As competitive football returns across Europe, most clubs are now finalising their preparations with some friendlies. Now, the attention moves back to club football.
Even more, it is fair to expect that these teams will take these matches a little more seriously as players return from Qatar. For the coaches, these games pose a good indication as to how ready the players are for the rest of the season, especially in terms of physical and mental fitness.
While some teams will look to consolidate on their first half of the season performance, others will hope to turn the tide in the second half.
The outcome of these friendlies can be tricky to predict when it comes to outright wins or losses. A safer prediction will be the possible number of goals to be scored.
Hence, here are four matches with higher probabilities of delivering over 1.5 goals.
Real Betis vs Atalanta
Real Betis will resume their La Liga campaign next Thursday against Athletic Club. Both teams share the same points and perhaps the same objectives: a top-four spot or, at the very least, qualification for any continental tournament.
Los Verdiblancos have been inconsistent in this window. Manuel Pellegrini’s men began this preparatory period with a 4-0 spanking from River Plate. Then, they lost 5-0 to another South American side, Colo-Colo.
They managed a 1-0 win against Manchester United before earning a 1-1 draw with Inter Milan.
Since the appointment of Pellegrini, the Valencian team has been one of the most expressive and expansive teams in Spain. They have also been almost unbeatable at home.
Against Atalanta, the Chilean manager will look to start with his strongest XI. Nabil Fekir will have the freedom to drift around the final third, picking up unique spaces and attempting to create chances for Borja Iglesias.
Luis Enrique and Rodri will look to expand the pitch out wide. Andres Guardardo’s shooting prowess will also be one of the team’s X-factors.
Atalanta are just as entertaining under Gian Piero Gasperini. They sit in sixth place in Serie A, three points behind Lazio in fourth place.
The Italian side defeated Nice comfortably in their last friendly, but will be aware of the quality of tonight’s opposition.
Mario Pasalic, Teun Koopmeiners, and Ademola Lookman will prove crucial just behind Duvan Zapata.
This encounter will be hotly contested, and as such, goals are almost guaranteed.
Empoli vs Sassuolo
Empoli are in a relatively stable position in Serie A, sitting in 13th place, 10 points above the relegation zone.
Gli Azzurri defeated Sturm Graz 2-1 in their opening friendly. They drew with Wolves and lost 1-0 to Monaco.
Paolo Zanetti favours a 4-4-2 formation, and the Italian manager will likely stick with this tactic. Martin Satriano and Sam Lammers will look to find each other in a bid to hurt the opponent. Both players have struggled to score this season.
Sassuolo have been horrible in the league this season, at least by their standards. They were winless in four matches before the break, although they defeated Marseille in their only friendly played until now.
Armand Lauriente has struggled to have the same impact as Jeremy Boga, who has since left for Atalanta. Andrea Pinamonti will be keen to impress against his former side. More importantly, he will hope to get his Sassuolo career going after managing just three matches this season.
This will certainly be an end-to-end encounter between these average teams.
Lecce vs Udinese
Newly promoted Lecce face an uphill task against one of the most improved teams in Serie A. And as they look to survive relegation this season, this friendly is certainly a good test.
The Giallorossi are on a two-game winning streak in Serie A, defeating Sampdoria and Atalanta in the process. Indeed, Marco Baroni’s men earned a brilliant draw against this opposition just before the break. They should be confident of putting up a good fight.
Lorenzo Colombo will fancy his chances against a Udinese team that has somewhat taken its foot off the gas.
Udinese will be wary of a slump in the league after an excellent opening set of matches. After six consecutive wins between August and September, the Bianconeri have not won any of their last 11 matches, including three friendlies.
Andrea Sottil will count on the industry of Ricardo Perreira against Lecce. Gerard Delofeu has been one of the team’s best players, using his creativity and tactical vision to create chances. Beto is a predator. He will continue to lurk around, sniffing around for half chances.
An over 1.5 result seems almost guaranteed in this fixture.
Torino vs Cremonese
Torino are comfortably placed ninth in Serie A with possibilities for upward movements.
Toro are on a 4-game unbeaten run, including two friendlies against Espanyol and Almeria. They will fancy themselves to ease past Cremonese, who are winless in the league.
Ivan Juric will count on his forwards, Aleksei Miranchuk and Nikola Vlasic, to plunder the goals, cutting in from the flanks.
Cremonese have garnered just seven points this season and are languishing deep in the relegation zone. They must begin to earn wins to avoid returning to Serie B at the end of the season.
Massimiliano Alvini’s men have sought to build their confidence during the break, facing and defeating two Serie D sides by an aggregate score of 13-0.
Nigeria International, David Okereke has been the shining light of this team. His eye for goals and clinicality will count for plenty.