EUROPEAN football expert Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) tackles the weekend La Liga coupon with three of his favourite punts.
Sporting Gijon v Malaga | Sunday 17.15 | Sky Sports 3
You’ve been warned – this match may well send you to sleep.
Over 2.5 Goals fans will see that Sporting’s last six have rewarded goals-backers with Sunday’s hosts shipping at least two goals in five of those fixtures. And Abelardo Fernandez’s men have been hit by problems at the other end with their best forward Antonio Sanabria and key midfielder Nacho Cases both out.
Sanabria has missed four games this season and Gijon have picked up just one point without him, while they’ve lost both matches Cases has been absent for. The hosts have accumulated just three point from their past 15 on offer, with that sole victory coming on the road against Espanyol.
Sporting were thrashed at Athletic on Monday night needed two very late goals to salvage a home point against last-placed Granada. They’re likely to be battling against the drop this season and with their attacking threat blunted, may well opt for a more cautious approach at El Molinon.
Malaga have picked up six points from the last available nine in top-flight football. Impressive victories against Real Sociedad and Deportivo have lifted spirits for a side that failed to score a goal in their first six games this term.
Javi Gracia’s men have still yet to net in four on the road and their struggles in front of goal aren’t hugely surprising with the club deciding to sell most of their best attackers in the summer. Throw in injuries for Nordin Amrabat, Marcos Angeleri and Roque Santa Cruz with Fernando Tissone considered a doubt and the Anchovies might well need to dig deep on Sunday.
Malaga have lost nine of their last 11 away dates, have failed to notch in 11 of their past 21 road trips and have seen fewer than two goals scored in seven of their last 12 visits to bottom-half clubs. Throwing it all in the mix suggests we could be seeing a very low-scoring encounter.
BetVictor have made Under 2.25 Goals on the Asian Goals line a 10/11 play and that appeals. With this selection, we’ll pocket a full pay-out at the specified odds should one or zero goals be scored. But if exactly two are netted, half of our stake will be deemed a winner with the second half returned – put simply, the only way in which we won’t make money is if three or more goals are netted at El Molinon.
Villarreal v Sevilla | Saturday 17.15 | Sky Sports Red Button
The most attractive match on the La Liga coupon should throw up plenty of attacking action and aesthetically-pleasing football. Both Villarreal and Sevilla attempt to play on the front-foot and with that in mind, I’m keen to explore a goals-based bet for Saturday evening’s showdown.
Having climbed to the top of the table, Villarreal’s recent wobbles have seen the hosts fail to record maximum points in each of their last three. Marcelinho’s men had deservedly beaten Atletico Madrid before a humbling loss at near neighbours Levante and a defeat at high-flying Celta.
The Yellow Submarine were back on the winning wagon when dispatching Dinamo Minsk with ease in the Europa League but a dreadful display at Las Palmas last weekend was concerning. Still, Roberto Soldado should be fit to start and Villarreal are a different animal at El Madrigal; in front of their home fans, Marcelinho’s charges have won 13 of their last 18 league encounters.
However, Sevilla won’t be quaking in their boots. The visitors have won on their last three visits to El Madrigal and knocked the hosts out of the Europa League last season. Indeed, the Andalusians have won each of the last four contests between the two clubs and have taken 10 points from their past 12 in La Liga.
Second-guessing Sevilla remains a mystery, mind. Beating Barcelona at home and putting in a solid showing at Manchester City in the Champions League deserves serious respect but Unai Emery’s group have struggled to record anything other than draws and defeats on their travels in recent weeks.
When visiting the league’s elite, Los Rojiblancos have lost on seven of 10 occasions and will have to make-do without Ever Banega on Saturday. Timothee Kolodziejczak should continue to partner Adil Rami in the heart of the Andalusians defence and that means just a second away clean sheet since the opening day looks unlikely.
The goals have dried up a bit for Villarreal with only two in their last four games but they’ve notched in each match at home this term and only six sides have shut the Yellow Submarine out at El Madrigal since the start of last season.
Sevilla have struck 11 goals in their most recent four fixtures with Kevin Gameiro and Yevhen Konoplyanka really starting to flourish in the attacking third. With 15/23 (65%) of their past away games proving profitable for Both Teams To Score backers and three of Villarreal’s first four home encounters featuring at least three goals, I like the idea of combining the two.
Two of the best Spanish sides going forward should serve up a treat and Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score is a handy 11/10 with Bet365.
Real Madrid v Las Palmas | Saturday 15.00
Cordoba gave Spanish football club owners a fantastic example of how not to run their clubs last season. Having won promotion to La Liga for the first time in 42 years, Albert Ferrer was sacked in mid-October and their season went into free-fall. Two more coaches were hired and fired and Cordoba unsurprisingly went down with a whimper.
So step forward Las Palmas. The Canary Islanders, back in the top-flight after a 13-year absence, showed the previous example hasn’t been heeded. Following a return of just one win in eight matches, the Yellows decided to axe manager Paco Hererra, the man who earned them promotion and was even rewarded with a new contract before the season started. Pathetic.
Quique Setien has been handed the reigns but the 57-year-old has no previous experience of La Liga coaching and quite frankly, the whole situation stinks. It’s fantastic to have a Canary Islands side in the top tier but unless Setien can dramatically transform a very limited squad, I hope they pay for such impatience.
It’s not Setien’s fault and to his credit, he did help Las Palmas grind out a creditable stalemate against Villarreal in his first fixture in charge. That point ended a three-match losing streak and Mubarak Wakaso and Culio return from suspension to help the Yellows as they prepare to travel to the capital.
The Yellows have fired blanks in their past three games and have garnered just a solitary point to their name from a possible 12 when on the road. Getafe ran out comfortable 4-0 winners in Las Palmas’ last trip to Madrid and although narrow losses at Atletico (1-0) and Barcelona (2-1) suggest they can put in a reasonable shift, their away blues began last term.
Even during their successful Segunda promotion campaign, Las Palmas toiled on their travels. The visitors finished their 2014/15 season with only two successes in 13 so facing fearsome Real in their own backyard certainly looks a step too far.
Gareth Bale and Keylor Navas are definitely missing for the hosts but Karim Benzema should return up top whilst James Rodriguez, Dani Carvahal and Pepe are all very close to returning for Los Blancos, who top of the table after nine matchdays (W6-D3-L0).
Real are the league’s top goal-getters and should obviously blow Las Palmas away but I prefer to focus on their excellent defensive record since Rafael Benitez arrived. Sure, Navas has been superb between the sticks and Los Blancos have benefited from poor finishing and a couple of incorrect calls but on the whole, the home side are a much more stable and balanced unit.
Benitez’s boys have conceded just three goals in those nine league games and held PSG scoreless in Paris in their most recent Champions League tie. The manner in which Real won away at Celta was incredibly impressive and I expect the home side to get the job done with ease ahead of the return match with PSG this midweek.
Real have yet to concede a goal at home in La Liga this season and can be backed at 9/10 (BetVictor) to win ‘to nil’ on Saturday afternoon. Las Palmas have failed to net in six of their nine outings since promotion.
Real Madrid v Las Palmas – Real Madrid to win to nil (9/10 BetVictor)
Villarreal v Sevilla – Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score (11/10 Bet365)
Sporting Gijon v Malaga – Under 2.25 Goals (10/11 BetVictor)
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