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ENGLAND Championship : Middlesbrough – West Bromich
It’s a clash of the titans in the Championship as top of the fledgling table, Middlesbrough, entertain third-placed West Brom. Tony Pulis’ Middlesbrough side defend an unbeaten league record so far here (W3, D1) whilst Darren Moore’s ‘Baggies’ look to continue improving game by game (W2, D1, L1).
Despite much criticism over the summer in relation to transfer activity, Pulis has proved his doubters wrong after the Boro have gone now 313 minutes of Championship football without conceding a goal.
This will most definitely be the biggest test of Boro’s defending credentials so far. West Brom put seven goals past QPR last time out and are unbeaten vs Middlesbrough in their last eight meetings (W4, D4) although this is the first meeting since the 2016/17 Premier League campaign.
After last weeks romp, West Brom are by far the highest scorers in the league with 13 goals after four games, which makes for an interesting prospect against a typically astute defence.
The apprentice meets the teacher, as Moore served as Pulis’ assistant until the end of his tenure at WBA.
Players to watch: Martin Braithwaite has unexpectedly burst onto the scene for Middlesbrough this season, scoring in three of their four Championship games.
West Brom’s Jay Rodriguez (four) and Matt Phillips (three) have seven goals between them already this season, both players scored a brace last time out.
Stat attack: Middlesbrough are the only side to have been winning at both half-time and full-time, whilst keeping a clean sheet in all of their victories so far.
Pulis has a positive recent record against his former clubs since 2006 (W8, D2, L2).
West Brom are unbeaten on Teesside since the 2004/05 season.
It could be tight as both teams have not scored in five of the last six editions of this fixture.
Kenyanbets tips : Double Chance 1X
NETHERLANDS Eerste Divisie : Almere – Roda
Almere City take on Roda JC at Yanmar Stadion this Friday evening in what could be the standout fixture on match day two in Eerste Divisie.
These two clubs clashed in last season’s Play-offs and a 2-1 home success for Almere sealed Roda’s fate as they were relegated from Eredivisie for just the second time in 46 years.
Robert Molenaar’s men will be out to gain revenge this Friday night and back up their impressive home win against defending champions Jong Ajax on match day one.
Roda secured a 2-1 triumph on their return to the Dutch second tier thanks to a brace from German Mario Engels, and the win was fully deserved against a Jong side that lacked sharpness and much end product.
Molenaar’s charges now prepare to take on their first away assignment of the campaign, knowing that they must improve their form and consistency on the road if they’re to challenge for automatic promotion this season and an immediate return to Eredivisie. They lost 11 of their 19 away fixtures in 2017/18, and although the standard of opposition is generally inferior this term, Almere certainly represent a stern challenge.
City made the Yanmar Stadion something of a fortress last season, winning 11 and drawing four of their 19 home matches, and they beat several teams who finished higher than them in the league including Jong PSV, NEC and the promoted De Graafschap.
Schappenkoppen’s consistency at home was vital to their Play-off qualification in 2017/18, and they’ll definitely be harbouring ambitions of a similar run this time around.
City had to wait until Monday night to get their campaign underway against Jong AZ, but their new look side was soon up and running at AFAS Stadion, racing into a 0-3 lead before the half hour mark thanks to goals from new signings Niek Vossebelt, Tim Receveur and Stijn Meijer.
It was to prove unassailable in the second half, as Almere held on despite goals from Rejinders and Druijf after full-back Moustapha Seck saw red shortly after the break.
The result marked a fine start to the campaign for Almere and new boss Michele Santoni, who will have been delighted to see his side start so confidently on the road after losing 12 of their 19 away games last term.
And going into this Friday’s fixture, we consider Almere City to be narrow favourites as they seek to make it two wins from two.
They have that recent Play-off triumph over Roda JC on their dance card, and their form on home turf has been formidable over the past year or so.
GERMANY – Bundesliga : Bayern Munich – Hoffenheim
German champions Bayern Munich – a title the Bavarians have had for six years now – began preparation for the new season at the International Champions Cup in the United States (W1 L2). Niko Kovac’s charges followed that up with a commanding 5-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt in the German Super Cup, with last season’s top scorer Robert Lewandowski sending out an intimidating message with three well-taken goals. Lewandowski struck again on Saturday as Bayern Munich edged past SV Drochtersen/Assel in the first round of the DFB Pokal to maintain Kovac’s 100% start as coach.
Hoffenheim’s third place finish last season secured them automatic qualification into the UEFA Champions League group stages for the first time in the club’s history. Coach Nagelsmann’s achievements over his two and a half seasons at the club, turning them from relegation contenders to two consecutive top four finishes, has naturally drawn a lot of attention, even more so due his age – at 31 years old, he is the Bundesliga’s youngest coach. He will leave Hoffenheim to join RB Leipzig next summer, but has stated his commitment to go out on a high.
The visitors’ pre-season has been positive to that end, with loanee signing Joelinton scoring a hat-trick in a 6-1 rout of Kaiserslautern in the DFB Pokal first round last weekend. However, even with a few other transfers in over the summer (see team news), Nagelsmann will have a massive challenge in finding a way to break through the Bayern defense at the Allianz Arena without two pivotal players from last season, forwards Mark Uth (sold to Schalke) and Serge Gnabry (returned from loan to Bayern). Some selection headaches in midfield due to injuries will do him no favours either, especially with Bayern Munich having returned to their best at the back with captain Manuel Neuer between the sticks once again.
While there is no better feeling in German football than getting one over on Bayern Munich, unfortunately for Hoffenheim, their chances look slim on Friday. Bayern love nothing more than winning on the opening day of the season – the Bavarians have won all of the last six Bundesliga openers, with scorelines like 3-1 against Leverkusen, 5-0 against Hamburg, and 6-0 against Bremen being some more notable results – and Hoffenheim, as with most German sides, have a poor record on the road to the champions. Bayern Munich have won 8 of the 10 meetings at home to Hoffenheim (W8 D2), scoring three goals or more in five of them. Nagelsmann couldn’t have asked for a tougher opener.
Hoffenheim have managed to get a few results against the Bavarians since he took over (W2 D1 L1), but both wins have come on their own turf. On the road with a much weakened squad should prove a much tougher challenge this time around, especially with Bayern missing only forward Serge Gnabry, who was also absent for their 5-2 pumping of Hoffenheim at the Allianz Arena back in January. Bayern are consistently the best home team in the Bundesliga (see statistics), and taking everything into account, it’s tough to see anything other than a high scoring home win.
Kenyanbets tip: Total over 3.5