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

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

Matchweek 33 Weekend Preview

We have an amazing weekend ahead of us but let’s look back on what was an interesting week in the Premier League.

This Season’s Record: 175-150-41 (+3.5 Units)
Matchweek 33 Weekday: 4-3 (+0.8 Units)

Quick Premier League Recap:

  • Man City jump back into first as they are now one point above Liverpool with the same matches played.
  • Spurs win in their new ground for the first time and jump back into third place, pushing Arsenal back to fourth.
  • Chelsea won and sit in fifth tied with Arsenal on points, but with a worse differential than the gooners by five goals.
  • Fulham have been relegated.

We go into a weekend which includes a few MASSIVE matches including the Der Klassiker between Bayern and Dortmund, Barcelona host Atletico Madrid, Juventus host Milan and the FA Cup semifinals will be taking place at Wembley. I’ll have a pick for all of them as well as a few wild card matches where I find some value.

I put my Bayern/Dortmund preview separately due to it’s length compared to my other previews which you can find HERE. I highly recommend you take a quick read as it may be the match of the club season.

Let’s kick it…

Saturday, April 6th
German Bundesliga
9:30 am EST

RB Leipzig @ Bayer Leverkusen (TV: FS2) – These two have been in polar opposite form both short term and long term. Leverkusen have lost their last two and are 2-1-3 (W-D-L) in their last six while Lepizig have won their last three and their only losses in 2019 have been to Dortmund and Bayern. I love Leipzig not only because of the intrinsic value a pickem has, but the price of (+110) is too good to pass up when they’re the better team and are in better form. They’ve also been impressive away from home this season. I’ll take Leipzig. RB Leipzig (Pickem, +110).

English Premier League
10:00 am EST

Leicester @ Huddersfield – Leicester are on fire right now and they will be traveling to a Huddersfield squad who are in complete shambles. They’ve lost four straight to Brighton, Bournemouth, West Ham and Palace while Leicester have won four of the last five. Adding to that, Leicester are sixth in the away table in the league and Huddersfield are last in the home table. I’ll never bet on Huddersfield and Leicester are a hot ticket, so good luck convincing me against this one even with the heavy price as favorites. Leicester City (-0.5, -130).

Crystal Palace @ Newcastle United (TV: NBCSN) – Newcastle have turned their poor away form from earlier in the season around but will have to face a Palace team who have been great away from home this season. But not only is history not on Palace’s side here as they have only won once at Newcastle since the early 70’s, but Newcastle have won their last four at home including wins against City and Everton. I also think Palace having to play two away matches back to back will be tough, especially going to rival Spurs opening their new stadium then to Newcastle which is one of the harder places to play at. Yes Palace’s form all season away from home has been great, but Newcastle are in a bit better shape especially as of late. I like Newcastle on the home pickem line. Newcastle United (Pick, -120).

Italian Serie A
12:00 pm EST

AC Milan @ Juventus (Stream: ESPN+) – Juve will be coming into this match with a cloud looming over them after the Moise Kean incident. If you’re unfamiliar; Moise Kean, the teenage stud for Juventus, received racist monkey chants and then scored and celebrated with his arms wide facing the racist fans. Bonucci, Kean’s teammate, said Kean was partially to blame for the abuse he got, sparking worldwide criticism. I’m a firm believer in taking the locker room situation into account when making picks, and I actually think they will have this sorted out before the match against Milan. It’s too big of an issue to not address immediately and as much as Bonucci was in the wrong, I’m sure the players have already addressed it and made sure there are no more issues. But I like Juve for more than that. Juve have been unbelievable at home, Milan have been fifth in the league away from home this season and the last time Milan beat Juve at Juve was in 2012 and the last time they won there in the Serie A was in 2011. I just can’t fade Juve at home here in a statement game even before their Champions League match on Wednesday. Juventus (-0.5, -125).

Spanish La Liga
12:30 pm EST

Valencia @ Rayo Vallecano (TV: beIN Sports) – Rayo have lost again! That’s eight losses in their last nine matches, with the other being a draw, and they are now on their way to be relegated. Sadly, they’re facing a Valencia team who just beat Real Madrid (which I called), who haven’t lost in the league since January 5th and who have been pretty darn good away from home this season. There’s just no way I can fade them here. Valencia (-0.5, -105).

English FA Cup Semifinal
12:30 pm EST

Manchester City @ Brighton (Stream: ESPN+) – City will win this semifinal, but they haven’t been as much of a sure thing in these types of matches as you’d think. With the spread being 2.5 and it being a semifinal against a somewhat stingy Brighton team, I’m staying away from that number. But with a total of 3 goals, I love the over. Not only because this City team could have a day and run ragged all over them, but because only one of the last nine FA Cup semifinals have gone under 3 goals. It will either be a 3+ City win or a 2-1/3-1 match. I’ll take the over. Over 3 goals (-120).

Spanish La Liga
2:45 pm EST

Atletico Madrid @ FC Barcelona (TV: beIN Sports) – Another fantastic match even though it doesn’t matter nearly as much as Der Klassiker. It will also be a completely different match as Bayern/Dortmund as this one is usually a very tight, low-scoring game. In fact only only two of the last eight matchups have gone over two goals. But as good as Atletico have been playing, they’ll have to go up against a Barca team who haven’t lost in all competitions since January 23rd (15 matches) and who haven’t lost in the league since November 11th (19 league matches). They’ve won three straight at home and they are fresh off of an insane comeback at Villareal, where a Messi free kick and a Suarez last-second goal, both in extra time, equalized the scoreline at 4-4. I’ll take a low-scoring Barcelona win here in what will be a very tight and intense match. The under could also act as a hedge in what could be a 1-1 or even a 0-0 draw. FC Barcelona (-0.5, -120) and Under 2.5 goals (-110).

Sunday, April 7th
English FA Cup Semifinal

Wolves v. Watford (Stream: ESPN+) – The other FA Cup semifinal will be a much tighter match as the 7th and 8th team in the Premier League face off for a shot at what will likely be City in the final. Wolves have been fantastic this season especially for a newly promoted club and have the ability to beat anyone in the league top to bottom. Luckily the spread is a pickem which is gold in matches that can go into extra time if tied after 90 minutes. Sometimes teams play to get to extra time and penalties as it may be their best shot. I think the team that could be playing for extra time is Watford and Wolves will be the ones trying to win it. Wolves have been excellent in big matches as they beat United in the quarterfinal and in the league over the weekend, and I expect them to at the least put this one into extra time or win in the 90 minutes. I’ll lean on Wolves with the pickem line. Wolves (Pick, -120).

That’s all for this awesome weekend of footy. I hope you can wake up Saturday and Sunday morning with a cup of coffee (or beer) and some breakfast and enjoy the matches. Remember to read the Bayern/Dortmund preview for what will be a legendary match HERE.

DON’T FORGET TO FOLLOW THE NEW INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT! @canikickitblog

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo
Instagram: @canikickitblog

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