MARK O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) hit 2/3 winners in Spain on Tuesday night. Here’s his thoughts on Wednesday night’s La Liga action.
Celta Vigo v Barcelona | Wednesday 19.00 | Sky Sports 2
Celta Vigo were sitting pretty in fourth before the start of matchday five thanks to their impressive W3-D1-L0 start. However, there were critics (including me) that suggested that position wasn’t entirely a fair reflection. In Celta’s first three fixtures, Eduardo Berizzo’s men benefitted from their opponents receiving a red card inside the first 12 minutes.
But the Sky Blues put paid to those accusations with a stunning first-half performance in the early Sunday kick-off, strolling into a 2-0 lead at Sevilla and closing the game out 2-1. It was a fabulous display that quite rightly earned Los Celestes plenty of plaudits. Not many sides go to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuán and turn Unai Emery’s men over in such commanding style.
Now Celta face the toughest task of all – a visit from Barcelona. Left-back Jonny is suspended for the hosts, who are now unbeaten in nine La Liga games when including last season. In fact, Berizzo’s troops are enjoying their best run of home form at Balaidos since the Argentine lookover from Luis Enrique too (W3-D2-L0).
Admittedly, the Galicians last encounter at HQ saw them throw away a comfortable lead against 10-man and newly-promoted Las Palmas but there’s definitely a case for saying Celta could give Barca a real run for their money on Wednesday night, despite their W1-D1-L8 recent 10-match record against the Catalans.
The defending champions have already visited Athletic and Atletico Madrid on the road and come away with maximum points. Luis Enrique’s troops have W11-D1-L0 in their past 12 away days in domestic league action and are unbeaten on their La Liga travels since January. But it’s taken the Blaugrana time to breakdown teams so far in 2015/16.
In all four fixtures this season, Barca have seen the Draw/Barcelona double result bank and in 10 of their last 11 trips to top-six sides (Celta are certainly contenders for this category on current form), the Catalans have gone into the half-time break level. With that in mind, surely the 19/5 on the same Half-Time/Full-Time bet is worth a poke with BetVictor.
In their nine games as guests at last season’s top-half Barcelona W6-D2-L1 but only led at the interval on three occasions, netting a first-half goal in only four fixtures. That includes a 0-0 in Vigo before the Bluagrana snaked a 1-0 victory thanks to the genius of Lionel Messi. And it’s also worth noting that 17 of Barca’s last 18 La Liga goals have been scored in the second-half.
Athletic v Real Madrid | Wednesday 20.00 | Sky Sports 2
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say, Wednesday night’s football could have a real decisive say on the La Liga title race. Both Barcelona and Real Madrid face tricky tests on their travels and should one or t’other slip up, there’s pressure to keep pace with the league leaders.
Los Blancos have hit the headlines back home for their excellent defensive record – never before have Real started the season with so many clean sheets – but Sergio Ramos is missing for the journey to Basque Country and Gareth Bale, Danilo and James Rodriguez are all absent.
And although the case for defence deserves credit, it should be noted that little Granada caused Rafa Benitez’s boys a few problems on Saturday. The minnows may feel they could have taken a point and certainly had the chances to do so. A similarly subdued display from Real is likely to be punished in Bilbao.
The San Mames certainly isn’t a happy hunting ground for Madrid. Since the start of 2013/14, Real have failed to win in the Nou Camp, Vicente Calderon and the San Mames and having taken 55 minutes to breakdown Granada, they might find the going tough again on Wednesday night.
Athletic may have slumped to defeats in three of their opening four league encounters, with a solitary 3-1 win over Getafe standing as the only positive. But Ernesto Valverde’s men have only been beaten once in their past 13 outings in front of their passionate home support and that run of results includes a 1-0 success over Real.
Les Leones love welcoming La Liga’s gun guns to the north of Spain. Although their W2-D3-L5 record when entertaining Barcelona or Real Madrid in league football is reasonable across the past five years, it’s worth noting that return improves to W2-D2-L1 in the most recent five games against the big-two.
Madrid’s results when visiting top-half teams in the past five seasons is a bloodt strong W26-D5-L14. However, it was intriguing to see, only 15/45 (33%) of matches had ended in a Real win by at least two goals. And that return reduces to just 4/18 (22%) victories by two goals or more at top-half clubs in the past two campaigns.
Athletic have leaked before half-time in just one of their past 13 at the San Mames and so again the Draw/Real Madrid double result could and should come into play at a healthy 41/10 (888). And with Aritz Aduriz in the form of his life (nine goals in five games) returning to the starting XI, I don’t see Real running away with this and for that reason, a wee poke on the Draw/Draw at 6/1 is also worth an interest.
Celta Vigo v Barcelona – Draw/Barcelona (19/5 BetVictor)
Athletic v Real Madrid – Draw/Real Madrid (41/10 888)
Athletic v Real Madrid – Draw/Draw (6/1 BetVictor)
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