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Hot Bundesliga Tips: TSG Hoffenheim vs. Bayer 04 Leverkusen 12/2/11

Teams that are fighting in the middle of the Bundesliga table duke it out on Friday afternoon, and we are set to make our Bayer Leverkusen vs. TSG Hoffenheim picks for a tremendous clash on the pitch.

The trick for Leverkusen in this one is going to be not looking too far ahead to the finale of the group stages of the Champions League next week against Racing Genk. In the UCL, Bayer 04 needs just a point from the duel with Genk to ensure progress, while a loss at least leaves a measure of doubt. For now though, Friday’s clash is the one on our mind, and it should be the one on the minds of the German behemoths as well.

TSG Hoffenheim vs. Bayer 04 Leverkusen Date/Time: Friday, December 2nd, 2:30 p.m. (ET)
TSG Hoffenheim vs. Bayer 04 Leverkusen Television Coverage: ESPN Deportes, ESPN3.com

Leverkusen is in the midst of a fine run of form. The team has taken points from four straight fixtures overall, including a Champion League triumph over Chelsea at home last week. The squad hasn’t played all that well at home domestically though, leaving with a bitter 2-2 draw against Hamburg SV on November 5th and a 1-0 defeat against Schalke 04 on October 23rd.

Bayer 04 as scored at least one goals in six straight fixtures, and in four straight, the team has found the back of the net at least twice. What is surprising though, is that Leverkusen only has a +1 goal differential for the season in spite of the recent goal outburst.

Stefan Kiebling has scored three times this year, and he also has a pair of assists. The man that he is doing the most setting up for is Eren Derdiyok, who has five strikes domestically. Michael Ballack has played in 10 games this year for Leverkusen domestically, though the 35 year old isn’t quite in the same type of form that he used to have in his days with Chelsea in the EPL.

Meanwhile, Hoffenheim is going in the wrong direction right now, and it has a pair of road tests coming up in the next eight days that could prove to be brutal. The team hasn’t taken full points in a match since October 22nd, and the very predictable slide down the Bundesliga table seems to be in full force.

The very simple problem that this team has is a lack of scoring goals. The new boys in the Bundesliga haven’t scored more than one goal in a fixture since September 17th. At that point in the year, TSG had scored 12 goals in six fixtures. Now in its last eight, it only has four goals scored. That won’t cut it on the road to survival for another year in the top flight, and the relegation playoff is only five points away, a margin that is probably only going to be getting closer and closer as the weeks drift by.

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It should come as no surprise that the hosts are the heavy favorites here at Bay Arena. The team is the odds on favorite at -135, while Hoffenheim is a significant underdog at +350 to take the three points on the road. The ‘total’ has been set at 2.5, and the oddsmakers are expecting this one to go past the number with the ‘over’ ringing in at -135.

Posted in Featured, German Bundesliga

Malaga vs. Villarreal CF Predictions, Tips, & Picks 11/28/11

One of the top teams on the La Liga table, Malaga is going to have its work cut out for it on Monday at home when it takes on Villarreal CF.

Malaga has gotten just about everything done that it ever could have imagined in the first dozen games of the year. The team has six wins already in its 12 matches, and it has been in quite fine form. Malaga survived two straight road games against Racing Santander and Real Betis, coming up with a solid four points in those games. Now, the team is back at home for the first time this month, off of a 2-1 win over Espanyol right here at this venue on October 30th. Thus far on the campaign at home, Malaga has gotten the maximum points at La Rosaleda, save for a home game against Real Madrid. No one is expecting this team to compete with the top teams in La Liga, and just even remotely thinking about qualifying for European competition next year would be a remarkable accomplishment.

Malaga vs. Villarreal FC Date/Time: Monday, November 28th, 3:00 p.m. (ET)
Malaga vs. Villarreal FC Television Coverage: ESPN3.com

Ruud van Nistelrooy could have a huge impact on this team by the time the season is said and done with, but the man that is really coming up with the big plays offensively is Santi Cazorla. He has four goals and an assist this year to lead the way for the team.

If you take out that game against Madrid, the defense for Malaga has been remarkable as well, holding teams to just a total of 11 goals in 11 matches.

It has been a frustrating season to say the least for Villarreal. The team was fortunate enough to make it into the Champions League, but its stay there has been a short one. Through five fixtures, the Spanish side has been left without a single point, and that being said, it won’t even get the chance to play in the Europa League.

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Things haven’t been much better domestically either. The squad has a -7 goal differential through 12 matches, though we do have to admit that games against Barcelona and Real Madrid have ended with losses of 5-0 and 3-0 on the road. Villarreal has picked up seven points from its last three matches though, which has to at least give a tad bit of hope that perhaps a turnaround can come and get this team away from the bottom of the table.

Villarreal won 3-2 in this fixture a season ago on the road, and the last time that Malaga won a match in this rivalry was at the end of the 2008-09 season, a 2-0 win at home.

Malaga is the comfortable odds on favorite to take all three points from this match. La Liga predictions will be made in this one based upon a -140 line in favorite of the hosts.

Posted in Featured, La Liga (Spain)

Chelsea FC vs. Liverpool Premier League Picks, Odds, & Preview 11/20/11

You aren’t going to find two teams that battle it out fiercer than Chelsea FC and Liverpool. The two bitter rivals play in a match that is often referred to as the most intense rivalry in English soccer, and we are set to make our Premier League scores predictions for one of the toughest matches to handicap of the weekend.

As always, when these two teams meet, it is Fernando Torres who is on the biggest display. Torres made a name for himself with Liverpool in its fantastic Champions League run of a few years ago before making the switch to the Blues last January.

Chelsea vs. Sunderland Date/Time: Sunday, November 20th, 11:00 a.m. (ET)
Chelsea vs. Sunderland Television Coverage: FOX Soccer Channel

The Blues are fighting hard to keep their position near the top of the Premier League table, though we must admit that chances of catching table toppers, Manchester City are slim to none with the Citizens boasting a nine point edge on fourth place, Chelsea. Instead, the Blues are going to be focused on maintaining their spot in next year’s Champions League, something that isn’t nearly guaranteed with Liverpool just three points behind and Tottenham level on points with a game in hand.

Recent form is an issue for the Blues, though they did win their final game before the European break, a 1-0 win at Goodson Park against Blackburn Rovers. The last Premier League game here at Stamford Bridge came on October 29th, a 5-3 drubbing that Arsenal laid on the hosts.

However, if you’re looking for an eight-goal outburst this time around, don’t be all that sure. There have only been a grand total of nine goals scored in the last eight matches combined when these two teams have played against one another on the Premier League schedule.

Liverpool remains without captain, Steven Gerrard, but the team has been playing relatively well without him. A scoreless draw against Swansea at home on November 5th was a dud, but before that, the team logged two straight wins on the road. In fact, over the course of the last four road games, the Reds have been perfect, going 4-0-0, as opposed to their last three home games, where they are 0-3-0.

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A team that was once known as having a potentially leaky back four, Liverpool hasn’t allowed a strike in 210 minutes of football since Grant Holt equalized for Norwich three Premier League fixtures ago. If the defense can stay in form, it is going to have a real chance of stealing points at Stamford Bridge.

Though we do think that the Blues are going to be getting back in better form in the weeks to come, we don’t think that they are deserving of being odds on favorites. The Reds are +0.5 on the Asian Handicap line, and you can get +110 odds on them at that price. The outright victory would pay +345.

Posted in English Premier League, Featured

Kaiserslautern vs. Bayer 04 Leverkusen Predictions, Tips, & Picks 11/18/11

After a week away for international play, our Bundesliga picks are back once again for Friday’s standalone game pitting Kaiserslautern against Bayer 04 Leverkusen. This match features two teams that are sitting in the middle of the table, and both are trying to find an identity as to whether they are challengers or relegation contenders this year.

We don’t believe that the visitors are in any imminent trouble this year. Leverkusen has one of the richer sides in Germany, and though it is only in 8th position on the table right now, we do see that improving before the year is up for sure. Don’t be shocked if this team ends up in European competition again for next year after a strong 2nd place finish in the Bundesliga a year ago.

Kaiserslautern vs. Bayer 04 Leverkusen Date/Time: Friday, November 18th, 2:30 p.m. (ET)
Kaiserslautern vs. Bayer 04 Leverkusen Television Coverage: ESPN Deportes, ESPN3.com

Leverkusen is going to have a rough road ahead in the Champions League this year, as it has two more matches over the course of the next two weeks to determine whether it will survive for the knockout rounds or be knocked into the Europa Cup.

Of late, the team has been in average form in the Bundesliga as well, accounting for just a 2-2 draw at home against Hamburg SV and a 1-0 loss to Schalke 04 in its last two home games. Still, Bayer has a respectable road mark at 3-1-2 and a level goal differential to show for its work.

Kaiserslautern has had its problems producing goals this year, as it only has 10 strikes in 12 matches. The squad is in 12th place on the table with 13 points, but it is only three points safe from the relegation zone. If there is good news though, it is that recent form has been rather good for the hosts in this one. The team has picked up at least a point in four straight Bundesliga matches and five straight if you include DfB Pokal competition as well.

Watch out for Etey Shechter in this match. He only has three goals for the season, but the 24 year old has shown a real eye for goal since coming here from Hapoel Tel Aviv in the transfer season. He has 18 shots on target in nine matches.

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Last year, this was a series that was dominated by Bayer 04. The team won 1-0 here at Fritz-Walter Stadion, and 3-1 back at home. The last result in this series for Kaiserslautern came back in 2009 when the team was in the lower division. The hosts won that day 3-1 in the second round of the German Cup.

It should come as no surprise that the visitors are the slender +130 favorites, or at a pick ‘em -135 on the Asian Handicap. The ‘total’ rings in at 2.5, with the ‘over’ and ‘under’ coming in rather on rather level terms.

Posted in Featured, German Bundesliga

MLS Championship: 2011 MLS Cup – LA Galaxy vs. Houston Dynamo Picks

The 2011 MLS schedule started way back in March, and now, only two teams remain for the right to win the 2011 MLS championship. The Houston Dynamo have their work cut out for them, as they go on the road to take on the Los Angeles Galaxy, and we are set to make our 2011 MLS Cup picks for the biggest duel in American soccer of the year.

The Galaxy are the team with all of the pomp and circumstance surrounding it at the moment. Names like Robby Keane, David Beckham, and Landon Donovan are all over the place, making this a heck of a lot like an “MLS Dream Team,” and it is great to have these men on display on soccer’s biggest stage in this country.

LA Galaxy vs. Houston Dynamo Date/Time: Sunday, November 20th, 9:00 p.m. (ET)
LA Galaxy vs. Houston Dynamo Television Coverage: ESPN

Don’t think that they’re just names, though. Donovan netted a whopping 14 goals this year, while Beckham had 14 assists. Both are on the MLS Starting XI team, and had Keane been in Tinseltown for the whole year, he probably would have made the roster as well.

There’s no doubt that the Galaxy were the best team in the MLS all season long. They ended the regular season with 67 points and 19 wins, both of which were tops in the league, and they really stormed through the postseason without much fuss. The club took down the New York Red Bulls on aggregate 3-1, and it followed that up with a 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference Final a fortnight ago.

Meanwhile, Houston had to scratch and claw for the right to play in the Eastern Conference Final. The team only barely made the playoffs, needing a win against these Galaxy on the final day of the regular season just to ensure that it would be in the postseason, and the three points turned out to be just enough to survive having to play in the first round of the playoffs as well.

In the playoffs, the Dynamo have been… well… dynamo! They already have two road wins, one coming at the Philadelphia Union, while the other was in the Eastern Conference Finals against Sporting Kansas City. The 2-0 win at Livestrong Sporting Park was a lot closer than the game suggests, and Head Coach Dominic Kinnear knows that his team had to fight through some real adversity just to reach this point in the season.

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This season, Houston took a 3-1 decision in the Lone Star State on October 23rd, but its trip to the Home Depot Center didn’t turn out as well. A Donovan penalty kick gave LA the 1-0 victory on a day in which Beckham was not in the lineup. Including the playoffs, Los Angeles is a whopping 14-5-0 at home, but it has a major score to settle after losing in the Western Conference Final last year to FC Dallas 3-0.

It should come as no surprise that the Galaxy are comfortable 1 to 3 favorites to lift the MLS Cup. Whichever team wins on Sunday will claim their third MLS championship in franchise history. Houston won the titles in 2006 and 2007, and it has never lost in the finale, while the Galaxy are 2-4 in four visits, winning in 2002 and 2005. This is the first of those matches though, that will be played in front of their hometown crowd.

Posted in Featured, MLS

Murcia vs. Deportivo La Coruna Predictions, Tips, & Picks 11/7/11

Last season was a dreadful one for Deportivo La Coruna. The team was relegated out of La Liga for the first time in decades, and they are now stuck playing in the Segunda. On Monday, they play a standalone match against Murcia, a match would could propel either team back towards the top flight of Spanish soccer.

Amazingly enough, neither of these teams, which were once both staples in the Spanish Liga Primera in recent years, are anywhere near an automatic promotion spot. La Coruna is currently in eighth position with 19 points in 11 matches, though it can move into the promotion playoff picture with just a point from this fixture. Murcia is three spots behind with 18 points in 11 matches.

The key for both of these teams is going to be separating itself from the pack. Three points is always critical in a league in which there are only a grand total of nine points separating a shot at promotion and certain relegation.

We’ll begin with Deportivo, a team that really has to be considered a shock to be down at this level. The team hasn’t played all that well on the road this year, getting shut out twice and taking a questionable 2-0-3 record thus far in five fixtures.

The team has been all over the place scoring goals, accounting for 18 in 11 matches (five more than the table toppers, Hercules in 12 matches). The problem is with one goal surrendered in this one, Deportivo will have the same number of goals allowed as CD Alcoyano, a team which is on the verge of relegation.

When Oscar Sanchez is on his game, Murcia has a side which has a shot at promotion. He has five goals already this season, easily tops on the team, and he has dreams of leading this team back to the top flight. The only bad news for Murcia is that it has taken a defender to do the job of the strikers. Aside from Sanchez, who starts his games in the back four, the rest of the team only has 11 goals in 11 fixtures.

It should probably come as no surprise that these two teams are considered to be on rather level pegging by the oddsmakers, as they are both a pick ‘em, with the slight nod going to Murcia at -120.

The last time that these two faced off was in the Copa Del Rey in 2009. In the fourth round, La Coruna came away with a 1-0 victory right here at the Nueva Condomina.

Posted in Featured, La Liga (Spain)

Mainz vs. VfB Stuttgart Predictions, Tips, & Picks 11/4/11

Mainz FC is floating around the relegation zone right now in the German Bundesliga. On Friday, they’ll have a tough task in front of them just to claim a single point with one of the top sides in the country, VfB Stuttgart coming to town.

Mainz isn’t exactly in fine form right now, coming into this one off of a relatively expected 3-1 loss to the Werder Bremen at home on October 29th. The team hasn’t taken three points in a match since the first two fixtures of the year, and that’s why it has gone from near the top of the table to level with Hamburg SV for the relegation playoff in just nine fixtures. There is still a long, long season ahead, and things don’t look good for Mainz in its hope for survival.

This defense is just atrocious. The team has allowed 22 goals this year, and though that isn’t shocking, at least in terms of what the rest of the league has been able to do offensively for the most part, averaging allowing two goals per game is a recipe for relegation in virtually whatever league and whatever level of football you’re playing at.

Surprisingly, Mainz got off to a hot start last week against Bremen by coming out of the blocks with a 23rd minute goal from Niko Bungert. It was Bungert’s second goal of the campaign, and he became the fourth member of the team to strike at least twice. Maxim Choupo-Moting has three goals, and he is the only one to stake claim to have more than two goals for this team on the year.

Stuttgart has taken at least one point from four straight fixtures, though it probably is bitterly disappointed about its back to back draws at home against Borussia Dortmund and away at Nurnberg. There are still definitely some strong hopes about getting into European competition this year once again, something that the team isn’t involved in this year. Right now, Stuttgart is hanging in sixth place at 5-3-3 and 18 points, but there are only two points separating it and the Champions League as well in a tightly knit top of the Bundesliga table (beyond Bayern Munich).

There are already five players that have scored twice this year for VfB Stuttgart, led by Martin Harnik, who has four goals. This is another one of these teams atop this league that generally has no problem putting balls in the back of the net, and we don’t anticipate it being much of a problem this time around either.

This game is lined at a straight pick ‘em, and both sides are at -110 on the moneyline. We tend to think that the best play of the bunch is on the ‘over’ 2.5 goals at -105, as both of these clubs have the ability to score goals, and Mainz’s defense is about as strong as a leaky faucet or a slice of Swiss cheese. Expect at least three, if not more goals on Friday night at Mainz.

Posted in Featured, German Bundesliga

Villarreal vs. Manchester City Preview, Picks, Tips, & Analysis 11/2/11

We always knew that Group A was going to be one of the toughest groups in the Champions League group stage schedule this year. However, we didn’t know just how difficult this group was really going to be. On Wednesday, we might be facing a bit of a de facto elimination battle between Villarreal and Manchester City, as these two teams are trying to get out of the gutter in Group A.

For Man City, a 1-1-1 start to the Champions League slate was unimaginable. The team has been just so insanely efficient in the Premier League, it isn’t even funny. It went on the road and absolutely thrashed Manchester United at Old Trafford, a feat that is never easily accomplished, and it has scored 36 goals in 10 fixtures in domestically as well. The Citizens are 9-1-0 and have a +28 goal differential, and they really are off to one of the best starts that a team has ever had in this league.

It’s clear that there are just riches and riches of talent on this team. Sergio Aguero has nine goals this year, as does Edin Dzeko. Mario Balotelli has five strikes, while David Silva has three. That doesn’t even include the power of Carlos Tevez, whose antics have seen him essentially jettisoned from the squad. Perhaps getting the Tevez drama over and done with after losing at Bayern Munich earlier in the Champions League will be just what the doctor has ordered for the Citizens if they hope to get out of Group A this year.

It’s tough to say that Villarreal really needs to get three points out of this fixture, but that unfortunately, really is the case. The team is in the gutter, and it is going to be a decided underdog in this fixture, and without any real freebee matches to come, the team can’t afford to sit here at the bottom for very long.

The truth of the matter is that the faster this team gets out of European competitions, the quicker that it can focus on La Liga. This year has been a certified disaster for the Spanish side, going 2-4-4 in its first 10 matches. Before Saturday’s win against Rayo at home, the team had lost back to back matches by 3-0 counts.

In the second of those matches against Real Madrid, the team’s top striker, Giuseppe Rossi was knocked out with an ACL injury that could cause him to miss the rest of the year. He certainly won’t be around in this match and likely will not be on the bench for support either. Without Rossi, who already has three goals domestically this year and netted two just to get the team into the Champions League this year, there is a real void that Villarreal just will not be able to fill.

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These two teams met on October 18th on English soil, a match that nearly ended in disaster for the hosts. They were behind 1-0 just four minutes in, and it took an Aguero goal in the 90th minute just to pick up the three points in that crucial tie.

Villarreal doesn’t have a point yet in the Champions League, and a loss parlayed with a win for Napoli over Bayern Munich ensures that its European campaign is finished. Even a win will still keep it in last place, though at least qualification is fathomable at that point.

For Man City, a win will most likely boost it back into the qualifying territory for the UCL knockout rounds. It is currently one point back of Napoli and three behind Bayern Munich. Goal differential could be key as well, as the Citizens are currently at a -1, and even a one goal victory could still leave them on some tenuous ground going forward for the rest of this competition.

Posted in Champions League (UCL), Featured

Champions League Predictions – KRC Genk vs. Chelsea FC Picks 11/1/11

Chelsea Football Club has a chance to lock up its place in the second round of the Champions League if it can take all three points against KRC Genk when the two duke it out at Cristal Arena on Tuesday night.

It has been a frustrating season thus far for Racing Genk. The Belgian representatives from last year are stuck in the middle of their table domestically, as they are in sixth position through a dozen fixtures and look nothing like contenders for European competition once again this year. They are also seven points back of league leaders, Anderlecht, and they are three points back of being in Europa Cup qualifying for next season.

That being said, it has been a very, very frustrating European campaign as well. The team just barely survived getting into this competition against Partizan Belgrade (3-2 on aggregate) and Maccabi Haifa (3-3 on aggregate, winning in penalty kicks). Things started off well with a scoreless draw against Valencia, which had to make hopes high for at least a shot at survival in this tournament.

Unfortunately, then reality set in for the Belgian side, going on the road and getting smashed by both Bayer Leverkusen and Chelsea by the aggregate of 7-0.

Through three matches thus far on the Champions League group stages, only Genk and Dinamo Zagreb have yet to register a goal. That being said, Genk can still drop into the Europa League with a win somewhere along the way, as Valencia in third place in the group, only has two points to show for its work thus far.

And then there’s Chelsea, which really has very little doubt about being a superior side in this group. The Blues are going to cram in this match on Tuesday just three days after getting ripped 5-3 by Arsenal in front of its hometown crowd at Stamford Bridge, a match which surely didn’t sit well with the hosts.

Needless to say, there could be some anger taken out in this game at Cristal Arena. The Blues outshot Genk 27-5 on the day in the team’s first fixture on English soil, and in terms of shots on net, the tally was 12-0. Fernando Torres struck twice, and he was one of the four different goal scorers in the 5-0 romp that, quite frankly, could have been significantly worse.

Chelsea could be resting some regulars, just as it did in that match a few weeks back against Genk. Much maligned John Terry, the team’s captain, could be one of the players that is given the night off before the team’s trip to Ewood Park this weekend to take on Blackburn.

The Blues will eliminate Genk from the Champions League if they can take three points from this match on the road if Bayer Leverkusen knocks off Valencia as well. Anything less still at least leaves Genk mathematically alive, though we know in all practicality, the team is just hoping for a drop into the Europa League. Chelsea gets into the second round with a win parlayed with a Valencia loss mathematically, and effectively gets in with a win parlayed with a Valencia draw.

Regardless of any other results, the Blues know if they can take four points from these last three fixtures, that they will be in the second round of this tournament, a feat that shouldn’t be that hard for a superior team that struck eight goals in its first three matches to snare seven points.

Posted in Champions League (UCL), Featured

Internazionale FC vs. Juventes Italian Serie A Tips & Predictions

This weekend at the San Siro, the struggling FC Internazionale tries to get back on track when it hosts Juventes FC in a battle of two of the top sides in Italian Serie A.

Of course, things haven’t gone all that well for Inter thus far on the campaign. The team is only 2-2-4 to show for its first eight fixtures. The team has been outscored 14-10 in these fixtures, and the 14 goals allowed is the fourth most in the league. Shockingly, Milan is only two points clear of the relegation zone on the Italian Serie A table, and if in order to get back in competition for European competition for next year, it will have to make up a whopping six points already, and 10 on Juve.

With offensive weapons like Diego Milito, Lucio, Diego Forlan, and Wesley Sneijder, there is no way that teams should be outscoring this club. However, these four only have combined for seven goals in total in eight matches. This isn’t going to cut it to say the least.

The real question mark is whether or not there is going to be anyone that can step up to replace the 21 goals that Samuel Eto’o scored last season. Eto’o has since moved to Russia and become one of the richest men in all of sports, but Inter Milan has yet to really pick up the pieces.

Meanwhile, there is nothing for the fans at the San Siro to worry about right now. Sure, the team would love to be more than 4-4-0 through eight fixtures this year, but for as many draws as there have been on the Italian Serie A schedule this year, that’s not all that bad. There isn’t a team with more wins than Juve with four, though a slew of others have four as well.

The fear for Juventes is that it hasn’t played a heck of a lot of road fixtures. In fact, 11 of its 16 points have come at the Della Alphi, and the team only has two goals scored in three fixtures away from home. In total, Juve is only averaging one goal per game between for and against goals in away fixtures this year.

Again, one could make the argument that this is a team that has underachieved offensively this season. Andrea Pirlo has yet to find the back of the net, and Alessandro Del Piero and Luca Toni are both still searching for their first star of the season. Instead, it has been Alessandro Matri that has been doing the mass majority of the damage, as he has four goals. He and Claudio Marchisio have scored seven of the 11 goals on the season.

There is only one win for Juve in its last three matches, and it took a later winner to steal the victory in the team’s last match against Fiorentina.

There are definitely more problems with Inter in this match. The team was beaten on aggregate 1-0 in two matches by Juventes last year, and the last time that it won a game in this series was in January 2009 in the Coppa Italia.

These two teams are considered to be awfully close on the Italian Serie A betting lines. Inter is getting the very slight nod at pk -120, but both teams are considered strong underdogs to be able to claim three points. A draw is definitely the most likely result of the three in our free soccer punting opinions.

Posted in Featured, Serie A (Italy)

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