Form Labs Weekender

COURTESY FOOTBALL FORM LABS

Sevilla v Real Madrid - Sunday 19:45, Sky Sports 2

These two played out a thriller in midweek as Real came back from 3-1 down to level things up in the final minute of injury time via a Karim Benzema deflected strike. That means Los Blancos are unbeaten in 40 consecutive games, breaking Barcelona’s record set a couple of years ago. However, it highlights just how tough a trip to Seville can be and the streak will be very much put to the test again this weekend.

Sevilla have won 21 of their last 25 home games and, more than that, they’ve won this fixture in three of the last four years. The midweek game highlighted another strong trend in matches between these two and this is the remarkable number of goals. Their last seven league meetings have seen 35 goals but this is a trend that goes back far further and since 2002/03 their 28 La Liga clashes have averaged more than 4.5 goals per game. Both teams have also scored in Sevilla’s last nine league meetings with Barcelona as they’ve never been afraid to have a go at the Big Two. At 2.25 for Over 3.5 Goals that is one bet we like the look of this weekend.

Real, however, are protecting an incredible record and knowing this is one of their toughest remaining fixtures a win here will all but wrap up the title with more than half a season to go. They’ve won 24 and drawn four of their last 28 matches while they’ve won 12 of their last 14 on the road. That includes thumping wins at Sociedad and Atletico this season, and while Gareth Bale remains out, Ronaldo will come back after being rested in midweek alongside several other first choice players. Sevilla are his favourite opponents as he’s racked up an incredible 21 goals in his last 11 games against them including five hat-tricks. It's 18/1 that he gets another one and the anytime scorer market is well worth a look.

Despite Sevilla’s excellent record here, it’s hard to ignore prices of close to evens on the Real win. We’ll boost that by making Real Madrid and Both Teams to Score at 3.1 our best bet.

Weekend Team News Analysis

AFCON has really taken its toll on some of the squads in action over the next three days, so who’s in and who’s out this weekend? Using Form Lab Black’s player analysis capacity we’ve identified the players in Europe’s major leagues who will be most sorely missed by their teams. Get your Form Lab Black subscription today to conduct your own player analysis or see more from our experts.

N.B. Appearances mentioned below relate to starting and completing an hour unless otherwise specified.

Lille v Saint Etienne

Oussama Tannane (RW), Robert Beric (FW), Alexander Soderlund (FW) and Henri Saivet (AM), Saint Etienne

Both teams have several missing players due to injuries, suspensions and the African Cup of Nations. Saint Etienne are without their first two choices in goal but further forward they also look short of options in attack. Beric is their top scorer in all competitions this season with six goals while Soderlund is the joint next best on three and Tannane has two. Tannane joined last January and has played 18 of 37 matches in the meantime. With him they’ve averaged 1.44 goals per game but without that drops to just 0.58 gpg as 18 of 19 he's missed have had fewer than three goals and 10 have had fewer than two (15/19 0-0 at HT).

This match is 2.62 to go under 1.5 goals.

Sunderland v Stoke

Didier Ndong (CM), Lamine Kone (CB) and Jan Kirchoff (DM), Sunderland

Ndong has missed four matches since joining Sunderland and they’ve lost them all despite only one being a really tough fixture: 3-0 against Everton, 3-0 at Swansea, 1-0 against Chelsea and 4-1 at Burnley. Kone has missed five games since joining a year ago and Sunderland have conceded at least twice in all of those matches. Kirchoff is injured and Sunderland have conceded more than half a goal more per game in the 22 matches he’s missed since joining the club compared to the 16 he’s played.

Stoke could take three points home here at 2.5.

West Ham v Crystal Palace

Dimitri Payet (AM), West Ham

Palace have been significantly weakened with Wilf Zaha going to the Afcon this month but it now seems that Dimitri Payet is refusing to play for West Ham. Since the start of last season he’s missed 13 games and they’ve scored just 12 times – compared to averaging 1.69 gpg with him. Their win rate has fallen from 42% with him to 23% without, and five of the six at home he’s missed have had fewer than three goals.

Crystal Palace and Under 2.5 has a good chance at 7.0.

Fancy the three bets above? It's a 41/1 treble that they all come in!

AFCON

The African Cup of Nations gets underway this week and we’ve got the inside scoop on how it could affect teams in various European leagues. Here are our thoughts on La Liga and Serie A. For more on this, head over to Form Labs for a full overview.

La Liga

Granada: Granada are struggling down in 19th this term and things don’t get any easier for them as in addition to a number of injuries, they lose right winger Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez to the African Cup of Nations. The Moroccan’s their second top scorer this term and they’ve picked up only one point from the three games he’s failed to start this term, and that point came in a game they would have probably expected to win at home to fellow strugglers Gijon. They suffered a chastening experience in the Bernabeu last weekend, while they could well rue Carcela-Gonzalez’s absence in their key relegation clash at home to bottom of the league Osasuna on January 15th, although Osasuna are currently beset by injury problems.

Villarreal: Congolese international striker Cedric Bakambu is away at the African Cup of Nations and though he has played a bit-part role this term (due to injuries) he’ll be a loss to Villarreal, particularly with Soldado still out injured. Bakumbu’s started 25 games for the Yellow Submarine since the start of last season and they have an impressive W13-D9-L3 record with him, but their PPG drops from 1.9 to 1.53 in the 30 matches he didn’t start over that period as they lost 10 of these, scoring 22% fewer goals in his absence. However, they have a relatively lenient schedule as they play three bottom-six sides next and they are used to playing without Bakambu this season so their problems should only arise if they suffer further attacking injuries.

Serie A

Atalanta: Atalanta are having an excellent season up in 6th in Serie A and young defensive midfielder Franck Kessie has been an important part of the success, but is now away with Ivory Coast at the African Cup of Nations. Kessie has also managed six goals and a couple of assists this term but Atlanta have managed to cope in his absence as they’ve won all four of the games he’s failed to start, though three of these were at home. With tricky trips to Lazio and Torino in the coming weeks and without Kessie anchoring the midfield it may be worth taking them on.

Lazio: Left winger and Barcelona youth product Keita Balde is having an impressive season for Lazio as he’s managed five goals and three assists as part of a team up in 4th in Serie A. Indeed, he’s started 26 games for Lazio since the start of last term and they have a W14-D6-L6 record in these (PPG 1.85) but their PPG drops to 1.39 in their other 31 games over that period as they lost 12 of these, with their average goals scored also dropping 29% in Balde’s absence. Lazio have some tough fixtures against Atalanta and Juventus while Balde is away at the African Cup of Nations and so they could well have dropped out of the European spots by the time the Senegalese returns.

Napoli: The African Cup of Nations will see Napoli lose two of their back four as centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly and left-back Faouzi Ghoulam are both involved at the tournament. Koulibaly has missed just three games this term and Napoli have shipped seven goals without him, whilst they concede an average of just 0.9 goals in the 16 games he’s started this term. They’ve also won only six the 11 games Ghoulam has missed since the start of last term, compared with 30 wins in the 46 games he’s started over that period (65%). It could certainly be worth taking on Napoli when they visit Milan on 21st January without that duo.

Roma: Right winger and former Chelsea man Mohamed Salah is having an impressive season with Roma as he’s managed eight goals and five assists in 16 appearances this term. However, he’s away with Egypt at the and so Roma will have to do without him for the next few weeks. He’s missed just 10 games since the start of last season and Roma have won just five of these, compared with 31 wins in the 47 games he’s started in that period (66%). What’s more, Roma’s average goals scored drops 44% in Salah’s absence – from 2.34 with him to 1.30 without – with eight of the 10 he’s missed seeing Under 2.5 goals, something to bear in mind while he’s away.

Udinese: Udinese were in excellent form at the end of 2016 as they’d won three of four unbeaten games but the winter break together with the departure of a couple of players to the African Cup of Nations may disrupt their form. Central midfielder Emmanuel Badu and centre-back Molla Wague are both involved at the tournament and whilst the latter hasn’t had much playing time anyway this term, the former has been an important player for the last couple of seasons. Badu’s started 40 games since the start of 2015/16 and Udinese have a PPG of 1.2 in these, but this drops to just 0.94 in the 17 games he’s missed in that period. They’ve managed wins over strugglers Crotone, Bologna, Palermo and Pescara in his absence this term, but they were winless in the 10 he missed prior to that and lost at home against Inter last weekend. With games against Roma and Milan while Badu is in Gabon, it would be no surprise to see Udinese closer to the foot of the table when he returns.

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