MARK O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) selects his three favourite bets from Sunday’s full card of La Liga fixtures.
Espanyol v Real Madrid | Sunday 18.00 | Sky Sports 3
Deafening whistles, a chorus of boos and plenty of waving white handkerchiefs greeted Real Madrid’s players as they exited the Champions League on Wednesday night at the Bernabéu. Madrid fans are famously demanding but there was to be no holding back; the defending champions simply weren’t good enough and it was time to face the music.
Whilst the British media chose to scapegoat Gareth Bale for the second week running, serious questions need to be asked of Carlo Ancelotti and his team’s management of the squad over the past 24 months. But Florentino Perez shouldn’t escape criticism, either. It’s one European title in 12 seasons and one La Liga triumph in seven; the club have spent north of £1billion.
It’s a pathetic end to a season that promised so much for Los Blancos. Real romped to an incredible 22-match winning streak and claimed World Club Cup honours before Christmas but Ancelotti will be axed this summer and Madrid will need to start again. It’s been a rough week and capital giants head to Catalonia on Sunday without Sergio Ramos, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luka Modric with their title dreams in tatters.
I don’t see any need to oppose Real, mind. They’re winless in three but are good enough to get the better of Espanyol. However, I do expect the hosts to play their part in a high-scoring encounter at the Power8 Stadium. Both Teams To Score can be backed at 8/11 (Ladbrokes) and that’s certainly of interest.
The visitors have netted at least twice in their last eight La Liga outings but it’s worth focusing on the merits of Espanyol. Sergio Gonzalez’s men have suffered just one loss in 10 – against their city neighbours Barcelona – and managed to find the net in seven of their last eight.
The Parakeets could deploy Christian Stuani, Felipe Caicedo and Sergio Garcia in an offensive line up and will be encouraged by Madrid’s lousy road record of conceding in nine of their previous 12 away trips in league action. The hosts have scored in all bar three of their 18 home fixtures as well as in three of their five head-to-head clashes with Real; getting a goal is well within their capabilities.
Valencia v Celta Vigo | Sunday 18.00
As I’ve said above, it’s been a lousy week for Real Madrid fans. But one man’s sorrow is another man’s gain and the point Valencia earned at the Bernabéu last weekend could prove pivotal in their charge towards a top-four finish and Champions League qualification.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have been a revelation this season and they can keep their campaign on track this weekend. A home victory over Celta Vigo would guarantee Los Che fourth (they boast a better head-to-head record against Sevilla) and the Bats are enjoying their best ever season at home.
The hosts have W15-D2-L1 in their 18 fixtures when entertaining La Liga rivals with 31 points taken from their most recent 33 on offer in front of their home supporters. So Nuno’s men will be confident on enhancing that impressive record on Sunday.
Valencia have won 12/18 (67%) of those fixtures by two or more goals and that’s what makes the 20/19 (BetVictor) on Los Che -1 in the Asian Handicap market so attractive this weekend. Taking this selection means that should the hosts only win by a one-goal margin, we’ll get our stake back. But should Valencia win by two goals or more, we’ll have ourselves a winning bet.
Bar a calamitous mid-season run, Celta have enjoyed a good season but their road record at clubs in 11th and above leaves a lot to be desired. Eduardo Berizzo’s troops have W1-D2-L6 on their travels against La Liga’s elite and suffered defeats in 10 of their most recent 14 visits to top-six teams.
The visitors do welcome five players back from suspension although Augusto Fernandez and the highly rated Santi Mina will miss this clash due to an accumulation of yellow cards. I’m expecting Valencia win and my stake returned as a bare minimum.
Cordoba v Rayo Vallecano | Sunday 18.00
Cordoba appear to have given up the ghost following their relegation. With a squad full of out-of-contract players, a fourth coach this season and little left to play for, Los Califas cannot wait for the season to end.
It’s now D2-L15 in their last 17 outings for Cordoba and they’ve failed to even score in 11 of those La Liga fixtures, including each of their last six. Rayo Vallecano are their next opponents at the Nuevo Arcángel and should be good enough to justify Betway’s ballsy 4/5 price.
Rayo tend to dominate possession and boast an impressive W6-D1-L1 away record against teams below them in the table and so with Cordoba starved of the ball, morale at rock bottom and the Segunda awaiting, it would be a surprise should the club from the capital not collect maximum points from their visit to Andalusia on Sunday night.
The hosts are 11 points adrift at the bottom of the table, leaked at least twice in seven of their last eight on home soil and will also be without Inigo Lopez and Fede Cartabia after their red cards in defeat against Granada last weekend. The mood around the club were perfectly summarised by striker Florin Andone after that loss:
“We haven’t even had a shot on goal,” he said. “I’m annoyed because I’m awful. I can’t even play a fucking pass, and the team’s the same. I’m sick of everything, mate. It’s like we’re all here thinking about next season and we’re not even trying to rescue some dignity in these last three games. If we’re bad, we’re bad, but we’ve at least got to show some fucking attitude and try. We can’t just go out there and let them laugh at us.”
Rayo it is at 4/5 then!
Espanyol v Real Madrid – Both Teams To Score (8/11 Ladbrokes)
Valencia v Celta Vigo – Valencia -1 Asian Handicap (20/19 BetVictor)
Cordoba v Rayo Vallecano – Rayo Vallecano to win (4/5 Betway)