La Liga Tips | 28th February – 1st March 2015

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MALAGA stunned the continent with a 28/1 win at Barcelona last weekend. Mark O’Haire’s (@MarkOHaire) not expecting a repeat this weekend.

Granada v Barcelona | Saturday 15.00

In the past seven days we’ve seen the best and the worst of Barcelona. Rewind a week and the Catalans were absolutely dreadful when going down 1-0 at home to 28/1 shots Malaga at the Camp Nou.

Luis Enrique’s men struggled for control of the midfield throughout, conceded a shocking goal and barely carved out any clear goalscoring opportunities. The Blaugrana managed just three shots-on-target and only one came in the second-half when they were already trailing. It was that dire!

Whether Barca had their eyes on Manchester City or not, we’ll never know. But what we do know is, they produced one of their best displays to wipe the floor of the Citizens. The 2-1 scoreline didn’t do the Catalans justice and I was a little irked by their lack of killer instinct when they had the Premier League champions on the ropes, head wobbling and nose bleeding.

Lionel Messi was simply fabulous in that victory, as he has been in 2015. The cretins that prefer to focus on his penalty/rebound miss obviously didn’t watch the little genius in the previous 90 minutes because the diminutive Argentine ran the show. Even after all these years, I’m still finding myself gasping aloud at some of the passes, manoeuvres and dribbles he pulls off.

This weekend Enrique’s charges look to get their La Liga title bid back on track and although I’ve spoken about my theory that Granada have the ability to be in a much more healthy position than their current 19th, Saturday’s not going to be the day that changes. Barcelona have won 8/12 (67%) away in the league and I reckon they’ll be good enough to increase that record whilst keeping a clean sheet.

Fran Rico and Jhon Cordoba are back from suspension for the hosts but Emanuel Insua is still serving an existing ban, while Piti, Juan Carlos, Youssef El-Arabi and Adrian Colunga are all unavailable through injury. El-Arabi’s absence is key; El Grana have netted just seven goals in the 17 matches the Moroccan marksman has missed since the start of last season. The hosts have only scored four in their 10 games at their Los Cármenes home and they’ve lost 7/10 games against the Big-Two ‘to nil’ now.

Barcelona won’t want a repeat of last weekend and with nine clean sheets in their last 13 road trips, plus their ability to monopolise possession, I’m happy to take the Catalans to win ‘to nil’ at 17/20 with Betway. Barca have bagged nine wins from their last 13 visits to bottom-six teams with eight secured ‘to nil’.

Sevilla v Atletico Madrid | Sunday 18.00 | Sky Sports 5

Sky Sports should be shouting from the rooftops about their Sunday coverage of La Liga. With Valencia-Sociedad, Sevilla-Atletico and Real Madrid-Villarreal, it really is a Super Sunday to be proud of. I’ll be hooked and I’ll be involved from a financial aspect for the evening game at Sevilla.

The two teams were involved in European action this midweek and Atleti lost me a packet as I backed them in the Draw No Bet market at Leverkusen. It was a desperately disappointing display from Diego Simeone’s men who appeared to be out-Atletico’ed. The Germans suppressed the capital club with a high energy pressing game that stopped the Matters Makers at source. They had no answer and deservedly headed back to Spain defeated.

It’s also worth pointing out that star midfielder Koke remains on the treatment table and his influence is now being pointed to as a potential reason for Atleti’s inconsistency of late. It’s interesting to note that when the Spanish starlet has been missing for away games, the champions have lost at Celta Vigo, Osasuna and Almeria.

And there’s also a trend beginning to crop up when viewing the Rojiblancos fixtures on the road straight after Champions League involvement, because it ain’t pretty! Atleti have lost their three away games that followed a Champions League match this season, against Sociedad, Getafe, and Valencia. When hosting, it’s an unremarkable W1-D1-L1 record too.

It’s nothing new, either. Go back to last season and despite taking the title, Simeone’s men lost their last three away league games that followed Champions League away matches, with those defeats coming at Sociedad, Levante, and Osasuna. Alarm bells?

If there weren’t any before, well they should be when you’re finished. The Mattress Makers have W6-D1-L4 of their 11 road fixtures this term but all four defeats have come against current top-10 sides. And their famed defensive solidity has long gone; they’ve leaked seven in their last four away from the Vicente Calderon and keep one clean sheet on the road since October in La Liga.

Sevilla are 3/4 with a +0.25 Asian Handicap start for this with BetVictor and I’m in. The bet effectively splits your stake between a Draw No Bet and a Double Chance selection, meaning we’ll make money should the home side avoid defeat and Unai Emery’s hosts are unbeaten at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán in league action for over a year.

Their midweek 3-2 victory away to Monchengladbach deserves plenty of praise but back in their own backyard, they’re a real tough nut to crack. Sevilla have won 9/12 (75%) home games and shutout their opponents in four of the last five at the Pizjuán. And Emery’s side show few signs of European hangovers at home, winning their last three matches post-Europa League against Granada 5-1, Villarreal 2-1, and Deportivo 4-1.

Meanwhile, we just can’t ignore a crack at Over 2.5 Goals in this game at 5/4 with Sportingbet. Sevilla’s last eight have all had exactly two goals in with six also breaking the Over 2.5 Goals barrier. And goals have been a regular occurrence ever since Emery took the reigns; a huge 28/41 of home La Liga matches have banked in this market under his watch.

It’s a similar story with Atleti’s away days; 10/15 have now featured three goals or more with 8/15 also producing Over 3.5 Goals winners. Under Simeone, the capital club have seen Overs net in 20/34 when they’ve conceded on the road. Furthermore, 10 of their 14 games this season, home and away, against top-half teams have had at least three strikes, and six of their last 10 games against Sevilla have had four or more.

Real Madrid v Villarreal | Sunday 20.00 | Sky Sports 5

I always get a little aroused when I see a goals-based bet at a decent price when Real Madrid are involved. On Sunday night Betfair are dangling 11/10 in our direction for Over 3.5 Goals at the Bernabéu and yes, I’m getting a little bit excited.

Los Blancos haven’t been at their best in 2015. Last week’s defeat of Elche was an improvement of sorts but Carlo Ancelotti is still calling for more dynamism and balance to his midfield. The Italian boss was quick to claim, ‘it’s all about winning right now’, which is true although the Madridistas will always demand for more entertainment and more goals.

The Real support should be treated to a few on Sunday night. Pepe’s return has helped shore up a leaky defence and three clean sheets since their shocking derby defeat has helped to heal raw open wounds. But Villarreal represent a significant threat to that record and I’d be surprised if Marcelinho’s men didn’t grab a goal themselves.

The Yellow Submarine were below par against Eibar last weekend but bounced back in the Europa League on Thursday at Salzburg and they’ve now managed to score in 30 of their last 31 outings. It’s a staggeringly good record and should they find a way to goal, the Over 3.5 Goals bet should be within reach.

It also opens up the possibility of taking Real Madrid to win and Both Teams To Score at 17/10 with Betway. Los Blancos have the ability to score for fun and I’d rather take a punt on this selection than gamble on any of the correct score possibilities. Cristiano Ronaldo performed admirably at Elche and if he’s anywhere close to his top level, the European champions could easily net four or five. And that’s without even mentioning Isco, who’s been phenomenal this season.

When hosting, Real have won their last nine with eight of those victories arriving by at least two goals. Villarreal proved their a real menace on the road when giving Barcelona a real run for their money of late but they’ve still lost six of their previous seven against the Big-Two and four of those fixtures broke the Over 3.5 Goals barrier.

Best Bets

Granada v Barcelona – Barcelona to win ‘to nil’ (17/20 Betway)

Sevilla v Atletico Madrid – Sevilla +0.25 Asian Handicap (3/4 BetVictor)

Sevilla v Atletico Madrid – Over 2.5 Goals (5/4 Sportingbet)

Real Madrid v Villarreal – Over 3.5 Goals (11/10 Betfair)

Real Madrid v Villarreal – Real Madrid to win and Both Teams To Score (17/10 Betway)

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After starting his career in newspaper journalism, Mark soon found his way into the online betting world, forging a career in content, social media and marketing production. With a huge passion for stats, the Football League and European football, Mark’s other interests include playing rugby, following his beloved QPR and travel.

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