European Football Tips: Leipzig out to upstage Bayern

Nico Kovac
Kovac still hasn't convinced everyone

RB Leipzig can claim their first piece of major silverware and throw Bayern coach Nico Kovac's future back in doubt, writes James Horncastle...

"Leipzig are priced @ 6.05/1 on the Exchange, which feels too long to me. They're a better team that Frankfurt last year and can caused Bayern real problems. Take them to win."

The DFB Pokal Final

RB Leipzig v Bayern Munich
Saturday, 19:00

Bayern can complete the double on Saturday with victory in the DFB Pokal final. The achievement would likely defer any lingering doubts about coach Nico Kovac until next season. The Croat has delivered silverware but it's hard to believe Bayern can't do better.

The German champions are expected to go big in the summer. World Cup winners Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard have already agreed to move to the Allianz Arena. This week Bayern confirmed their interest in luring Leroy Sane back to Germany from Manchester City.

Kovac lifted the DFB Pokal as manager of Eintracht Frankfurt last season. He upset Bayern in the final which calmed some of the unrest surrounding his appointment, the announcement of which had provoked a sudden deterioration in Frankfurt's results.

Saturday's opponent is a formidable one. RB Leipzig had the second best record in the Bundesliga in 2019 so Saturday's game in Berlin is an event showcasing German excellence. Ralf Rangnick and his players will enter history if they win the club its first major trophy. Bayern have more talent but Leipzig boast a more experienced and sophisticated schemer in the dug-out.

The underdogs are also more rested. Bayern finished the season strong but had to go right until the end in order to retain the Bundesliga. Leipzig, by contrast, already had Champions League football wrapped up and could afford to make wholesale changes on the final day. A week is still a long time for a club used to playing every three days like Bayern to recover. But the extra freshness of Leipzig means we can expect a game of maximum intensity.

Rangnick has made his team incredibly difficult to break down and score on. They finished with the best defence in the Bundesliga and kept Bayern out a fortnight ago. Leipzig are priced @ 6.05/1 on the Exchange, which feels too long to me. They're a better team that Frankfurt last year and can caused Bayern real problems. Take them to win.

The Collapsico

Genoa v Fiorentina
Sunday, 19:30

Who would have thought back in August that this would be a relegation play-off. The same could be said in January when Fiorentina were in the race to qualify for Europe and Genoa looked comfortable around mid-table.

The Viola have been in freefall ever since Stefano Pioli resigned in dismay at the club's lack of confidence in his methods. The players took the news badly and have been unable to arrest the team's decline. On the contrary, it has accelerated. The youngest side in Europe's top five leagues, Fiorentina's lack of experience is showing and the pressure is too much to bear, particularly when the atmosphere at the Artemio Franchi is so toxic amid peak dissent against the ownership.

As for Genoa, it turns out selling star striker Krzysztof Piatek in January was not a good idea. His goals not only kept the Rossoblu's heads above water. They created a feelgood factor around a fanbase that otherwise has a lot to feel bad about. Just as Fiorentina fans want the Della Valle family out, Genoano antipathy for Enrico Preziosi is so strong he can no longer attend home games.

The state of play is this: if Fiorentina avoid defeat they will survive. Genoa's destiny is out of their hands. They need to better whatever Empoli do at San Siro in order to stay up for a 12th consecutive year. Watching both teams over the last few months you can see the fear has crept in. It is inhibiting performance and Sunday promises to be a horribly tense affair. Back the draw @ 2.56/4.

Milan's Champions League hopes

SPAL v Milan
Sunday, 19:30

At the other end of the table, Milan are still in with a chance of playing Champions League football for the first time in five years. A point outside the top four, they need to take care of business in Ferrara and hope that either Inter choke against in-form Empoli or Atalanta bottle it against Sassuolo. The pair of them are at home while Milan are on the road.

On paper, SPAL have nothing to play for. They comfortably survived and have suffered back-to-back defeats. A sign they are on the beach perhaps. Think again. Both losses were close. Napoli didn't put SPAL to the sword until the 88th minute while Udinese, who were fighting for their lives, needed a three-goal first half lead to see them off 3-2 after a spirited comeback from the Ferraresi in the second half.

SPAL can still finish in the top half and be crowned kings of Emilia-Romagna if they win and Sassuolo lose in Bergamo. Ending the year ahead of them, Bologna and Parma would be celebrated wildly at the Mazza. It could also be the final home game of coach Leonardo Semplici and Manuel Lazzari who will surely attract offers from bigger clubs in the summer.

SPAL have upset Juventus, Roma, Lazio and Atalanta this season. It wouldn't be a surprise to see them add Milan to that list. They're a value pick @ 6.411/2.


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