The Hunter’s Week Ahead – 23 Sep

Tips, Tricks, Picks and Odds. 

The beautiful game has never been more beautiful.

This week, the world’s game is our focus, and what a week we have in store. The coming week is everything football (soccer), as the top European leagues and cups really get into the swing of things. Needless to say, I’m keen to delve into what we have in store!

First, I should clear the air about why I’m doing a football column when the Rugby World Cup is kicking off. Putting it simply, all the good fixtures aren’t until this weekend – so come back on Friday and I can assure you that there’ll be a great piece about it then…

As always in this column, I’ll explore what Australians can look forward to in this week of sports – focusing on a different sport for each day – and provide the tips that I feel most confident in based on my research, analysis and expert intuition. 

Tuesday – La Liga

Messi. Photographed by CosminElftode. Image via Shutterstock.

We start the week off in Spain at arguably the home of football, Camp Nou. The blue and maroon fans will fill this holy stadium once more as Barcelona look to continue their stellar run of historical La Liga dominance.

Barcelona v Villarreal

Standing in the way of FC Barcelona are mid-table stalwarts and attacking heroes Villareal. So far this season, no team has scored more goals than them and if they can fix up their leaky defence, they stand a good chance of pushing Barcelona further down the table.

Now, Barcelona have not had the season they’ve hoped for so far. They sit down in eighth place, having won just two of their first five fixtures. But, in this fixture, they have history on their side. Barcelona haven’t been beaten by Villareal in 20 straight games and have been the first to score in the past five. Villareal haven’t kept a clean sheet against Barca in 14 straight games now and I don’t see that changing here.

Ultimately, even with both Barca and Real having shaky starts to the season, we all know how it’ll end. They’ll beat all the other clubs for the next 35 weeks, and then battle it out between themselves for first and second like usual. That starts with Barcelona beating Villareal.

The Hunter’s Hot Tip: Barcelona to Win

Wednesday – Carabao Cup

Charlie Austin. Photographed by Fabrizio Bertani. Image via Shutterstock.

Okay, this one’s personal.

After almost a decade of not seeing each other in any competition (thanks to Pompey’s sheer inadequacy in the league) my club (Southampton), have finally drawn their arch-rivals in a cup game.

This is a game with over seven years of build-up behind it and I can not wait to see how it goes.

Southampton v Portsmouth

Now, the Saints have had an iffy season so far. Under new manager Hassenhuttl, they’ve struggled to start matches well – but have often clicked into formation in due time. This means teams can get the jump on them early (like Bournemouth this weekend), but those that fail to do so rue their mistake (like Sheffield the week before). Djenopo has been a phenomenal signing and it’s only a matter of time before Che Adams starts knocking them home. PEH and Cedric are two club icons who put in performance after performance and Yoshi and Vestegaard at the back are a genuinely dependable combo. Southampton will travel down the road to Pompey with fire in their veins and solid lineup to support it.

So how will Portsmouth fare?

It’s Pompey, it would be a sin for me to predict anything other than pure and utter annihilation and humiliation at the hands of the historically dominant (and ultimately better in every way) Southampton.

The Hunter’s Hot Tip: Southampton to Win by 4+

Thursday – Ligue 1

Monaco Stadium. Photographed by PR-PhotoDesign. Image via Shutterstock.

We end the week in France (kind of) with a match between two clubs desperate to re-establish themselves as title contenders. On Thursday, Monaco play host to Nice in a game that has fans all over France keen to see how things play out.

Monaco v Nice

Monaco, a team that only a few seasons ago were lifting the trophy, are in a bit of trouble. They’ve not won at all in six-straight games and have put in some fairly embarrassing displays in the run (their three-straight red cards to start the season spring to mind). But, with that being said, they are by no means out for the count and the squad that they have (at least on paper) is capable of producing some good results. A home win against one of the better teams in the league could do wonders in revitalising their season – which is already looking like a lost cause.

Of course, to start that revitalisation campaign, Monaco first have to get through Nice – a team in a lot better form, and with a lot more to lose. Nice currently sit tied for second in the league, and after their 2-1 thriller against Dijon last week, they will be full of confidence that they can turn a similar result in Monaco. They haven’t lost in their past three against Monaco and have at least scored in their past five. They’ll be looking for a result here, to solidify their position at the top of the table and hopefully ultimately reinstate their name as one of the best teams in the country.

Who will take home this fixture?

Honestly, on paper it’s either or, but given the way I’ve seen Monaco play their past few fixtures, I can’t in my right mind tip them to win this. Even at home.

The Hunter’s Hot Tip: Nice to Win or Draw

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Feature image: Camp Nou. Photographed by Christian Bertrand. Image via Shutterstock.