Novak Djokovic v Andy Murray – 18:00 live on Sky Sports 3
The ATP World Tour Finals comes to an end on Sunday and it is the Final that most would have wanted. The top two players in the World Rankings go up against one another with the trophy and the World Number 1 Ranking on the line.
Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have won all four matches played so far this week, but I think it is hard to ignore the amount of tennis that Murray has had to play compared with Djokovic. The long winning run does mean Murray is going to believe he can dig deep enough to come through in the Final, but he has twice had to go over three hours to win his matches and yesterday’s Semi Final victory over Milos Raonic came close to four hours on court.
Compare that with Djokovic who lost just two games on his way to crushing Kei Nishikori and the former World Number 1 has to be a lot fresher. I do think Djokovic has not been at his very best this week, but his level could be good enough if Murray is fatiguing and I think the Serb has to feel he can outlast Murray much like he has throughout his career.
Matches between Djokovic and Murray have been competitive, but tiredness didn’t help Murray when beaten in four sets by Djokovic in their last meeting at the French Open. I can see the first set being very competitive, but Murray will find it tough to continue finding the strength to win the long rallies these two tend to play against one another. At that point I think Djokovic will take control of the match and come through with a 7-5, 6-3 win.
Atalanta v Roma – Atleti Azzurri d’Italia at 14:00 live on BT Sport 3
Serie A is back for another week, and I have to say my last Asian Handicap betting recommendation didn’t go too well (Inter Milan, what more could you say?!), but I am now feeling confident about this one as Atalanta host AS Roma on Sunday afternoon.
Let’s start by saying the last time these two side met in Bergamo, the match finished 3-3; Francesco Totti scoring in the 86th minute to rescue a point for the visitors. So from that, I am hoping we are in for another goal fest on Sunday! But you never know with Italian football.
Heading into this match and both teams are doing really well. Atalanta are sitting fifth in Serie A and has won four games on the bounce conceding only one goal in their last six games. Gian Piero Gasperini’s last fixture ending in a 3-0 win at home to Sassuolo; the visitors setting up in the popular 3-4-3 formation.
However, I look at this Atalanta side and I cannot see where their quality lies. To me, it looks like a Leicester City team of the previous season; all ready to work hard for one another. I mean, if you were to ask me what players I recognise…Alberto Paloschi…that’s it, and he can’t even get a game!
A player I am looking forward to seeing though is Ivorian Franck Kessie. The 19-year-old has played ten times for La Dea and scored four goals, as the centre-midfield could make a real difference on the weekend. On the other hand, four defenders sit out injured for the hosts, while Andrea Conti (a right back) is suspended too, so defensively they may not be as sharp.
One thing to consider is that Atalanta sit unbeaten in their last eight matches, and the last time these suffered defeat was when they fielded a 4-2-3-1 formation. Now since they have evolved into this 3-4-3 it is looking to suit the team and manager, and I bet fans are not that upset either. Performing above expectations.
With Roma, I have that sense that this will be another “just missed out on the season” campaign for the title challengers. They have never been able to keep up their push for a Serie A Championship since the days of Rudi Garcia as manager, and this season I don’t see it being any different. At the moment, Luciano Spalletti’s team remain unbeaten in their last nine games in all competitions and their last five in the Italian league. Roma’s last match finishing in a 3-0 victory at home to Bologna; Mohamed Salah bagging a hat-trick at the Stadio Olimpico.
They have no problem scoring goals either, having netted 13 in their last five matches, but a big miss for them in the summer was seeing the back of Miralem Pjanic as he went to join Italian Champions Juventus. Still, onwards and upwards. They still have quality in the likes of Kevin Strootman and underrated Belgian midfielder Radja Nainggolan.
One thing that Spalletti has done is stick to the 4-2-3-1 formation with plenty of attacking threat coming from the wings. May that be either through Salah, Diego Perotti or Stephan El Shaarawy, while the main outlet of Edin Dzeko is always a threat as he has been a striker I always thought could walk into any top European team.
One concern is that six players sit out injured, and this includes Roma legend Totti with a hip injury as the 39-year-old has no expected return date.
The defensive issues for Atalanta worry me because I wonder how Gasperini will set up with most of his full-backs out for this encounter. Yet, they look solid heading into this match-up. Roma, meanwhile, have always been a side I enjoy watching, but at times they just have off days and don’t perform the way you expect them too.
Overall, the price on Roma at -0.5 is one that I cannot turn down. They have the quality to perform and if they want to be seen a real title contenders now is the time to step up!
Athletic Bilbao v Villarreal – San Mames Stadium at 19:45 live on Sky Sports 5
Well, it’s been a while since I done my last Asian Handicap Betting pick for a La Liga encounter, and this time around it will be a thriller of a match as Athletic Bilbao host Villarreal on Sunday evening at the San Mames Stadium.
The hosts have a solid record at home remaining six games unbeaten in all competitions, while sitting seventh in La Liga, but from their last five they have only won one. Ernesto Valverde’s last match finishing in a bore draw away to Espanyol, I mean 0-0 may have been not the most thrilling result, but an important point to say the least.
Like Villarreal, Bilbao are playing in the Europa League and it would be safe to say it hasn’t been easy. Los Leones sits second in their group and remain one point off top spot and off the bottom of the table. How tight is that?!
Yet, one player I am looking forward to seeing on the weekend will be striker Aritz Aduriz. The Spanish attacker has been in sensational form considering he is reaching the near end of his career; netting five goals in nine games so far this season, as well as scoring 20 last campaign and going to Euro 2016 with Spain. He is a classic fox in the box having scored two goals against Villarreal last season in four games.
One concern is that four players sit out injured for the home side, while defender Mikel Balenziaga is suspended for this clash on the weekend. Valverde also likes to stick with the 4-2-3-1 formation, so expect no surprises there on Sunday.
Villarreal fans will be beaming at the moment considering they sit third in La Liga and only five points off the top spot. Right about now it’s just about keeping up the pressure and not letting this slip from their grasps. Fran Escriba will be hoping for better from his team though considering they have only won two of their last five matches in all competitions. The visitors’ last match ending in a 2-0 win at home to Real Betis; Roberto Soriano scoring the second to secure the win and continue their good home form.
However, a massive concern for the away side has been their form on the road. The Yellow Submarine has not won a match from their last five away fixtures in all competitions, and have only won two so far this season. So this is a big problem for Escriba at the moment.
But you look at their squad, especially strike-force, and you wonder how? It is a similar squad to the ones who made the Europa League semi-finals last year with Cedric Bakambu, but on top of this they have added Alexandre Pato the team as well as midfielder Soriano who is already paying back the chunk in his transfer fee hitting up an average rating of 7.04.
Strangely it seems Villarreal like to set-up with a flat 4-4-2, which seems to be a dying art in the modern game. But I just wonder whether they will get overrun in the midfield as only three players sit out injured including striker Roberto Soldado.
The last time these two sides met in Basque Country the game finished 0-0, and before that Bilbao won 1-0 away from home. In fact, Villarreal has not won in Bilbao since 2011; losing three of their last five meetings. So it really doesn’t help their cause considering their away form this season has been below average.
This is a difficult one to call. I can honestly see it ending in a draw because both teams will be tight at the back wanting to keep up their good run. Especially with where they are sitting in the table. Yet, I can see Athletic pipping in and grabbing a result, especially with Aduriz up top. But my instinct is telling me to back unders!