Liverpool v. Barcelona Champions League Semifinal, Leg 2

What a title race this is becoming in England as City now sit one point above Liverpool with one match to play. The drama has been intense week in and week out and it didn’t stop this past weekend. Both teams had tough tests and both teams proved why they are having two of the best seasons in Premier League history. Liverpool needed late heroics at Newcastle as a Divock Origo scored a winner in the 86th after both teams traded goals for the whole match. Sadly Mo Salah suffered a scary head injury and looks to be out for the rest of the season, including this match agains Barcelona on Tuesday.

City meanwhile hosted a Leicester team who were totally up for it, but they prevailed 1-0 due to an absolutely insane goal from Vincent Kompany. How insane is it? It’s only his 18th goal in 11 seasons in the Premier League, his first shot on target outside of the box in 6 years and his first ever goal outside of the box. It’s by far the best goal he’s ever scored and it might be the one that wins the title for City.

Now we put that title chase on pause for the second leg of the Champions League Semifinals between Barcelona and Liverpool.

This Season’s Record: 205-161-47 (+17.4 Units)
Matchweek 37 Record: 4-2-1 (+2.5 Units)

Barcelona (3) @ Liverpool (0) (TV: TNT) – This is an odd game because Barca basically have it in the bag already and if they score one more it’ll be completely over. Second legs are also always odd because they are never normal matches. What I mean by that is that there’s usually already a score and both teams’ strategies will surely change throughout the match. When one team is up so much and has such a large cushion, you have no idea how they are going to play it, defend the whole game or try to put it away. But there was a system I used back in the Quarterfinals that worked pretty well and it has some historical data to back it. I’m going to apply that here as well.

In this season of the Champions League, 14 of the 17 2nd-leg knockout matches have had at least 3 goals. Last season, both semifinals in the 2nd leg had at least 4 goals. If we expand that stat over the last 10 years, 14 of the 20 2nd legs in the Semifinals have had at least 3 goals. Adding to that notion, every match that went 3-0 or better in the first leg (4-0, etc…) had at least three goals in the second leg, occurring three times. For this match specifically, I think it has a good chance to go over even without Salah and Firmino because both teams will be looking to score goals quickly. Liverpool have a massive mountain to climb and have no option but to go for it early and Barcelona will look to end the entire thing in the first half. Also, if you’re not properly defending Messi or Suarez then you’re in deep trouble not just on the break but if Barcelona sustain any sort of possession.

I expect Barcelona to not give in early, making sure they don’t provide Liverpool with any momentum but at the same time absorb a bit of pressure. Their goal is to keep a clean sheet in the first 30 minutes while trying to hit on the break to get that coveted away goal.

I hate the pickem line because I can’t rule out a Liverpool comeback at Anfield but I also think Barcelona could just keep running away with it. Also if Barca score first, they can allow four more goals and still go through, making the spread for either side really vulnerable. Meanwhile the over thrives in these situations. Over 3 goals (-105).

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo

Matchweek 37 Preview

Before we get into this weekends preview let’s go over Barcelona v Liverpool in the first leg of their Semifinal.

On paper you’d think Liverpool were able to get a result as they had more of the ball, more shots, and even more passes completed. But the scoreline says a completely different story as Barcelona ended up throttling Liverpool 3-0. They failed to achieve two of my three key points; stopping Messi and keeping a clean sheet/scoring an away goal. They did well to contain Messi for a lot of the match but there were times that the entire Liverpool defense went into panic mode whenever he had space, which allowed the lanes for Suarez and Coutinho to open up. On his first goal he was unmarked in the box and put away one of the easier chances of his career. That’s what happens when you take your eye off of him for 5 seconds in the box.

It also didn’t help that Messi scored one of the greatest free kicks we’ve ever seen. It was so good that the Liverpool players couldn’t even complain and it even made Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp smile on the touchline. 30 yards out, at 61 miles per hour and perfectly in the top corner. I really recommend watching the goal HERE. Liverpool now have a massive mountain to climb especially since they don’t have an away goal in their back pocket.

This Season’s Record: 201-159-46 (+14.9 Units)
Barcelona v. Liverpool: 1-0 (+1.0 Units)

Saturday, May 4th
English Premier League
7:30 am EST

Tottenham @ Bournemouth – This is an interesting one because how Spurs line up will say a lot about their commitment to their top 4 finish and their Champions League Semifinal on Wednesday. Son was rested on Tuesday against Ajax because of his suspension but they’ll be without Vertonghen, Kane and several other rotation players I’m sayursay both because of rest and injuries. They have enough of a cushion in the league where if they drop points, a top four finish is still likely. I think they’ll end up resting a few players because of their upcoming trip to Amsterdam. Their form worries me as they’ve only had one win in their last five matches and away from home they’ve gone 1-8 in their last 9. Bournemouth haven’t been fantastic either but they’re coming off of a 3-3 draw at Southampton where they showed that they can grind out a result especially by scoring goals. This is a great opportunity for Bournemouth to steal some points and I’m going to take them as home underdogs. Bournemouth (+0.5, -110).

10:00 am EST

Fulham @ Wolves – Fulham have been in fantastic form ever since they got relegated, winning three straight. But those matches weren’t far-fetched wins for the club and they’ll now have to face their first real test in Wolves. They’ve gone 0-4 in their last four matches against top-8 opponents with a -9 goal differential which makes for an average loss margin of 2.25. Wolves meanwhile have gone their last three matches unbeaten, with a win away at Watford and a win at home to Arsenal. They’re playing well enough to halt Fulham’s form in it’s tracks and they’re still fighting for that 7th place spot. A win here and a Leicester loss at City could guarantee that spot. I’ll take them on the spread at home. Wolves (-1. -110).

German Bundesliga
9:30 am EST

Nurnberg @ Wolfsburg – Nurnberg’s draw against Bayern last weekend was nothing short of spectacular, but it’s a one-off performance In my opinion. Adding to that, Schalke’s win at Dortmund puts Nurnberg’s hopes of survival at almost 0 as they now have an 11 point gap with 5 matches left. They’ll face a Wolfsburg team who have performed up to their standard over the last few matches, covering or pushing in most of them. They’re also still within an earshot of qualifying for European competition next season as they sit only 2 points behind the last Europa League spot and 4 points behind the last Champions League spot. Three points would be crucial in maintaining that quest for Europe and I trust them to get those points at home here. Wolfsburg (-1, -105).

Sunday, May 5th
English Premier League
9:00 am EST

Watford @ Chelsea – Chelsea will be coming off of their 1-1 draw at Frankfurt in the Europa League Semifinals while Watford will have a full week’s rest. I always like fading teams late in the season when they’re coming off of major travel, especially against clubs with a full week’s rest. Also, Chelsea’s recent results have been somewhat uninspiring as their only win in their last five matches was at home to Slavia Prague in the Quarterfinals of the Europa League. Yes Watford are coming off of a home loss last weekend, but they’ve been pretty good against top-6 clubs away from home this season. They’ve only failed to cover once against those teams in their last four tries and rank 8th in the league in away goal differential. I think they can cause Chelsea some serious trouble, especially if Sarri decides to rest some starters before the second leg against Frankfurt. I’ll take them on a spread that I think is 0.5 points too many. Watford (+1.5, -125).

Spanish La Liga
6:00 am EST

Girona @ Getafe – This is one of the more intriguing matches of the weekend as Getafe are still clinging on the the last Champions League spot and Girona are still at risk of relegation. Due to those factors, Getafe only sit as -0.5 favorites, but I think Vegas is severely underestimating how good this squad is. In their last few matches, Getafe have drawn Real Madrid, beaten Sevilla handily and had a home win against Bilbao. That’s three major results against three top-7 clubs while Girona are 1-6 in their last 7 matches. Yes, Girona’s sole win came against Sevilla last weekend (which ironically helped Getafe tremendously in the race for 4th), but overall Girona aren’t a team that Getafe should be too scared of. I love Getafe at home here to continue their quest for their first Champions League birth in 8 years and only their second ever. Getafe (-0.5, -125).

German Bundesliga
7:30 am EST

Augsburg @ Schalke – Schalke are coming off of their biggest win of the season as they dismantled rivals Dortmund and possibly ruined their chances at a Bundesliga title. Shockingly though, they still sit in the last safe spot in the league, but with a six point cushion. Meanwhile Augsburg sit only one point above them. If either of these teams can get three points, it’ll likely guarantee survival for that club. Although Augsburg have had a few good results as of late, they haven’t won in any of their last ten away matches, with their last win coming back in October. I trust Schalke, who are surely buzzing after their win last weekend, to take care of business at home and guarantee survival. Schalke (-0.5, -125).

Italian Serie A
9:00 am EST

Atalanta @ Lazio – This is probably the best match in Italy this weekend, outside of maybe the Turin derby between Torino and Juve. Atalanta come into this match in great form as they have won three straight matches and have gone unbeaten in their last eleven matches. Lazio meanwhile have had a few good wins including against Milan an Inter, but they’ve also dropped points to Chievo Verona, Sassuolo and SPAL. They’re also 2-3-1 in their last six and sit four points behind the final Champions League spot held by Atalanta. Atalanta will also have to play Juve in a few weeks and would feel much more comfortable going into that match with a three point cushion in their 4th place spot. I feel much more comfortable picking an Atalanta team who have had steady and consistent results against a Lazio team who are somewhat out of sorts right now. I’m even going to go as far as taking their moneyline at 2/1. Atalanta (+200).

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo

Matchweek 36 Preview

Manchester City showed that they have what it takes to retain their title after surviving the trip across town to Old Trafford, beating United 2-0. Now both City and Liverpool are finally level on matches played with City above them by one point, finally finding some stability after first place has changed hands 28 times this season.

There are three matches left in the Premier League, four left in the Bundesliga, four left in La Liga and five more left in Serie A. The Premier League and the Bundesliga have neck and neck title races, all four leagues have very tight Champions League races, and most leagues have interesting relegation battles all well.

It’s the time of year that clubs can clinch titles, reach the top four and fight for survival which in turn provides us with value across the board. There are a lot of pickems of this week so let’s see if we can pinpoint that value, but first the numbers from this past midweek and overall this season…

This Season’s Record: 197-154-44 (+15.0 Units)
Midweek Matches: 4-1 (+4.4 Units)

Saturday, April 27th
English Premier League
10:00 am EST

Cardiff @ Fulham (TV: NBCSN) – Fulham are already relegated but for Cardiff, this is their best chance at saving their season and staying up in the Premier League. Shockingly enough once Fulham got relegated, they went on a two-match winning streak against Everton and Bournemouth. They’re for sure going down swinging. But they’re facing a desperate Cardiff team who last time out in a similar match a week and a half ago, beat Brighton at Brighton to keep their hopes alive. I think Fulham are due for regression especially since their defense has yet to have back-to-back-to-back clean sheets all year (let alone two in a row before this run) and their offense will likely not be able to make up for those goals conceded. I expect Cardiff to come out swinging and get a point at the minimum, keeping their hopes alive for staying in the Premier League next season. I like them on the pickem line with a positive price. Cardiff (Pick, +110).

Wolves @ Watford – Cue the Spiderman meme.

These two teams who have had almost identical seasons, identical records, similar crests and similar names will be facing off for the right for 7th place on Saturday. We all know how good Wolves have been, especially against the top 6, and it has almost put Watford totally under the radar this year. They’ve gone 6-3-2 at home in their last 11 with their only losses coming against Chelsea and to Arsenal, where they were a man down. Wolves meanwhile haven’t won an away match since the 2nd of February and have had recent struggles against non top 6 teams (oddly enough). I feel much more comfortable taking Watford on the pickem line at home. Watford (Pick, -120).

Bournemouth @ Southampton (TV: CNBC) – Other than their 5-0 win at Brighton (where Brighton were man down for a lot of the match) and their win at Huddersfield, Bournemouth haven’t been good enough lately. Including those wins against those weak opposition they are 2-2-7 in their last 11 and their away record outside of those two wins is 0-4 with a -11 goal differential. Meanwhile Southampton’s recent run hasn’t been nearly as bad, going 3-1 at home in their last four with their only loss coming against Liverpool. In that run of good form at home they beat Spurs and Wolves at home and they even beat Brighton away from home in a massive match for survival. Another reason I like Southampton at home here? They’re not technically safe and three points would all but guarantee their safety this season. Take the Saints. Southampton (-0.5, -110).

12:30 pm EST

Newcastle @ Brighton (NBC) – This. Match. Is. Huge. Brighton are fighting for their lives right now only being three points above Cardiff and a win here with dropped points from Cardiff would almost guarantee their safety. But there’s more to this match for Brighton. Their final two matches after this one are at Arsenal and home to City, two teams who will likely HAVE to win. If they fail to get points here, they’ll leave the door completely open for Cardiff. Adding to that, Brighton have had some inspiring performances this past week grinding to a 1-0 loss at Spurs where they held them for 88 minutes and they drew away to Wolves last weekend. Yes Newcastle have won two straight and their last match away from home, but prior to that away win they hadn’t won away since December which was to Huddersfield. I do wish it was a pickem but I just can’t fade this Brighton team who know they will likely need to win this match if they want to guarantee survival. Brighton (-0.5, +130).

Italian Serie A
2:30 pm EST

Juventus @ Inter Milan – This is such a great match even with Juventus closing out their 8th straight title the other day (yeah, I said 8 straight). But this one isn’t as nearly as much about Juventus as it is about Inter, who are a win away from possibly sealing their spot in next season’s Champions League. Juve are likely to rest a few of their starters to due injury and workload including Dyabala, Chiellini, Mandzukic and possibly even Ronaldo. Inter have somewhat survived the gauntlet that has been the last month, going 3-2-1 against teams like Milan, Lazio, Roma and Atalanta who all reside inside the top 6. Unlike Juve they will have no injury concerns and they have been in decent enough form to take on a somewhat shortened Juventus side who may have their minds already set on the offseason. Give me a motivated Inter team on the pickem line at home. Inter Milan (Pick, -130).

Spanish La Liga
2:45 pm EST

Levante @ FC Barcelona (TV: beIN Sports) – I think Vegas is seriously overlooking this line. FC Barcelona can clinch the La Liga title with a win and will therefore give them much more time to focus on their Champions League Semifinal. They sat a few of their main guys last weekend including Messi to make sure they can be fresh to win the league here at home. Yes, Levante is fighting against relegation and Vegas believes that they could make things tough against Barca here but I couldn’t disagree more. Levante won this past weekend at home to Betis but before that they went nine straight without a win. A motivated and fresh Barcelona side with a title on the line at the Camp Nou is one of the scariest things your eyes could ever look upon. They’re 13-3-1 at home this year with a +31 goal differential and they haven’t dropped points there since early February, to Real Madrid. Feed me Barca here. FC Barcelona (-2, +115).

Sunday, April 28th
English Premier League
7:00 am EST

Arsenal @ Leicester (TV: NBCSN) – It’s no secret that Arsenal are atrocious away from home and it was evident in their 3-1 loss to Wolves this past week (they were down 3-0 by halftime). Meanwhile they’ll face a Leicester team whose offense has begun to click with the addition of Rodgers as manager. They’ve had one match without a goal since his appointment and they’ve averaged 2 goals per game in that span. They’ll face an Arsenal team who, like I said, have been horrible away from home and rank 13th in goals conceded away from home. Rest will also be a concern for the gunners, as this will be their second away match in four days and they’ve had a grueling schedule as of late while Leicester will be rested and have had a manageable schedule the last month. I think this is a recipe for disaster for an Arsenal team who could use some points to stay in the top 4 hunt. I think the Foxes can really exploit this pickem line and worst case settle for the draw. Leicester (Pick, -110).

Italian Serie A
9:00 am EST

Genoa @ SPAL – This is a weird one to be picking, I know, but there is some serious value here. SPAL have been on fire and Genoa’s form is seriously slipping. SPAL have gone 5-1 in their last six and 3-0 in their last 3 at home against Roma, Lazio and Juventus and they’ve managed to climb out of the relegation zone. Genoa on the other hand are winless in their last five, haven’t won an away match since January and have only won two away matches all season long. I love SPAL to keep their form rolling against a very below average Genoa team on the pickem line. SPAL (Pick, -125).

Other big matchups to watch:


Schalke @ Borussia Dortmund (Rivierderby), Saturday 9:30 am EST (FS2)
Chelsea @ Manchester United, Sunday 11:30 am EST (NBCSN)

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Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo
Instagram: @canikickitblog

Wednesday, 4/10 Champions League Quarterfinals Preview

Tuesday Recap:

  • Liverpool beat Porto 2-0 with two early first half goals by Keita and Firmino. They controlled the match from start to finish and didn’t allow Porto to get anything going offensively. As I said in my preview, Porto aren’t used to playing without the ball and it clearly showed on Tuesday. They now have a huge scoreline to make up in the second leg at home in Portugal.
  • Spurs beat City 1-0 thanks to a Heung-Min Son goal in the 78th minute. An early Sergio Aguero penalty could have changed the game but it was saved brilliantly by Lloris and it sparked a belief in Spurs. After that penalty, the energy on the pitch and in the stadium was beyond intense. It was physical, fast, loud and a complete joy to watch, as Spurs now go to Manchester with a one-goal lead and can seal their path to the semifinals with a draw or win in Leg 2.

This Season’s Record: 181-154-42 (+4.1 Units)
4/9 UCL Quarterfinals: 1-1 (-0.1) Units)

Wednesday, April 10th
UEFA Champions League
3:00 pm EST

Juventus @ Ajax – As most people know by now Ajax got through to the Quarterfinals by beating Real Madrid twice in the Round of 16, a feat that can’t be taken lightly. Juventus meanwhile came back from down 2 goals to Atletico Madrid thanks to a second leg hat trick from Cristiano Ronaldo. They’re two teams that have historic pasts, similar playing styles but somehow still feel very different.

Let’s start with Juventus, who will be returning their star Ronaldo after he missed their last three games due to a hamstring injury he picked up over the international break. Allegri already said he is going to start and it should provide an immediate boost to a team who are already coming off of a big win against Milan over the weekend. But this match isn’t as simple as ‘they return Ronaldo, have more quality and are in good form so they should win’. They have to shake off some away demons in the champions league as they’ve lost their last two Champions League away matches, at Young Boys in the group stage and Atletico Madrid in Leg 1 of the Round of 16. They’ll have to go to a very tough place to play in the Johan Cruyff Arena and face an Ajax team who have been brilliant at home this year, and as we learned on Tuesday with both away teams losing, that is very tough.

I think their undoing could be trying to force the ball to Ronaldo, who is just getting back to the squad and the sole reason they’re in the Quarterfinals. He’s also the most decorated Champions League player ever, so it wouldn’t doubt me if did they try to force feed him the ball whenever they could. If instead they can balance their attack and switch the play constantly to spread the Ajax defense out, I think they’ll be successful in finding Ronaldo more organically. Switching the play should also free him more space unless he is man-marked or shadowed, which in turn would free up the likes of Dyabala and Mandzukic. I don’t think his re-addition to the lineup will hurt them, but only if they feel the need to run everything through him on offense. It will be crucial for the supporting cast to step up if he’s either not 100% or marked the whole match.

Ajax went undefeated at home in the group this year and their only home loss in the Champions League was in the first leg to Real Madrid, where they could’ve easily gotten a result with how well they played. Since they lost to Madrid at home, you’d think they’d have trouble against high-quality opposition right? Wrong. This is a team that stood toe to toe with Bayern twice, drawing them 3-3 and 1-1 in the Group Stage this season. The only issue I have is whether or not they can contain Ronaldo both in the air and on the counter attack, where he’s thrived this season on Juve. They need to make sure he never goes unmarked especially as he’s entering the box as he’s the biggest aerial threat they’ll possibly ever face. If they stay disciplined in their marking, they should be able to force Juve to run their offense through someone else. But as I said before, they must balance between shadowing him and cutting off his passing lanes, as they don’t want to free up the rest of the Juve attack.

I think Ajax will be up to the task here at home, knowing this is the last year that this young core has to make an impact before they all move on to bigger clubs. Their defense is good enough to stop quality opponents and even if they need to get into a shootout, they have the offensive firepower to match most clubs. But this Juventus team rarely plays in a hurry and I expect them to keep this low scoring, especially since it’s the first leg. Juve are in no rush to win the tie right now, as they know they’ll be bringing it home in the second leg and any result here would do. Ajax meanwhile know they can’t just take it to Juve, as they need to be a bit more careful than the Italians. I think both teams would settle for a draw, but it’s imperative that Ajax try to keep a clean sheet in order to have a chance on the away goals tiebreaker. This is why I’m going to take the under and the draw. I think it could be a 1-1 draw or a low-scoring win for either team and Ajax will live to fight another day. Under 2.5 goals (-115) and Draw (+225).

FC Barcelona @ Manchester United (TV: TNT) – Woaahhh nelly do we have a good one here too. Manchester United have slipped into a poor run of form and will now have to beat one of the best teams in the world and arguably the best player of all time to turn it around. Luckily for them they should be fearless, (well most of them), since they’ve already pulled off a miracle this year. But this one might be a little different than that tie and I’ll get into why.

United have lost three of their last four matches, two to Wolves and one to Arsenal. It’s not as much that they’ve lost but more how they’ve lost. Their defense has been their biggest problem as they haven’t gotten a clean sheet since the Liverpool game in February (eight matches). They’ll now have to face a Barcelona team who not only have the best player in the planet who happens to be in the form of his life, but also one that just came off of a win against Atletico Madrid, who are one of the best defensive teams in the world. This Barca team has also scored 20 goals in their last six matches (an average of 3.3). If United want any sort of chance of getting a result out of the first leg, they’ll need to stop that deadly attack.

But their defensive strategy is both a blessing and a curse as they’ve been successful sitting back, absorbing pressure and countering against most teams in the Premier League, but that’s also where Barcelona thrive. United will need to find some sort of a balance between absorbing pressure and countering, much like how Spurs did on Tuesday against City. United will also have to deal with preventing Barca’s skill players (Messi, Suarez, Dembele, Coutinho) from dribbling through them, something they’ve had trouble with all season. Obviously this is asking the impossible out of guys like Smalling, Jones and/or Lindelof, but if they want any chance of winning they’ll need to be the ones to stop that front three.

For Barcelona, this match is a bit easier to break down. It should be business as usual for them as they’ll likely see the majority of the ball and chances, which plays right into their comfort zone. What Barca did this weekend to Atletico will be much like what they’ll want to do to United. Yes Atletico had a red card but I do see some similarities in what I expect to see on Wednesday. 64% possession, twice the shots, twice the passes and twice the chances created. They’ll have Messi both dropping in deep to receive the ball and when they have sustained possession, he’ll be sitting just outside the box ready to strike. He has over 40 goals this season, the most combined goals and assists this season by over 12 points (Messi has 45 goals/assists and Mbappe has 33) and loves to beat United and English opposition in the Champions League. In fact he’s won two Champions League Finals against United alone, scoring a goal and winning Man of the Match in each one. This is the exact moment, at Old Trafford under the lights, that he will thrive in. I genuinely don’t see how United can stop him, let alone the rest of the team. If it’s not Messi who’s making the United backline look silly, it will be Suarez, Dembele or Coutinho.

I don’t see United getting points out of this and I think Messi and Barcelona will take the first leg comfortably. FC Barcelona (-0.5, -105).

That’s all for Wednesday’s preview! Don’t forget to subscribe at the bottom of the page and to follow on Twitter and Instagram!

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo
Instagram: @canikickitblog

Bayern v. Dortmund; A Der Klassiker for a Title?

Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund are set to play their 120th matchup on Saturday with the Bundesliga title on the line. But it’s more than just that. These two clubs have dominated Germany for the last decade and have even met in a Champions League final in 2013. They’ve shared 21 of the last 24 Bundesliga titles and although there it’s not a derby based on location, it’s instead one based on a power struggle between the two teams over the last few decades. Players have gone from Dortmund to Bayern seeking the bigger club’s lifestyle and titles, while others have stayed true to the yellow and black for their whole careers. They’re utterly different in nature as Bayern’s fans have a sense of ‘Hollywood’ while Dortmund’s fans come from a working class mining town. It’s Bavaria v. North Rhine, blue collar v. white collar, champions v. runners-up… you get the point.

Now they will add add a new chapter as Bayern look to climb back to the top of the table and Dortmund look to cement their first title in seven years, breaking Bayern’s run of seven straight titles.

Der Klassiker, 12:30 pm EST

Borussia Dortmund @ Bayern Munich (TV: FOX) – The last time these two met, Dortmund came back from being down a goal twice to win 3-2 at home. Going into this past weekend, Bayern got up to -350 (350 to win 100) to win the Bundesliga until they shockingly drew to Freiburg 1-1 and Dortmund scored two stoppage time goals to beat Wolfsburg. Dortmund quickly went from being tied on points to having a two point lead. Bayern still remain favorites at -175 as Vegas expects them to win here while Dortmund sit at +140. Things then went from bad to worse for Bayern as they barely squeaked past Heidenheim of the 2nd division in the domestic cup quarterfinals on Wednesday. They started mostly their full squad and will likely be tired after having to fight for a win, while Dortmund will be rested and in good form. If you told me we’d be where we are a week ago, there’s no way I’d believe you.

Both teams have several crucial players who have missed some time recently, but Bayern look set to return star goalie Manuel Neuer and outside back/all-purpose David Alaba. I expect them both to provide an immediate boost to a poor run of form. Dortmund will be missing outside back Hakimi and winger Pulisic due to more serious injuries that they suffered recently, limiting their depthf or this match and the rest of their run for the title.

I think the most crucial thing for this match is whether or not Dortmund will play too timid, or if they can balance a sense of carefulness with a calculated attack whether that be on the counter or not. If Dortmund allow Bayern too much space and time to push forward it could be trouble, but if Bayern let Dortmund counter (what they do best) then they could be at risk of completely bottling the league. I think Dortmund will try to make it a game immediately, not allowing Bayern to set that tempo early. If they can do that for the first 15-20 minutes and then try to hit Bayern on the counter, it will disrupt any sort of flow Bayern will have. It will be a chess match and I think if anyone gets an early goal, it will flip the entire game on it’s head.

Since Dortmund only need a point, are in better form and will have the fresher legs, I love them as underdogs on a one-goal spread. Basically I’m betting against Bayern running away with the match. I also like the one-goal spread because Dortmund know they will be fine with a draw, allowing them to not overextend themselves if instead they needed to win. It should be an absolute cracker of a match on bigtime FOX and I recommend everyone try to watch at least a portion of what will feel like a Final. Borussia Dortmund (+1, +105).

Who Will Win the Bundesliga? The Case for Borussia Dortmund

The last time a team won the Bundesliga that wasn’t named Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund was in 2008-2009 when Wolfsburg triumphed atop the German table. This year will be no different as the two clubs are tied atop the Bundesliga table, eleven points ahead of third place Leipzig. Luckily for Bayern they have a seven point lead on the goal differential tally, the tie-breaker if both clubs are tied on points, but a lot can change over the next two months especially when these two clubs face each other on April 6th.

I’m going to go into who has the better shot at winning the league title with their respective paths to the finish. In this piece I will go over Dortmund, following with a piece for Bayern’s chances.

The Case for Borussia Dortmund

Dortmund were on top of the table for most of the season until their bad run of form in February and early March, where they went five matches with only one win in the league and eight matches with one win in all competitions. They crashed out of the Champions League, DFB Pokal and lost their grip atop the Bundesliga table, allowing Bayern to take the top spot. Bayern’s outstanding form has also attributed to this as they have had only one league loss since away at Dortmund back in November. But Dortmund began to turn things around a bit with back to back wins before the international break and should come out of the break feeling good. Another thing that will help their title chase is that they will be playing less matches than their rivals Bayern, as the Bavarians will be playing in the DFB Pokal, the German domestic cup. They are expected to go far in the league cup, possibly chopping up their focus on the Bundesliga title.

Let’s see what Dortmund’s road ahead looks like and if they can gain enough points to top Bayern.

HOME v. Wolfsburg – Dortmund haven’t lost to Wolfsburg at home in the league since 2012 but they haven’t been beating them comfortably recently either. Their last two matches were 0-0 at home last January and a 1-0 win for Dortmund at Wolfsburg this past November. Wolfsburg are also on the cusp of a Europa League spot as they sit four points off of a guaranteed place in European competition and are tied with Leverkusen for the Europa League playoff spot. This has the makings of a trap game for Dortmund, and could well be a draw. But for the sake of this hypothetical let’s say they take the three points at home where they have yet to lose this season.(3 pts).

AWAY v. Bayern Munich – Ahhh the big one. If someone can grab the three points here they will surely be the favorites to win the league. The bad news for Dortmund is that they haven’t taken points away at Bayern in the league in five years and Bayern have won seven straight home games this year scoring 24 goals and conceding only 2. It will be a very tough task for Dortmund to come in and they may even try to settle for the draw. I think that will doom them and I expect Bayern to take this one. (0 pts).

HOME v. Mainz – They shouldn’t have trouble with a Mainz side who have been poor this season especially away from home where they have collected only 11 points from 13 matches. (3 pts).

AWAY v. Freiburg – Freiburg haven’t been bad at home this season, ranking mid-table in that juncture but they just aren’t strong enough to beat this Dortmund team. They haven’t beaten Dortmund since May of 2010 and I see that trend continuing. (3 pts).

HOME v. Schalke – What’s really tricky about this match for Dortmund is that Schalke could be facing a relegation battle at this stage in the season and are historically always up for this derby. They’ve split the last two and the previous four encounters resulted in draws. If Schalke are fighting for their lives I think another draw is likely here in what is always a very tightly contested match. (1 pt).

AWAY v. Werder Bremen – Another trap game here for Dortmund as they face a Werder team who has troubled them not only in this season but in recent years as well. Their DFB Pokal match earlier in the year went to penalties with Werder prevailing, their league match in December was very tight going 2-1 to Dortmund and the last time these two met at Werder they drew 1-1. I think Dortmund slip up again here and drop points in a very tough away match. (1 pt).

HOME v. Fortuna Dusseldorf – As of 3/25 Dusseldorf sit in 12th place and although they’ve been good against top opposition this year, I don’t see them waltzing into Signal Iduna Park in May and getting points. This will be Dortmund’s easiest chance at three points and I expect them to take full advantage.. (3 pts).

AWAY v. Mochengladbach – If the league is still up for grabs on the last day of the season here, expect an all-timer between these two clubs. Gladbach have been brilliant this season sitting in 4th place and have been more than capable at home. They could be likely fighting for a Champions League spot and I have a hard time envisioning Dortmund coming out of this one with all three points. If both teams are fighting for something, I see this one being a draw. (1 pt).

With that point tally Dortmund would finish with 75 points, which would very rarely win you the Bundesliga. But with this seasons lower-than-normal point total you never know and if they can pick up form during this stretch then anything can happen. Their odds to win the Bundesliga currently sit at (+225) which has value, but their path does looks grim as they’d need to win two derbies and a tough match on the last day of the year to win the league. They’d also likely have to finish above Bayern instead of tying them as they are behind on goal differential, another obstacle for the yellow and black.

As I said before, their price to win the league does have value based on the positive odds, but the reality of their race to the top is that they’d likely need a miracle run to win it. I wouldn’t buy into Dortmund right now but I also wouldn’t completely rule out their chances to make things interesting, especially if they can grab points against Bayern. But with that being unlikely and due to them being behind on goal differential, I don’t see Dortmund coming out of this season crowned champions.

Keep an eye out for Bayern Munich’s case for the Bundesliga coming soon.

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo
Facebook: Can I Kick It

Champions League R16 Leg 2 3/12-3/13

With Arsenal’s six-point swing over United, Chelsea’s dropped points against Wolves and Spurs’ blown lead to Southampton we now officially have two races at the top of the table. City and Liverpool still remain a point apart at the top of the table but it’s now third through sixth that will be fought for over the next two months as well. Here’s how the top 6 shapes out:


This Season’s Record: 161-140-38 (+0.2 Units)
Matchweek 30 Record: 6-3-1 (+3.0 Units)

The footy rolls on as we close out the Round of 16 in the Champions League this week with only one of the matchups really being out of reach and the rest still up in the air. Let’s get to it.

Tuesday, March 12th
4:00 pm EST

Atletico Madrid (2) @ Juventus (0) (TNT) – Atletico got two crucial goals in the first leg and will be in damage control mode in the second leg here as they know if they bag a goal they should be good to go through. Sitting back actually suits Madrid since they’re known as defensive stalwarts, but they’ll be facing a fresh and rested Juve side who have been unbeatable at home this season. In their 4-1 win on Friday they rested Ronaldo, Chiellini, Dyabala and Mandzukic in preparation for this match compared to Atletico who played on Saturday and started a few more starters in their 1-0 win over Leganes. Juve know they need to score goals which is what they’ve done all year at home and with Ronaldo’s Champions League track record, I love Juve to win this game at the least. We’ll see if they advance but I like them as slight favorites in this match. Juventus (-0.5, -130).

FC Schalke (2) @ Manchester City (3) – There are a couple huge warning signs for Schalke going into this match. The first being they will likely need to score three goals to overcome the aggregate score and the away goal difference (assuming City get a goal in this game). The second one being the rumors that they might not put out a lot of their first team due to injuries and due to their fight to stay in the Bundesliga as they’re only four points from safety. And third, they are 1-2-6 in their last nine matches with each of their last three matches being multiple-goal losses. Yes, City haven’t been their normal self recently, will be without Fernandinho, De Bruyne and Otamendi and have been shaky in the Champions League this season but this is their chance to right the ship in an advantageous position against a vulnerable opponent. They showed signs on Saturday that they are slowly finding their goal-scoring abilities and this will be their first back to back home match since early January. I think City will run through Schalke here and get a few early goals to put the nail in the coffin. Manchester City (-2.5, -105).

Wednesday, March 13th
4:00 pm EST

Lyon (0) @ FC Barcelona (0) – Lyon did a wonderful job keeping Barcelona at bay in the first leg but they now have to go to the Camp Nou and win, or at least keep a clean sheet long enough to put into penalties. I don’t think that will happen. But what I do think will happen is them keeping Barcelona at bay again, enough to cover or at least push the two-goal spread. Lyon have gone undefeated in the Champions League this season, beating City once, drawing City another time and now drawing Barcelona in the first leg. This is a team that has lost by more than two goals once this season, away at PSG a long time ago, and one that figured out how to limit Barca’s effectiveness in front of goal in the first leg. They allowed Barca to go at them, but stayed stout in and around the box keeping everyone behind the ball rather than getting beaten when Barca advanced the ball forward. Although this tactic often can’t last for a whole match, it can last for just long enough to cover a two-goal spread. Lyon also rested many of their starters and key players in preparation for this match over the weekend while Barca still had to start most of their main core. Barcelona will advance don’t get me wrong, but this is a Lyon team that will make that very hard on them and subsequently I’ll take the points. Lyon (+2. -120).

Liverpool (0) @ Bayern Munich (0) (TNT) – This is probably the best match overall of the week when considering the matchup and the aggregate score. Two European titans battle it out in the second leg with everything to play for after going 0-0 in the first? Sign me up. Much of this match is up in the air on paper as it could go either way. Liverpool’s defensive ability and Bayern’s offensive prowess match up so well it’s almost impossible to pick who will come out on top. But there are two things that stick out in this match that I think give Bayern an edge. First thing that jumps off the page is that Bayern will have an extra day of rest since the Premier League didn’t let Liverpool change their Sunday match against Burnley where they won 4-2. The next thing is form. Bayern has one loss since November 10th, are 6-1-0 in their last seven and during that span they have a goal differential of +12 (19 goals scored and 7 goals conceded). Liverpool meanwhile are 3-5-0 in their last eight with draws against Bayern, United and Everton. It’s not that they’re playing poorly but more that they’re not playing to the standard they will need to go to Munich and beat a red hot Bayern side. I like Bayern to win the match in the 90 minutes and advance to the Quarterfinals. Bayern Munich (-0.5, +110).

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo
Facebook: Can I Kick It

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