MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) tackles the Monday night match from La Liga as relegation-threatened Espanyol welcome Rayo Vallecano.
Espanyol v Rayo Vallecano | Monday 19.30 | Sky Sports 1
Eight Espanyol players were affected by an untimely bout of gastroenteritis in midweek and Constantin Galca’s decision to field his ill personnel spectacularly backfired on Thursday night as the Parakeets were sliced and diced 3-0 at home to Real Betis.
The result has left the Barcelona-based club lurching just two points above the bottom-three with pressure mounting on the Romanian head coach. Since Galca replaced the sacked Sergio Gonzalez in mid-December, Espanyol have managed just W3-D2-L7.
The Parakeets players have already been forced to plead with club officials to keep Galca in a job and it’s thought another poor result and performance here could see his short stint in charge of Espanyol come to an end.
The hosts should at least look to attack on Monday night with a front four spearheaded by Felipe Caicedo with Abraham playing in the hole behind. Marco Asensio and Hernan Perez will operate from the flanks as the Galca’s charges look to enhance a mediocre W2-D2-L2 return under his stewardship at their Cornella-El Prat base.
Espanyol’s record when welcoming bottom-half dwellers is cause for optimism; since the start of last season the home side have W11-D5-L2 when taking on sides in 11th and below. And the Parakeets will also be aided by a number of absentees in Rayo Vallecano’s preferred XI.
Paco Jemez’s guests are without the suspended Manuel Iturra and Diego Llorente whilst Miku is sidelined until the end of March. Jose Angel Crespo will be forced to deputise at the heart of the back four alongside Ze Castro but in-from Manucho should at least soften the blow of losing Miku.
Rayo fear no one and will look to implement their attractive possession-based ideology again here. Los Franjirrojos will dominate the ball, look to play out from the back and get forward as much as possible. Unlike against the league’s big-hitters, the capital club also enjoy great success when taking on bottom-half sides.
Since promotion back to Spain’s top-flight under Jemez, Rayo have W18-D11-L14 away – that’s an average return of 1.51 points-per-game – as they’ve failed to find the net in only nine of those 43 fixtures. The visitors also arrive in decent nick – Thursday’s 5-1 stuffing by Barcelona was only their second reverse in 10 (W2-D6-L2).
Espanyol should be targeting this game for a maximum-point return but having faced only three of the top-eight on home soil, the Parakeets still boast the second worst shots-on-target ratio as hosts in La Liga (45.28%). Only Betis and Las Palmas are averaging fewer efforts on-target when welcoming league opposition.
In contrast, only Real Madrid, Barcelona and Las Palmas have landed more shots-on-target than Rayo when playing away and although their shots-on-target ratio figure is trumped by half of the division, the danger signs are there for Espanyol to heed.
With that in mind, I much prefer to play the goals market with Stan James offering even-money on Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score. These two clubs have conceded 111 goals between them already this season with Espanyol’s tally of 53 their worst record at this stage of a La Liga season since 1956.
The Parakeets have shipped at least two goals in eight of their most recent nine and seen the Over 2.5 Goals selection collect in eight of those nine outings. The hosts have kept their sheets clean on just three occasions since November.
Rayo’s last seven on the road have featured at least three goals with Jemez’s trailblazers notching at least twice themselves in each of their last four away days, as well as in seven of their 13 on their travels this term. Including home matches, Los Franjirrojos have leaked two or more goals in 13 of their past 15 La Liga encounters.
Since Rayo arrived back in the top-flight, a huge 45/70 (64%) of their games outside of their Vallecas base have beaten the 2.5 goals line 38/70 (54%) also proving profitable for BTTS backers. Taking 2015/16 alone, this bet has won in nine of the visitors’ 13 away trips.
Espanyol v Rayo Vallecano – Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score (1/1 Stan James)
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