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Monday, 10 December, 2018

Marvellous Messi to help maintain Barca's perfect start

Best bets from football's most knowledgeable tipster

Lionel Messi has notched 16 goals this season
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Atletico Madrid v Barcelona 7.45pm
Club football returns with a bang this weekend with magnificent matches around Europe and one of the biggest fixtures could provide one of the better bets on the coupon.

From Liverpool v Manchester United to Dortmund v Leipzig and Roma v Napoli it will be possible to watch elite contests throughout the day but Barcelona's first trip to Atletico Madrid's new Wanda Metropolitano Stadium could be the pick of the games.

Hopefully the match won't stray from sport into politics, although there is that possibility with the Catalans heading to the Spanish capital so soon after the shocking scenes during the vote on independence and it could be an evening where cool heads are needed.

However, on the pitch Barca can show who's boss as they look to make it a perfect ten wins on the spin following the early-season debacle which saw them hammered in the Spanish Super Cup by Real Madrid to coincide with Neymar's sale to Paris St-Germain.

Ernesto Valverde's men have recovered well to score 27 goals in those nine games, but perhaps more crucially, concede only twice with right-back Nelson Semedo looking an excellent signing from Benfica.

The midfield is functioning well with Andres Iniesta fit and up front Lionel Messi is showing he is simply the best.

Football tipping columns

Dan Childs

Kevin Pullein

Messi has already scored 11 times in seven La Liga appearances and goes into the fixture buzzing following a World Cup qualifying hat-trick for Argentina which saved his nation from an early elimination.

Fourth-placed Atletico are unbeaten in La Liga but are not playing as well as that run suggests having put in a number of stodgy performances, while Chelsea went to Madrid and deservedly came out on top on matchday two of the Champions League.

It was said that Atletico knew how to ruffle Barca's feathers, not least after clinching their remarkable title success at Camp Nou in May 2014.

However, they have played 12 matches since and Atleti have triumphed just once with two draws and nine Barcelona victories.

Barcelona draw no bet
2pts 5-6 general

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Accrington v Coventry 3pm
It's not often the away team will have more fans inside a stadium but that is likely to be the case at the Crown Ground as just under 2,000 Coventry supporters are making the trip up to Accrington and it could prove to be a worthwhile journey.

Coventry are easily the best side in Sky Bet League Two when using the metric of shots on target ratio (share of match shots) and should have made their dominance count in last week's goalless draw at Barnet, although they were missing leading goalscorer Duckens Nazon due to international duty.

The Duck is back and that's bad news for an Accrington team who have not played well for a while and even when they have been winning it has been more of a grind than usual.

Cov have kept eight clean sheets in 12 league games and that solid defensive discipline combined with the return of on-loan Haiti international Nazon, who has been borrowed from Wolves, can result in the Sky Blues getting it right at both ends of the pitch.

The juice in the Coventry draw-no-bet price dried up earlier this week so it may pay to risk them straight up.

1pt 13-10 general

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Lincoln v Cambridge 3pm
Inconsistent Cambridge are far from an easy side to get right but having lost three of their last four they don't look in great shape for a difficult assignment at Sincil Bank.

Cambridge coach Shaun Derry reckons those losses to Mansfield, Swindon and Wycombe came against opponents who will finish in the top ten but unfortunately for him they could be facing another side capable of claiming a prominent league position.

Both teams are missing influential centre-backs - Sean Raggett for Lincoln and Leon Legge for Cambridge - but generally speaking the hosts have performed better than their position of tenth suggests.

Raggett's replacement Luke Waterfall rarely let anyone down during last season's promotion campaign and Lincoln's defensive strength is primarily due to highly-rated manager Danny Cowley's organisation skills.

Lincoln have conceded 35 shots on target in their 12 league games and one goal may be enough for maximum points.

1pt 19-20 general

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Plays of the day

Marseille 21-20
Newly-promoted Strasbourg have triumphed just once - against a Lille team reduced to ten men and having to use an outfield player in goal - whereas Marseille have won four of five in all competitions.

Norwich Evs
Daniel Farke has turned Norwich into a more defensive unit since a 4-0 thrashing at Millwall to great success away but at home they have scored once in three matches so Hull should have no fear.

Wigan 8-15, Peterborough 7-15, Marseille 30-29 188Bet

Both teams to score
Games at Barnsley 11-14, Walsall 13-18, Wycombe 5-8 188Bet

Thought for the week

The seedings and format for the new Uefa Nations League were confirmed earlier this week to much condemnation and ridicule in parts.

Maybe it won't be a success but it is helping to solve two of the biggest complaints regarding internationals. It will eliminate mismatches with teams facing off against opponents of a similar ability and it will be used to replace dull friendly fixtures.

Those must at least be good intentions and this would not be the first time British people got it wrong with regards to competitions which are now regarded as staples of any football diet.

British countries refused to play in the early World Cups, believing the home nations matches were of far greater importance, while Chelsea were not allowed to compete in the first European Cup as it was "not in the best interests of the League".

Those opinions are frankly embarrassing in hindsight and, while maybe this won't be a great idea, where is the harm in trying something that could one day become a much-loved competition?

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They have played 12 matches since and Atleti have triumphed just once with two draws and nine Barcelona victories
E.W. Terms
Sky bet