An eclectic mix of European football in midweek makes it difficult to pick a way through the fixture list. The highlight of Tuesday night is a Copa del Rey semi final second leg between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid. A handful of Serie A fixtures take place across Tuesday and Wednesday, with Juventus among the teams in action away at Crotone. Meanwhile in England, Leicester City are in a world of trouble in the Premier League, and they face an unwelcome FA Cup replay against Derby.
Barcelona are in a strong position in the semi final. Suarez and Messi gave them a two goal lead before half time at the Vincente Calderon, before Griezmann hit back in the second half to give Atletico hope. It puts Diego Simeone’s men in the unfortunate position of having to chase the game, and that should lead to an intriguing battle. If they are to qualify, Atletico will need to muster up their first win at the Nou Camp for 11 years, but this is no time to play Barcelona. The Catalans have won seven on the spin at the famous stadium, in which they’ve scored 31 goals.
Juventus have assumed their position at the top of the Serie A table, and now lead Napoli by six points with a game in hand. An away trip to relegation bound Crotone should see them pull nine points clear at the summit. The Old Lady have won the last four games, keeping clean sheets against Lazio, Inter and Sassuolo, and there is value in backing Juve to win with a clean sheet to boot.
After the demoralising 3-0 defeat to Manchester United on Sunday, Leicester find themselves just a point above the Premier League drop zone. It’s hard to believe last year’s champions have fallen so far, but there’s a real chance that the Foxes will approach a last 16 Champions League tie against Sevilla from the bottom three in a couple of week’s time. Saturday’s six-pointer away at Swansea is therefore crucial, but before Claudio Ranieri can think about that he has to contend with an FA Cup tie versus Derby. The original match was a 2-2 draw thanks to Wes Morgan’s late equalizer – and one suspects that Ranieri would gladly see the back of this competition for this season.
Barcelona v Atletico Madrid – Copa Del Rey
Both teams to score is a cracking bet at -125 with Paddy Power, in a game of all-or-nothing.
Atletico have to aim for a rare win at the Nou Camp if they are to line up in the final of the competition they last won in 2013. However, Barcelona are in irresistible form right now, and the game is set up perfectly for their style of football.
Atletico have made their name as one of the best defences in Europe, but they will have to adopt less familiar attacking tactics in search of goals. Barcelona are ruthless at hitting teams on the counter-attack, and this match could become quite a spectacle. Messi, Neymar, Suarez and co. have swept all before them at the Nou Camp recently, winning the last seven – six of them by three clear goals. Decent sides such as Bilbao, Sociedad and Monchengladbach have been brushed aside in that sequence, and Luis Enrique’s men are hitting top form.
Atletico have scored on six of their last seven visits to the Nou Camp (three draws, four defeats), and they are decent value to get on the scoresheet – and unlikely to keep Barcelona out at the other end.
Crotone v Juventus – Serie A
Juventus are a warm order to beat second-bottom Crotone, but the -120 on offer with BetVictor about a win to nil is worth a nibble.
Three teams at the bottom of Serie A are starting to look cut adrift, and Crotone are nine points from safety. Just three wins from 22 league games have come at home against bottom half teams, but they are yet to face four of the top six at home, and are still winless on their travels. They did manage victory in their last home match, thumping Empoli 4-1, and a 2-2 draw previously at Genoa was a fair result; but Crotone have lost four of their last six games without scoring a goal.
Juventus have won three of their last four without conceding a goal – the only blip in the 2-1 win over Milan in the Coppa Italia. A 1-0 win over Inter and 2-0 wins over Lazio and Sassuolo read well in the context of this match, and Juve would consider it a good night’s work to pull nine points clear at the top of Serie A ahead of a forthcoming Champions League tie against Porto.
Leicester v Derby County – FA Cup
Over 2.5 goals is overprice at +120 with Marathonbet, considering the data behind the match.
Five of the last six meeting between the two teams have finished with three or more goals, including the 2-2 draw at Derby less than two weeks ago. Both teams have been involved in several high-scoring games in recent weeks, and changes to playing personnel can add to the unpredictability.
Leicester – so good defensively in the title-winning season – have conceded at least two goals in four of their last five matches. Meanwhile, four of Derby’s last six matches have had three or more goals.
For the Championship side it’s promotion that takes priority over this competition, and Steve McClaren has seen his team drop out of the play off zone. They now occupy 8th in the table, three points outside the top six, and Saturday’s game at home to Bristol City might be of more importance. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see McClaren leave out some of his first team regulars, and Claudio Ranieri is fully expected to do so. That creates an air of unpredictability as some players may not be fully match fit, others will be staking a claim for more pitch time, and familiar partnerships may be broken up.
Barcelona v Atletico – Both Teams to Score
Tuesday 7th February, 20:00 GMT
Juventus to win to Nil
Wednesday 8th February, 17:00 GMT
Leicester v Derby – Over 2.5 Goals
Wednesday 8th February, 19:45 GMT
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