The last thing Elina Svitolina would have wanted from yesterdays match with Alexandrova was a 2.5 hour prolonged battle. Despite winning a third-set tiebreaker we just want to point to the fact that Svitolina lost 6 from her 10 serves. In fact, Alexandrova had two match points, and she was also serving for the match at 5/4. Watching some of the mistakes was really frustrating, so now it’s a question of if Kedermetova has the nerve get the job done! When the Russian won yesterdays first set against Badosa, it looked like the 2nd would be easy. However, like many this week she lost focus and needed a third set to finish the job. On a positive note, we have seen Kudermetova play a lot of good tennis this week, and she’s certainly hitting the ball better than today's opponent! The 23 years old Russian should take a leap of faith by knowing she won her only meeting with Svitolina, it’s down to focus now!
Back in 2018, Michaela Buzarnescu zoomed through the ranks to Peak at a career-high 20. A year later was a bit of a struggle, and in 2020 she only made two appearances. Suffice to say the now 32-year-old has a bit to prove, but we shouldn’t forget she’s a player of real quality. What makes us believe Buzarnescu can shake off a couple of poor seasons is she’s done it before. In 2012 she went 15/18, and she missed all of 2013. In 2014, she came out late in the season with a 7-2 and then followed up in 2015 with a 48/21. 2016 saw a drop in standards (10/11), but then in 2017, she bounced by winning a whopping 70 matches!! Lara Arruabarrena has been around the block a few times, and she will play her game. However, her record suggests she’s not going anywhere fast, and this match will be down to her opponents level!
GOLD DESERT improved since her last run on the flat. Her hurdles rating suggests a mark of 71 is very attractive, so it’s more of a question of whether she handles the surface. The in-form course and distance winner RAVENSCAR is the one to beat, but she’s up another 5 pounds. Over hurdles, the selection is rated 17 pounds better than the favourite, and she’s receiving weight today!
Premium pick - sent to subscribers yesterday — We are shocked by these odds, and they are probably down to Goalkeeper Jean Butez getting injured. Nevertheless, while we accept Wouter Vrancken doesn’t have any injured player issues, the fact is Mechelen are still 11 points behind today's visitor. We also want to mention Antwerp took substantially more points on the road (13) than Mechelen at home (8). And, the home (41.4%) to away (36.1%) advantage isn’t a big enough margin to swing these odds. De Kakkers come into this after winning their last two matches against Mouscron and Leuven with a 2-1 margin. Prior to that things hadn’t been going well, and back in October, the reverse match ended 4-1 to Antwerp! The Great Old has now appointed a contracted new manager. Frank Vercauteren is now in charge until at least the season end, and he’s picked p a team which just won their last two games against Charleroi and Waasland. The visitors will need to line up with Alireza Beiranvand in goal, but for us, he’s at least the equivalent of the first-choice keeper. Other than that Antwerp doesn’t have much wrong, and they are a better team than Mechelen!
This should be fun, but the goal line is set higher than we would have wanted! Serie A is certainly looking more open this season, and if Juventus keep drawing (6) may be one of these clubs could claim the Scudetto. Whatever happens, remains to be seen, but for now, these teams occupy 2nd and 3rd places. AS Roma come into this on the back of three straight wins, and they are 5-1-0 over the last six. The other thing with Paulo Fonseca’s team is they are 6-2-0 at home, and the last time they were beaten at the Olimpico was back in July! The hosts are starting to get players back from injury, with wing-back Davide Santon returning to training this week. The absentees remaining are Pedro, Federico Fazio, goalkeeper Antonio Mirante, Javier Pastore and Nicolo Zaniolo. Inter dropped all three points in last weeks defeat by Sampdoria. Despite 62% possession and double the amount of shots on target, Conti’s men were not good enough. Lukaku is likely to take over from Sanchez in the attack, the latter missed a penalty last week. Inter defender Danilo D'Ambrosio was injured in the last match, he faces time out. Matias Vecino and young striker Andrea Pinamonti are still out. Roma is playing some excellent football. While this will be a bit harder, the hosts don’t make a habit of losing home matches!
Sofia Kenin is a pragmatic type of player. The ever-busy 22 years old will have one eye on the up and coming Australian open, and arriving there at the top of her game is more important than getting through this tournament. Kenin needed a first-set tiebreaker to get past first-round opponent Yang, and she had lost the first set to Flipkens before that player had to retire. The American needs to step it up for sure, especially against a player with the character of Yulia Putintseva. The 26-year-old played an ok type of match against Trevisan, but she was better again in the last round against Krejcikova. While Putintseva could only convert 3/16 tie breaks that day, she was fully in the zone and beat an in-form player!
Both of these teams are down at the bottom. They will need points to guarantee league status, but with just 7 points separating the bottom 11 teams it’s hardly time to worry. Cerclee lost six straight, and they are the only team in the division not to have drawn a game all season. English coach Paul Clement will need to get a bit more concentration out of his players, just like when they won the reverse (1-2) match in Eupen. The difference that day was a late goal, albeit the Green/Blacks fully deserved the 3 points. One thing is certain with the hosts, they have a team of talented youngsters. Three of them where sent from the same owners Monaco and a couple of the other players arrived from big clubs. With Cerclee it just depends on how they gel on the day, and that should be easier against a team like today opponent! The Panda’s are proving to be very naive, and teams are always going to get a chance to get the better of them!
Metz will once again be without long-term absentees Manuel Cabit and Ibrahima Niane, both face lengthy spells on the sidelines. Other than that, coach Frederic Antonetti is unlikely to make many changes from his side's recent game against Bordeaux, given that his team are playing at their best and appear well balanced. With regards to Nice, centre-back Dante is expected to be out for the remainder of the season following a cruciate ligament injury picked up in November. The former Bayern Munich man's absence has been a big blow to the visitors, and they will hope recently signed Arsenal loan William Saliba can help Les Aiglons. Left-back Racine Coly is also on the treatment table, with the Senegal international nursing a neck injury. Antonetti as done well since taking charge of The Maroons, and he will know that some of his top players are nearing a return. With that in mind, the situation in the East of France looks good, and Nice is a team that is instantly beatable!
This race isn’t particularly good and we can understand the UK bookies making Karl Burke’s runner GRAVITY FORCE favourite. He’s raced at a good level in the UK, and this looks his right trip. However, in the receipt of 3kg MOASA must have a chance. The filly ran better than her finishing position last time out, and stepping back up in trip should suit her much better. Odds are fair, and most of the others don’t have much ability.
Bernarda Pera is a lot more talented than her rank of 62 suggests. The 26-year-old battled hard for a first-round win over Donna Vekic, a player who ranks 30 places above her. In tough conditions, the American was particularly effective in returning services, and it was that which got her through. Pera might have a better record on clay, but last year she beat the likes of Garcia and Giorgi in Doha. The biggest challenge with her is believing in herself going forwards, but for now, she at least appears in the right place. Sara Sorribes Tormo had no problem in the first round against last years big find Nadia Podoroska. However, that player was below her best (served 7 double faults), and we wouldn’t want to get carried away with the effort!
We people who were not born with a silver spoon will never know, but we can guess it must be hard to get fully motivated when your father is a billionaire. On the plus side, money buys quality assistance, and Pegula had plenty of good coaches. With that said, fair play to Jessica Pegula for making it to such a level. The 26-year-old American isn’t far out of the top fifty, and she started last season with a final in Auckland. Back in 2019 Pegula won her first big tournament in Washington, and she’s beaten many of the top players over the past 18 months. All-in-all, we can only say good things about the 25-year-old. Elina Svitolina likes to be on the big stage, and in the past, she’s often been guilty of using tournaments like this to prepare for the up and coming ones. We believe she’s going to be more focused on the Australian Open, so she would need to get through this without peak form! Nice odds about the American!
Despite being a close 2nd in the table, from what we are seeing the Genk bubble appears to have burst! Three games back the Smurfs lost to Anderlecht 1-0, and from what we watched John van den Brom’s side did nothing. While the winning goal was a penalty, the scoreline could have been worse. In between was a win over Kortrijk (2-0), but in the last round, they suffered a disappointing draw against a badly depleted Waasland-Beveren. During that latest match, Genk managed to get two shots on target and failed to land odds of 1.28! In the reverse match, Genk thrashed Eupen 4-0. The difference that day was down to scoring efficiency, with the Smurfs needing just 46% possession to get the job done. Since then the Pandas played really well to beat Charleroi (3-1), and they have also won against Gent. In the latest game, Eupen messed up against Waregem (2-3)! After leading by a comfortable 2-0 they switched off and allowed that opponent to stage a rally. Prior to that, they were beaten by Club Brugge, albeit that could be expected. Those set-backs need brushing aside before today's match, and that’s what we are expecting. Eupen will be getting a few players back for today, and only Kone is injured. We know the hosts can be a very difficult team to break down, and with Musona and Prevljak leading the line they have a goalscorer in the starting XI. The Smurfs are not great travellers, and Eupen has beaten quality sides Gent and Charleroi at the Kehrwegstadion!