EUROPEAN football fan Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) talks us through the best bets in La Liga this weekend.
Atletico Madrid v Sevilla | Sunday 15.00 | Sky Sports 4
The game of the weekend in La Liga takes place on Sunday afternoon as my old friends Atletico Madrid welcome Sevilla to the capital. So what’s been said that hasn’t already?
Well… I stumbled across a few fascinating stats this weekend. For example, the big-two of Barcelona and Real Madrid have scored over 100 league goals between them this season and have posted an aggregate goal difference of +73. Atleti have notched just 30 goals.
Over the last 10 fixtures, Atleti have scored 15 La Liga goals – Barcelona have hit 30 with their bitter rivals Real managing 33. But while the big-two have picked up 24 and 19 points respectively, the Mattress Makers have accumulated 27 (W9-D0-L1).
Last weekend’s 3-0 success away to Las Palmas was professional and clinical but it was also only the second occasion they’ve notched at least three goals in a league game this season – the third arriving in the dying embers of the match.
The league leaders have now triumphed in 14 of their last 16 outings across all competitions, losing just once. At their Vicente Calderon home, the hosts have succeeded in seven of their nine outings, scoring in each and grinding out five clean sheets along the way.
That solid defence has looked almost immovable at times and Diego Simeone’s side have now kept their sheets clean in eight of their most recent 10 La Liga games whilst also posting Europe’s best defensive stats.
I’m counting on the capital club delivering the goods once more and put my faith in Atletico winning again alongside Under 2.5 Goals at 43/20 with Sportingbet.
The hosts are unbeaten in 12 against the Andalusians, winning six of their last nine meetings at the Calderon. And although Sevilla have regrouped impressively after a dreadful start (W0-D2-L3) to take 30 points from their next 15 games, they remain woeful travellers.
Unai Emery’s men have taken 27 of those points total on home soil and remain one of only two clubs yet to win on the road (W0-D5-L4) this term.
Los Rojiblancos have scored just five goals on their travels, firing blanks in four of their nine away trips and yet to score more than a solitary goal in a game. Seven of the visitors nine away days fell below the 2.5 goals line and they’ve to visit Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia, Celta or Athletic.
Vicente Iborra is suspended here as the guests look to put a sorry record against top-five teams behind them on the road. Since 2013/14, Sevilla have managed just one point from a possible 27 at La Liga’s leading lights so the chances of an upset look unlikely.
Malaga v Barcelona | Saturday 15.00
Since Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar joined forces from October 2014 in the most feared attacking trident on the planet (and potentially history?), the trio have scored a staggering 189 goals between them.
But amazingly, in three matches against Malaga, M-S-N have yet to score. In fact, last season Barcelona have to score in both of their La Liga encounters with the Costa del Sol side. Crazy, eh?
Earlier this term, Thomas Vermaelen scored the only goal of the game when they locked horns at the Nou Camp and so the last three contests have produced a paltry tally of just two goals.
Malaga head coach Javi Gracia certainly knows how to frustrate the all-conquering visitors. Los Boquerones will almost be playing with a back six with their wide midfield players expected to adopt full-back positions without the ball whilst the likes of Ignacio Camacho and Recio patrol central areas.
Camacho’s return from injury has coincided with the Andalusians upturn in form as they’ve taken 13 points from a possible 15 before losing at Sevilla last weekend. Gracia’s group are no up in 12th, eight points clear of the relegation zone having recovered from selling their best forwards in the summer.
It took Malaga seven games to score their first goal of the campaign and even now Los Boquerones have managed just 15 goals from 20 matches. But the hosts lost arguably their most effective forward-minded player in Nordin Amrabat last week as the owners accepted a deal from Watford for the Moroccan livewire.
Nevertheless, I don’t expect Barcelona to run riot here. Malaga have the fourth best defensive record in the division, conceding just 17 goals this season. And at their La Rosaleda home, the Andalusians have faced a league-low average of 2.33 shots-on-target this term.
Backing Barca to win 1-0 or 2-0 holds some appeal but I’ll take Luis Enrique’s men to win ‘to nil’ at 7/5 (BetVictor). Seven of Malaga’s eight defeats this season have arrived in this manner and the home side have lost eight of their previous 10 when welcoming either Real Madrid or the Bluagrana in league action.
Gerard Pique is banned for the guests but Vermaelen is set to deputise as Barcelona chase a ninth shutout in 11 La Liga fixtures. And it’s also worth noting, the Catalans have claimed eight of their previous nine road victories alongside a clean sheet.
Espanyol v Villarreal | Saturday 17.15 | Sky Sports 3
Just a fortnight ago, Villarreal boss Marcelinho said, “We produced two brilliant plays and nothing else. If we play like this, we will drop a long way down the table.”
Those quotes came after the Yellow Submarine had notched their sixth wins on the spin (against Sporing Gijon) as they cemented their place in fourth, matching their best ever points return from the first half of a top-flight season.
The warning siren was sounded but Marcelinho’s men haven’t heeded his advice. Villarreal have since failed to score in back-to-back games and were held to a dour 0-0 by Real Betis last weekend.
The Yellow Submarine remain unbeaten in seven league outings and with five clean sheets in their last six but something’s amiss. For starters, no top tier side has fired in fewer shots than Villarreal’s average of 8.60 efforts a game.
Only three clubs have landed fewer shots-on-target so it’ll be no surprise to hear the visitors have struck just nine goals in nine away trips. So I’m eager to oppose the Yellows this weekend as the performance data suggests they’re dramatically overachieving.
The guests have only lost twice in 15 (W5-D9-L2) against bottom-half teams since the start of last season so with a high draw-count, it’s only right we get the stalemate onside. Backing Espanyol with a +0.25 Asian Handicap start at 3/4 (BetVictor) should do the trick.
With this selection, we’ll make money if Espanyol avoid defeat. A victory sees our selection pay-out in full with a draw returning half our stake with the second half proving profitable. Only an away victory would leave us out of pocket.
The Parakeets are winless in six since the winter break but three of those matches came against neighbours Barcelona and although a 3-1 loss at in-form Getafe doesn’t exactly breed confidence, Constantin Galca’s charges impressed in a fantastically open encounter.
The club were also handed a welcome boost off the pitch on Thursday with new Chinese owner Chen Yansheng boldly claiming his ambition is to see the Parakeets competing in the Champions League within the next three years.
Espanyol have scored in three of their four consecutive losses (v Getafe, Eibar and Barcelona) and are unbeaten in five starts at their Cornella-El Prat in league football.
Since the start of 2014/15, the Parakeets have suffered just 7/28 (25%) defeats at home and with Villarreal succeeding in only 8/28 (29%) away, Espanyol stand a 73% chance of avoiding defeat here. So it makes sense to keep the hosts onside.
Malaga v Barcelona – Barcelona to win ‘to nil’ (7/5 BetVictor)
Espanyol v Villarreal – Espanyol +0.25 Asian Handicap (3/4 BetVictor)
Atletico Madrid v Sevilla – Atletico Madrid to win and Under 2.5 Goals (43/20 Sportingbet)
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