PROPER football is back. The 2017/18 Premier League season got underway last weekend and it is now time for Europe’s elite domestic divisions to return. Without further ado, here are my top tips ahead of the opening weekend in Germany, Spain, Italy and France...
SCHALKE vs RB LEIPZIG
Schalke have gone 14 games without defeat on home soil – a run that stretches all the way back to January.
Domenico Tedesco’s side have managed to hold onto highly-touted young talent Max Meyer and the hosts will be quietly confident of securing an opening weekend victory as they look to build on last season’s 10th placed finish.
Meanwhile, the visitors will expect to push Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund close in the Bundesliga title race for the second season in a row.
When Leipzig were promoted to Germany’s top flight, nobody expected them to challenge at the top but Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men exceeded all expectations. I’m expecting Leipzig to make another quick start...
TIP: RB Leipzig to win OR draw @ 13/25
BARCELONA vs REAL BETIS
No Neymar? No problem. The Brazilian officially completed his move to Paris Saint-Germain earlier this summer for a world record fee of £198 million – a staggering sum of money.
The Spanish giants are yet to sign a top class replacement but Barcelona have enough quality to put Real Betis to the sword in front of an expectant Camp Nou; even with Luis Suarez out injured.
For the visitors, this is about as difficult as it gets. Facing Barcelona away from home on the opening weekend isn’t exactly ideal but La Blaugrana were far from assured when losing 3-1 to Real Madrid in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup.
It will be a case of damage limitation for the visitors but who knows, they might surprise us all...
TIP: Barcelona to score in both halves @ 1/2
CROTONE vs AC MILAN
Crotone avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth last season but may find the going too tough in Serie A this campaign.
The Italian minnows have failed to strengthen in the summer transfer window and it would take a brave man to back Crotone against this new-look Milan outfit – they are yet to beat AC in a competitive fixture.
Milan will need some time to gel completely but they should be strong enough to run away with a comfortable victory here.
Away from home, there will be less pressure on Milan’s shoulders on the opening weekend and we could see a convincing performance from the visitors. I’m expecting the visitors to score at least twice – 3/5 represents solid value...
TIP: Over 1.5 AC Milan goals @ 3/5
PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN vs TOULOUSE
Neymar made an immediate impact on his PSG debut last weekend, scoring one goal whilst assisting another in their 3-0 victory away at Guingamp.
On paper, the hosts are well placed to win the Ligue 1 title this campaign and Neymar can be their difference maker. Playing in front of an expectant Parisian crowd for the first time, he can lead PSG to a convincing win here.
For Toulouse, this is almost unfair. There will be a vibrant atmosphere around the stadium following Neymar’s arrival and the visitors will be attempting to spoil the party.
PSG have a solid record against Toulouse in recent years and anything but a home win looks unlikely if truth be told. The hosts to win both halves is short enough but looks a fairly safe bet...
TIP: PSG to win both halves @ 17/20
*Odds correct at the time of writing. Latest betting markets available here...*