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Serie A, La Liga Picks, Predictions: Juventus vs Udinese, AC Milan vs, Roma, More

Serie A, La Liga Picks, Predictions: Juventus vs Udinese, AC Milan vs, Roma, More article feature image
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Danilo Di Giovanni/Getty Images. Pictured: Jose Mourinho.

The Premier League has the weekend off as England’s top domestic cup competition, the FA Cup, has third round action.

All of the PL teams will be in action, but most will be playing against lower-league sides while playing rotated lineups and giving some top players a chance to rest.

While the Premier League is off, both Serie A in Italy and La Liga in Spain have full domestic match weeks with some high profile matchups. In Spain, Real Madrid have a tricky away trip to Villarreal, while Barcelona travel to Madrid to face Atletico Madrid.

In Italy, Roma visit Milan in a key top four matchup and an up-and-down Juventus host an overachieving Udinese.

Here are my three best Serie A and La Liga picks ahead of the weekend.

Juventus vs. Udinese

Juventus Odds -140
Udinese Odds +360
Draw +260
Over/Under 2.5 (-110 / -110)
Day | Time Saturday |  12 p.m. ET
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Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute Soccer odds here.

Juventus have been incredibly fortunate defensively in Serie A this season. They’ve conceded just seven goals in 16 league matches. That’s an incredible defensive record, but it doesn’t hold up when you look at their underlying numbers.

To have a defense that good, you would have to be a dominant possession side that doesn’t let opponents into your penalty area and doesn’t allow many shots or high quality chances. That’s simply not the case for this Juventus defense.

They concede the sixth-most shots in the league and are just fourth in attacking penalty area touches allowed. Juventus are sixth in xG allowed and are conceding about 1.1 xG per match.

Juventus had the best goalkeeping in Italy and that’s while splitting time in the league this season between two keepers. Both of their goalkeepers rank in the top three in post-shot xG difference. They’ve also been the most fortunate in opponent finishing against them. No one has benefitted more from poor shooting against their net than Juventus this year.

The defense doesn’t concede a lot of high quality shots — their opponents have the second longest average shot distance — but Juventus’ defense has major regression coming in future weeks and months.

Juventus have won five in a row in the league — including a stoppage time free kick 1-0 win last match against lowly Cremonese. Regression looms for Juventus and there’s few better spots than Udinese on Saturday. Udinese have the same underlying numbers, but they’ve won none of their last eight games in Serie A.

This game should be Juventus as a slight favorite at home, not -140 on the moneyline. I bet Udinese +0.5 and for them to expose this overrated Juventus defense in the first half.

The Picks: Udinese +0.5 (+115) | Udinese to score in the first half (+160)

Mallorca vs. Real Valladolid

Mallorca Odds -110
Valladolid Odds +310
Draw +225
Over/Under 2.5 (+145 / -170)
Day | Time Saturday |  12:30 p.m. ET
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Mallorca played one of the ugliest matches of their season on the road at Getafe in a 2-0 defeat in the first league match after the World Cup break. Now they return home to the island on Saturday in an excellent get right spot against a poor Real Valladolid side.

The home side has consistently had a stark contrast in its home and away splits. They’ve been a really solid defense everywhere this year, conceding 1 xGA per match. But the attack has been considerably better at home than it has been away.

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Mallorca focuses their attack on shot quality rather than volume. They produce the third-fewest shots in the league but those shots come from far closer than the league average.

When at home, Mallorca have a +0.22 xG difference per 90 minutes in the last 1.5 seasons. Away from home, their xG difference is -0.65 per 90. The average home field is about half of that in La Liga, so there’s clearly a difference in their performances.

Mallorca’s biggest problem is consistently getting the ball into the penalty area, but they wouldn’t have too much trouble against Valladolid. The 15th-placed side concedes the second-most box touches in the entire league and based on xG difference, Valladolid have over-performed to this point to be sitting in 15th and they should instead be in the relegation places.

Banking on Mallorca to get margin can be difficult, but they are too short of a home favorite on Saturday.

The Pick: Mallorca ML (-115 or better)

AC Milan vs. Roma

AC Milan Odds -120
Roma Odds +330
Draw +240
Over/Under 2.5 (+106 / -125)
Day | Time Sunday |  2:45 p.m. ET
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Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute Soccer odds here.

Roma are one of the biggest finishing under-performers in all of Europe this season and they have elite underlying metrics under José Mourinho. While backing Mourinho as a big favorite is always a bit risky because of his conservative approach to protecting leads, he’s always been an excellent underdog in his career.

He’s a road underdog on Sunday as Roma visit AC Milan in a key clash between two top six sides.

Roma have a +17 xG difference, but poor finishing variance at both ends of the pitch means that Mourinho’s side is in sixth with a +5 actual goal difference.

They’re fourth in shots allowed in the league and they’ve also conceded the fewest big-scoring chances and the longest average shot distance in the Italian top flight. It’s an excellent defense with an attack that is well designed to stop the direct attacking style Milan have.

The best way to frustrate this Milan attack is to be disciplined defensively and force them to pass the ball around and be patient. The attack is elite in transition — they have the most direct attacks in Serie A — but they are outside the top four in passes into the penalty area and outside top 10 in crosses into the box.

Roma aren’t going to overcommit in this match away from home by sending too many numbers forward, and Mourinho’s side has conceded the fewest open play xG in the league this year.

Roma have comparable underlying numbers and I like them to win or draw here.

The Pick: Roma +0.5 (-110 or better)

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