The Big Weekend Preview

Now that the Champions League draw has been made it is time to focus on this weekend’s games. We could be in for a potential cracker at the Lane, there are top of the table clashes in Turkey and France whilst Roma’s Champions League hopes come under the microscope at home to Juventus.

Tottenham v Chelsea, Premier League, March 21, 2009

This clash brings up immediate thoughts of the incredible 4-4 draw between these two sides in the corresponding fixture last season which arrives 366 days after that memorable night at White Hart Lane.

The game of the season in the 2007/2008 Premier League saw Chelsea lead three times and Spurs peg them back thrice, with the final say going to Robbie Keane who curled in a last minute equalizer for Spurs past the helpless arm of Carlo Cudicini.

The Italian custodian, formerly a reserve at Chelsea and now likely to be warming the Tottenham bench on Saturday, also made a fine save from Dimitar Berbatove in the final minute of the 4-4 game and we can all simply hope for such drama from 3pm on Saturday.

The two points dropped by Chelsea under Avram Grant at what the Blues’ support used to call “three point Lane” combined with Emile Heskey’s late equalizer for Wigan later on in the season cost Chelsea the title and Harry Redknapp’s side could yet again put a nail in the coffin of a Chelsea title challenge.

The West London club have been revived by Guus Hiddink as the Russian national team manager has overseen four Premier League victories and progression in the Champions League and FA Cup.

It is fair to say that the arrival of Hiddink combined with Liverpool’s 4-1 win at Old Trafford and the return of Michael Essien have given the Blues new found belief and a league title cannot be ruled out just yet.

Which is why this match is so important and Spurs will be confident too. Thanks to a raft of big money signings, Harry Redknapp finally seems to have found a solid blend in his Tottenham team and they were impressive in their 2-1 win at Villa Park last week, not usually a happy hunting ground for the Lilywhites.

With Essien given an advanced role last week, his individual battle with Wilson Palacios promises to be special and Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate will have to perform well again to stop the revitalised Didier Drogba.

Lightning doesn’t strike twice but Liverpool and Newcastle did play out two 4-3 matches in successive seasons and there is plenty of attacking talent to score the goals to make this another memorable encounter.

101gg predicts: Tottenham 3 – Chelsea 3 (50/1) & John Terry to score the first goal (22/1)

Full match odds here.

Sivasspor v Besiktas, Super Lig, March 21, 2009

Going into the final ten weeks of the Turkcell Super League and still five teams are racing for the championship. The competition is fierce and the championship seems to be dependent on the outcome of the upcoming series of matches the teams will play against each other.

On Saturday, leaders Sivasspor host second-placed Besiktas for an eagerly awaited match. Last week, Sivasspor managed to overcome Ankaragücü with two goals in the second half and ended its three-week losing streak. Besiktas needed a second half push to beat Gençlerbirliği 3-0, so both teams come into match after gaining valuable points.

Besiktas might need to cope with the possible absence of its Argentinean star Matias Delgado, who is suffering from muscle pains and didn’t train over the last couple of days. Delgado is having an excellent season so far with seven goals and three assists. If he doesn’t play, it is expected that January signing Yusuf Simsek will replace him, in what might be a weak point in the Besiktas formation.

Sivasspor’s strong defense, led by the extremely talented Brazilian center back Fabio Bilica (pictured), will have a tough mission against the combined Brazilian power of Bobo and Mert Nobre. For Besiktas, Filip Holosko, another excellent prospect, will come up from the bench if a change in the game will be needed.

Sivasspor’s coach, Bulent Uygon, who serves a four match ban, believes his team has what it takes to win on Saturday and open a gap at the top of table. “We know we have the strength to win against Besiktas. In contrary to what most people think, we have nothing to lose! We want to play beautiful football, but if we won’t take the title, it wouldn’t surprise anyone. We play without too much pressure and believe in ourselves that we can go all the way”.

Uygon’s players, who dropped four precious points in two consecutive weeks before their last win, managed to silence the skeptics once again. All they need to do now is maintain their current form and take the valuable points against their rivals, in order to shock Turkey and grab the championship. A win against Besiktas seems vital for this mission, so we should expect an excellent, attractive and combative game on Saturday.

101gg predicts: Sivasspor 2 – Besiktas 1

Turkish Super Lig odds here.

AS Roma v Juventus, Serie A, March 21, 2009

AS Roma are still reeling from their elimination from the Champions League on penalties by Arsenal and with a lengthening number of players either injured or suspended they are in dangers of missing out on Europe’s premier competition next season.

Luciano Spalletti’s side come into this crucial home match with Juventus without Daniele De Rossi, David Pizarro, Souleymane Diamoutene and Marco Motta who are suspended whilst Cicinho, Marco Cassetti, Juan, Rodrigo Taddei, Simone Perrotta and Alberto Aquilani are all injured.

This game is crucial for Roma who are currently in sixth position and have had a slump in form around their tie with the Gunners. Three successive draws with Inter Milan, Sampdoria and Udinese have left them in a three-horse race with Genoa and Fiorentina for what is likely to be just fourth place with the losers gaining entry into the Europa Cup.

Roma have not only struggled in recent weeks but can blame their awful start to the season for their current predicament. They started the season shambolic ally and only really came into form after beating Chelsea 3-1 at the Stadio Olympico.

The game before they faced the Blues in early November had seen them lose 2-0 to Juventus in Turin. Goals from Alessandro Del Piero and Marco Marchionni did the damage that night and Juve will be confident of winning again despite a lengthy injury list of their own.

Claudio Ranieri’s side may be without the likes of Giorgio Chiellini, Nicola Legrottaglie, Cristiano Zanetti, Mauro Camoranesi, Momo Sissoko and Pavel Nedved but they are in great form. Juve have won four league games in a row and with just seven points separating them from leaders Inter Milan they also have much to play for.

Both these Italian giants may have been dumped out the Champions League by English teams but they still have much to play for this season and will go hell for leather on Saturday night for a win which could make a real difference come the end of the campaign.

101gg predicts: Roma 2 – Juventus 2 (14/1)

Full match odds here.

Toulouse v Paris Saint Germain, Ligue 1, March 22, 2009

The top of the French league sees another exciting match-up between two clubs challenging for the title.
Hosts Toulouse are still in the race for the title, just four points behind Lyon who despite a poor run of form, picking up just one point from a possible nine, are still leading Ligue 1.

PSG, are in third place after their 3-1 defeat last week to OM. The Parisian giants had the opportunity to take first place after Lyon lost to Auxerre but they are now one point behind Lyon and level with Marseille in a congested top of the table.

This match sees a clash between the two best strikers in the league so far this campaign. Toulouse striker, Andre-Pierre Gignac, the top goal scorer (17 goals, all scored with his right foot) and Guillaume Hoarau, second top goal scorer (15 goals). In the last couple of days both strikers have been linked with a move to Juventus to replace the departing David Trezeguet.

Toulouse also tasted defeat last week, 3-2 in a dramatic game at Monaco after conceding a goal in the 90th minute. TFC had led 2-1 in the match, in the 75th minute and would have been level with PSG and OM had they held their nerve.

Whilst Hoarau and Gignac will take up a lot of column inches ahead of this game, defences on both sides will also have a part to play. Toulouse’s highly-rated central defender, Mauro Cetto, scored a fine headed goal last week and has been one of the club’s best players this season.

The 26-year-old Argentinean player came to France during the 2000/2001 season from Rosario Central to FC Nantes. After six impressive seasons at Nantes he joined Toulouse and has been widely praised for his performances. He is a true warrior who is never beaten and has been a leader of every team that he has played for.

PSG also have a rock-like defender in Mamadou Sakho, just 19-years-old and considered to be one of the most promising defenders in France. He is a very strong defender that has played for the youth national teams in France and became the youngest ever captain of PSG and in Ligue 1 when he was only 17 years and 8 months old!.

Sakho has excellent aerial ability and doesn’t give up, he is also a gard working player on the pitch and a number of major European clubs are watching him with great interest.

In other team news, Stephane Sessegnon  returns for PSG after a three match suspension. Whilst in the first match between the teams this season, Toulouse won 1-0 due to an own goal from Zoumana Camara.

101gg predicts: Toulouse 2 – Paris Saint Germain 1 (9/1)

Full match odds here.