MONDAY night La Liga action arrives from Barcelona as Espanyol take on Levante. After a weekend of big winners, we asked Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) for his views.
Espanyol v Levante | Monday 19.30 | Sky Sports 4
Espanyol faced Levante in a Cope del Rey clash on Thursday night with the two teams locking out a first leg 1-1 draw in Valencia. The duo now meet for the second of three encounters in the space of a fortnight with three La Liga points up for grabs in the Catalan capital.
The Parakeets come into Monday’s contest with a cool six-point cushion above the drop zone and tend to operate to full capacity when taking on Spain’s lesser lights. Sergio Gonzalez made 11 changes to the team that were defeated 1-0 at Atletico Madrid last weekend for the midweek meeting and although his side have recorded just W1-D1-L3 across the last four, look handy odds-against favourites.
The Blanquiazules have come out on top in six of their last 10 when welcoming bottom-six teams and since the start of Sergio’s reign have recorded a decent W11-D7-L7 at their Cornella El-Prat home. Only Real Madrid have stopped the Barcelona-based club from scoring in front of their home supporters this season and so 21/20 (Betfred) quotes look more than fair on the hosts.
Marco Asensio (five assists for Espanyol’s last seven goals) and Felipe Caicedo (scored against his old club Levante in his two appearances since leaving) carry plenty of attacking edge for the Parakeets who’ve also come out on top in six of the last 10 when Levante have visited (W6-D3-L1).
Levante ditched Lucas Alcaraz following a poor start to the campaign (W1-D3-L5) and replaced him with Rubi, their fourth head coach since the start of 2013/14. He’s returned W1-D1-L2 but an eye-catching 3-0 success at Sporting Gijon in their last road trip suggested the Frogs weren’t yet finished.
However, they’ve not won back-to-back away La Liga games since October 2013 and have lost 13 of their last 17 on the road – 10 of their last 14 away from Valencia have ended in defeat by at least two clear goals. A 1-0 reverse to Real Betis in front of their home fans last weekend dampened spirits and was the sixth occasion already this season in which Levante have failed to net.
Since the start of last season, the visitors have managed a pathetic W4-D5-L16 on their travels as they’ve fired blanks in 15/25 (60%). But coming into Matchday 15, these two clubs held the league’s two worst defensive records – leaking 24 goals apiece – so opposing a Levante goal can go out the window.
As I’ve already suggested, the Espanyol win appeals but I’m going to enhance the price further by backing the hosts to win either 1-0, 2-0 or 2-1 in SkyBet’s correct score groups at a bulbous 7/4. Of the aforementioned 11/25 (44%) Espanyol victories on home soil under Sergio, 10 of them arrived by one of those three correct scores as they’ve kept 11 clean sheets, failing to score in just four fixtures.
Only five of Levante’s 16 losses obliged by the scorelines we’re supporting but it’s also worth noting that only once in those 25 Parakeets home outings have the home side scored more than two goals in a game. Should a repeat occur, that leaves just three possible correct score home victories to pursue, so I’m happy siding with SkyBet’s 7/4.
Espanyol v Levante – Espanyol to win 1-0, 2-0 or 2-1 (7/4 SkyBet)
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