Hoping that a Betis win warms the cockles

MY policy when Port Vale are on the box tends to be backing Tom Pope to score first then praying for the best, but I might give League Two a wide berth on Thursday given that there's some high-quality continental cup action elsewhere.

As nice as it is to watch Pope in action, he doesn't quite match up to Leo Messi, or even Cristian Tello, so I'll be tuning in to the Copa del Rey quarter-finals instead.

I'm sure most of you think I'm hard as nails but I've actually been tucked up in bed with a hot drink by 11pm most nights this week (give me a break, it's cold and the heating has packed in), so I'm not sure if I'll make it to the end of Barcelona's match with Malaga.

If I have a bet on the first goal coming before the 23rd minute then I'll have a good reason (no more bets running) to justify my lamentable decision to turn in with a hot chocolate.

Luckily, there's an earlier match in which Real Betis trail Atletico Madrid 2-0 after the first leg and while I won't be backing Betis to reach the semi-finals, I don't think they should be such big outsiders to win on the night.

I know Atletico are 12 points clear of their hosts in La Liga but Falcao is out for the visitors and he's probably responsible for most of that difference between the sides in the standings.

Betis should have at least notched in the first leg – only an outstanding display from Thibaut Courtois kept them out – and I reckon they can fare better this time.

If they blow it, I suspect that I'll be swiftly replacing the hot chocolate with a hot toddy.

Match in Focus


Sampdoria v Sassuolo

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Sassuolo are unbeaten in their last three against Sampdoria
Expert verdict
Sampdoria have the best defensive record this season in Italy, conceding just four goals in all competitions but they may struggle to beat a decent Sassuolo side. Samp's top scorer Gregoire Defrel will no doubt be eager to notch against his former club, although Sassuolo's only defeats this season have come at Juventus and Napoli and at home to Milan.



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