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European Football Tips: Messi to rack up the shots in the Basque Country

European Football Tips: Messi is primed to take centre stage in Bilbao
European Football Tips: Messi is primed to take centre stage in Bilbao

There may be no Premier League action for a week but there is plenty of football to go at on the continent. AC Milan welcome Juventus in the Serie A and Barcelona travel to Bilbao in La Liga, while Mauricio Pochettino takes charge of his first match as PSG boss against St-Etienne in Ligue 1 and I've got an angle for each game.

First on the agenda is The Derby dei Campioni as Italy's serial Scudetto winners face off at the San Siro. It is rather apt that the Epiphany - an evening of huge cultural importance in Italy - provides the backdrop for a clash between old rivals AC Milan and Juventus.

Visitors, and current Scudetto holders, sit ten points adrift of Serie A leaders AC Milan. In short, only three points will suffice for The Old Lady if they are going to stand any realistic chance of a title retention. Andre Pirlo travels to the San Siro without Sandro, who has COVID-19, and an over reliance on talisman Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Portuguese bagsman has scored 56% of Juve's league goals on the road and will be without his compadre Alvaro Morata, who is out with a muscle injury. Danilo and Cuadrado, who is back from suspension, are expect to come in at left and right back and Dybala in for Morata up-top.

Today's football tips

Juventus will have to do what no side has done since the 8th March 2020 in Serie A and beat AC Milan. This will be no mean feat as the Rossoneri have been firing on all cylinders this season.

They boast the third best defence in the league and have scored two or more goals in their past 35 games, showing they can still find the target without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who remains absent for this one. Stefano Pioli will also be without Ismael Bennacer, Matteo Gabbia and Alexis Saelemaekers and will be forced to replace the suspended Tonali with Krunic who will start alongside Franck Kessie in the engine room.

My next selection comes courtesy of La Liga as Barcelona travel to Basque Country on the hunt for a win that could see them move up to third. At odds of 83/100, their expected chance of victory is 55% but they have won 49% of games where they are priced at these odds. Ronald Koeman's side travel north with no fresh injuries, however Antoine Grezmann is expected to be recalled at the expense of Martin Braithwaite.

Maralem Pjanic should come in to replace Sergio Busquets to anchor Barca's midfield. Athletic Bilbao sacked Gaizka Garitano last Saturday and replaced him with Marcelino on Sunday. Their new coach is expected to revert to his tried and tested 4-4-2 which would see Inaki Williams partnering Asier Villalibre up-top.

My final selection comes via Ligue 1 as the Mauricio Pochettino era begins in Paris. PSG's new supremo first challenge sees him head to the Geffroy Stadium with a potential list of absentees of over ten players. Neymar is the most noticeable of those unable to play, while the list also consists of Kimpembe, Bernat Pereura and Paredes who will also be greatly missed. 

According to their odds, PSG's expected chance of victory is 74%, however, this may not be a cakewalk with our hosts unbeaten in six. Claude Paul also has a lengthy list of absentees which includes central midfielders Yvan Neyou and Mahdi Camara who both miss out through suspension.

AC Milan v Juventus
Wed, 19:45
JimmyThePunt: Franck Kessie to be booked
  • The Ivorian midfielder has been booked once and sent off once in the last five games he has started in between these sides
Odds correct as of 2021-01-05 16:50 Odds subject to change.

By the high standards Serie A referees have set, Massimiliano Irrati average of 3.5Y per game is sub par. That being said, this is a fixture that has seen cards fly in the past with 36Y and 3R brandished in the last six meetings. Therefore, I do not mind getting bookings onside here and Franck Kessie is high on the agenda at odds of 7/2 with bet365.

The Ivorian midfielder has been booked once and sent off once in the last five games he has started in between these sides. He has also been carded in 21% of his Serie A appearances, which includes his five in 13 games this season. Neither side can field a player that has bested that tally this season, only Hernandez equals it but he is considerably shorter for a card at 1/1 with bet365!

Given the fact that he has had his name taken in 38% of his Serie A starts this season, and two of the sides last five head to head games, I think bet365's price of 7/2 represents great value. Especially when you consider that he is as short as 31/20 elsewhere.

Recent winning tips
Athletic Bilbao v Barcelona
Wed, 20:00
JimmyThePunt: Lionel Messi 3+ shots on target
  • Lionel Messi has averaged 6.2 shots per game in La Liga this season - that is 38.75% of Barcelona's average shots of 16.9 per game
Odds correct as of 2021-01-05 16:55 Odds subject to change.

Lionel Messi has averaged 6.2 shots per game in La Liga this season, that is 38.75% of Barcelona's average shots of 16.9 per game! In his last six starts, the Argentine has had more than ten shots four times, that is a total of 54 shots, an average of nine pG and 43.2% of Barcelona's overall total. Of those 54 shots, 74% were goal-bound, he hit the target 25 times- averaging 4.2 SoT pG - and he hit Betfair's line of three SoT in four of those fixtures.

Therefore, I think Betfair and Paddy Power's price of 2/1 for Messi to have three shots on target is generous as the implied probability is just 33.3% yet Messi has averaged three SoT pG in his La Liga starts this season with this bet landing in 47% of those. 

AC Milan v Juventus & Athletic Bilbao v Barcelona
Wed, 19:45
JimmyThePunt: Kessi & Krunic, Jordi Alba & Vesga to all be booked
  • Krunic has started four games for Milan in central midfield this season in all competitions and been carded in half
  • Vesga has picked up three cards in nine starts and averages the most fouls per game (1.8)
  • No player has had their name taken more times than Jordi Alba's five
Odds correct as of 2021-01-05 17:00 Odds subject to change.

Using bet365's 'Bet Builder' you can combine two pairs of bookings from the AC Milan vs Juventus game and Athletic Bilbao vs Barcelona.

Rade Krunic is expected to come in alongside Kessie and to put it bluntly he is not up to standard. Despite only starting twice, the Bosnian has received two cards. He has started four games for Milan in central midfield this season in all competitions and been carded in half.

In Athletic Bilbao's game with Barcelona I like the look of Mikel Vesga to be carded for the hosts. He has picked up three cards in nine starts and averages the most fouls per game (1.8). For Barcelona, no player has had their name taken more times than Alba's five. Carlos del Cerro Grande is overseeing this game, he has averaged 6.00Y and 0.44R in La Liga this season, the most of any referee! 

Best of luck if you are backing any of these and please remember to gamble responsibly. 

St-Etienne v PSG
Wed, 20:00
JimmyThePunt: Adil Aouchiche 1+ Shot on Target
  • Often operating behind the striker, he has averaged a shot a game and started the campaign in scintillating form
Odds correct as of 2021-01-06 09:45 Odds subject to change.

St-Etienne will fancy their chances of spoiling Pochettino's first game with a plethora of PSG players sidelined and it is a former Parisians player that has caught my eye; 18 year old Adil Aouchiche. 

The attacking midfielder made the switch at the start of the season on a free transfer and since the has featured heavily for Les Verts. Often operating behind the striker, he has averaged a shot a game and started the campaign in scintillating form. He came off the boil for a bit but with two assists in his last two appearances, and the added impetus of facing his former employers, I think he will be keen to impress tomorrow. 

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