in need of a win more but can the Nerazzurris deliver? Watch out for a very close game.

To Spain;

ESPANYOL v ATLETICO MADRID – SUN. 01 MAR 2020, 16.00HRS
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Bottom club Espanyol welcome the visit of third-place Atletico Madrid to the RCDE Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Los Periquitos have managed just four league wins all season but the arrival of Raul De Tomas has given the Catalan club a lift in attack, they have won two and lost two of the last six league matches. Atletico Madrid have recovered from a recent slump to record three wins in all competitions and will look to revive their faint title aspirations in Barcelona. Diego Simeone troops have lost thrice on their travels but have doubled that number in stalemates.

VERDICT – Espanyol have won their last two home meetings against Atletico Madrid and will be looking for a hat-trick of wins against the Madrid side. Atletico will arrive Barcelona fresh, having had a full week to prepare for the game while Abelardo Fernández team were involved in a Europa League game.  This game will require a lot of physical effort and that is where Atleti might just edge it.

REAL MADRID v BARCELONA – SUN. 01 MAR 2020, 21.00HRS
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With 13 games remaining and Barcelona leading Real Madrid by two points, this El Clasico at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday could be pivotal in deciding the most fascinating LaLiga title race for years. Neither team has looked particularly convincing this season, both have been hit by significant injury blows, and Real now have a Champions League home defeat to bounce back from, so there are plenty of uncertainties heading into a game that is likely to be tense and closely contested. After a few poor results, Zinedine Zidane is under the cosh once again this season while Barca new boss Quique Setien is equally not having a bed of roses lined up at the Camp Nou.

VERDICT – The last El Clasico had all the ingredients of a classic game except goals. Real Madrid is in need of a victory therefore we are hoping for an open game. Both teams are missing important players but Barcelona squad looks very thin at the moment with a lot of absentees. The Catalans have won on their last four visits to the Bernabeu and with Messi in the team, you cannot rule out a fifth. We believe both teams will score this time.

To England;

WATFORD v LIVERPOOL – SAT. 29 FEB 2020, 18.30HRS
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Watford hope for a first victory in first league outings as they seek to move out of the relegation zone while leaders Liverpool can win a record 19th consecutive Premier League match and edge closer to a first ever Premier League title. For the Hornets, it is all about margins, if their equalizer at Old Tafford against Manchester United stood, it might have been a different story entirely. Their position on the log is 19th but they are just one point behind 17th place Aston Villa. For Reds, their champions’ mentality saw them through on Monday as they had to come from behind to beat West Ham at Anfield. They had home support from the crowd to pull them through difficult moments but will not enjoy similar support at Vicarage Road.

VERDICT – When you are going to a rough patch, the last time you want knocking on your door is Jurgen Klopp’s team. Watford have lost two of the last three at home to Liverpool and the Reds might not  be at full throttle like some months back but the momentum and enthusiasm of a first league title in three decades is fueling the team’s drive. Watford will ruffle Liverpool feathers but the Reds have shown time and again that they can be counted on to deliver. An away victory on the cards here.

Carabao Cup Final

ASTON VILLA v MANCHESTER CITY – SUN. 01 MAR 2020, 17.30HRS
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Manchester City will be looking to lift the Carabao Cup trophy for the third consecutive time on Sunday, and the odds are stacked in their favour as they go up against an Aston Villa side in trouble. Dean Smith’s team has lost three games on the bounce in all competitions and find themselves embroiled in a fierce relegation battle in the Premier League. An excellent cup run is good but there can be no doubt that Premier League survival is top of the agenda for the Claret & Blue Army. Manchester City will arrive Wembley in high spirit after a sensational turnaround at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday night in the Champions League. With the Premier League title out of sight, any domestic silverware will be welcomed as they set their sights on European success.

VERDICT – Villa have lost their last four meetings against the Citizens shipping in 17 goals in the process. Pep Guardiola’s team has lifted the League Cup trophy in four of the last six seasons and have won six of the seven finals they have appeared in, it’s looking very unlikely that Villa can cause an upset here. Anything outside a comfortable City victory will be considered a huge upset this weekend.

This wraps up our FESIG preview for the week. Predict and win big by visiting our Sports shop Babaijebu.ng for mouthwatering offers in all matches available in the French, English, Spanish, Italian and German leagues and more for the weekend.

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