This coming Sunday four matches stand out from the crowd across the top 5 European leagues and it is on those that the WhoScored Tipster has its' attentions focused this week. In action there are historically big names that have fallen on harder times in recent times, with the likes of Valencia, Liverpool and AC Milan all involved in eye-catching fixtures. The most important game this weekend, though, is arguably the 2nd vs 3rd Bundesliga clash.
These two sides lie in Bayern Munich's wake at the top of the Bundesliga table, with Leverkusen just one point ahead of their opponents this weekend, but both some distance behind the current leaders, who are huge favourites to maintain their lead and go on to take the title come May. However, both of the trailing sides are giving it their best, with Leverkusen having picked up more points (19) from their last 8 matches than any other team in the German top flight, and Dortmund not far behind having gained 17 in that time.
The majority of Leverkusen's points have come on home soil, where they have won 5 of their last 6 matches in the league and are unbeaten all season. Borussia Dortmund, meanwhile, only have a worse away Bundesliga record this term than Bayern, picking up an impressive 19 points in their 10 away games, losing only at Hamburg. Clearly, both sides are difficult to beat at home and away, respectively.
What is more, results between the sides at the BayArena seem to reflect the sides' recent fortunes, with 3 of the last 5 meetings ending in stalemates, and while Dortmund have won the other two games, Leverkusen are undoubtedly a stronger outfit this term and look to be mounting a serious challenge for a Champions League spot. Dortmund are favourites to win with this clash, but the draw, at odds of 3.50, is arguably a better punt.
When looking at recent clashes between Milan and Udinese there is one man in particular that grabs your attention. Udinese's 35-year-old striker Antonio Di Natale continues to defy his years this season, having already bagged 14 goals, leaving him third in the Serie A top goalscorer charts. He has an exemplary record against Milan, with 11 goals against them in total, including 8 in his last 8. Furthermore, he scored in his side's 2-1 win against the Rossoneri earlier this season, as well as in both fixtures last term, a record that Milan's Stephen El Shaarawy can also boast.
In fact, the only game of the last 8 meetings between the sides that Di Natale failed to score in was one in which nobody could break the deadlock - a 0-0 draw in May 2011. With Milan at home, the bookies favour them to win the game, and therefore the Milan strikers have shorter odds on them scoring. Udinese have, however, avoided defeat in 3 of their last 4 games at Milan's ground, with Di Natale bagging 4 times in those games. You can back him to score anytime at 2.75, which is fantastic odds given his record.
Valencia started the season with hugely contrasting fortunes at home compared to away; they won 5 if their first 6 home games, whilst winning none of their opening 7 on the road. The tables have turned though, as they have lost 3 of their last 5 at home and won each of their last 3 on the road. Having lost their last home game 5-0 at the hands of Real Madrid, they will not be looking forward to welcoming free-scoring Barcelona to the Mestalla this weekend.
With Barcelona's recent loss at Real Sociedad the only blemish in their fantastic away record this season, the home team may look to frustrate their opponents with a physical approach, as it seems that is one of the few ways to stop them. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Valencia do just that, with their tally of 70 yellow cards and 6 reds the 2nd worst in La Liga this season. Further, they have avoided defeat in 5 of their last 6 home games against Barca, but a part of those positive results has been roughing up the opposition; there have been 34 cards in the last 5 meetings, with at least 6 brandished on each occasion. While Barcelona do not have a bad disciplinary record, the vast majority of their cards come on the road when frustration builds up, and if Valencia can keep the game in the balance, we may well see a flurry of cards. You can find odds of 1.61 on over 5.5 cards this time around.
Liverpool's recent revival has seen them climb the Premier League table into a respectable 7th place, only 3 points behind Arsenal and only 7 off Spurs in the Champions League places. They have faced a tough run of games on the road recently, losing at Old Trafford before the midweek draw at the Emirates and now travel to Manchester again hoping for something more from the game.
City, though, have not conceded a single goal in their last 6 games in all competitions, a run that makes up 555 minutes of playing time, so Liverpool will have to be at their best if they are to extend their current run of having scored in each of their last 14 games. Their games have been goal-filled in recent weeks, with at least 3 goals scored in each of their last 11 matches, but with City's tight defence, there may not be as many goals in this game.
Another common theme in Liverpool's games, has been early goals. There has been a goal scored in the first 26 minutes in each of their last 9 matches, whilst there has also been one in that time frame in 4 of these teams' last 5 meetings at the Etihad. Odds of 1.83 on an early goal are therefore worth the risk.