MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) shares his favourite fancies from the Spanish top-flight this weekend.
Granada v Rayo Vallecano | Saturday 17.15 | Sky Sports Interactive
Cliché alert, folks.
Saturday evening’s meeting between Granada and Rayo Vallecano has a serious ‘six-pointer’ feel about it with the battle for La Liga survival intensifying as enter the final furlong of 2015/16.
The struggling duo are locked on 27 points but Rayo’s 2-1 success in their November meeting has given them Madrid-based club the vital head-to-head advantage. But that could all change this weekend.
Los Franjirrojos also hand the upper hand in the nine contests across the past four campaigns (W7-D2-L0) but I’m unwilling to touch the Match Odds market here. There’s a goals-based angle that’s got serious legs instead.
Hosts Granada have shown signs of life since José González strolled into town on a fire-fighting mission. Deportivo and Sporting Gijon were seen off in back-to-back games before a 2-0 loss at Betis but the Andalusians deserved more from Monday night’s 1-1 draw with Espanyol.
At Los Carmenes, El Grana have W3-D1-L2 with Valencia and Real Madrid departing with all three points. The hosts have also W2-D3-L1 when welcoming bottom-half dwellers, scoring on each outing.
But González is missing David Lomban, Andres Fernandez and David Barral through suspension here. Young starlet Adalberto Penaranda should replace Barral and with Ruben Rochina playing a role in eight of Granada’s last 16 goals and Youssef El-Arabi in-form, the home side’s offensive output remains reasonably strong.
Rayo are winless in six (W0-D4-L2) and haven’t recorded a success in 12 on the road (W0-D5-L7) – it’s their worst run of results as guests in the top-flight for 14 years. But Paco Jemez’s loveable side have struck in each of their last 12 La Liga encounters, drawing four of their past five away dates 2-2.
The visitors have Jozabed and Miku back this weekend to keep their attack looking sharp but two of their most important defensive performers are unavailable. Both centre-half Diego Llorente and midfield shield Raul Baena will be missing here; not ideal for a side that’s leaked at least twice in each of their past eight away.
The obvious solution is to follow that goals trail. Los Franjirrojos’s previous eight on their travels have featured three or more goals, as have 14 of their past 17 fixtures home or away. Paco’s troops have also been involved in nine Over 2.5 Goals winners in their last 11 visits to bottom-half clubs.
Both Teams To Score has proven profitable in 11 of Rayo’s last 12 games as guests and it’s a similar story in nine of Granada’s 14 home matches this season. The Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score combination has landed in 16/28 (57%) of home/away games accumulatively between the two, in which they’ve managed a paltry three clean sheets.
I could write a 60-page dossier detailing endless goal trends to back this selection up but the above should be enough to prompt you into joining me on the 5/4 from Stan James that we see Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score here.
Valencia v Celta Vigo | Sunday 17.15 | Sky Sports 3
Celta Vigo boss Eduardo Berizzo was playing in the side the last time the Sky Blues won in the Mestalla back in 2002 but the Galicians have a great chance of improving on their rotten W1-D6-L14 record in Valencia this weekend.
The visitors head to the east coast with a solitary loss in five (W3-D1-L1) – it just so happened to be their heaviest league defeat in 57 years, a 7-1 spanking at Real Madrid. That result didn’t reflect the true reflection of the game and neither did their 6-1 demolition at Barcelona.
Celta are a neat and tidy team that look to play on the front foot and I like their chances of causing a crestfallen Valencia side problems on Sunday. Iago Aspas’ absence is a blow but Fabian Orellana is back from a ban, Nolito now up to speed following injury and John Guidetti finding form in attack.
However, Berizzo’s boys have been a little too generous at the back of late and I’m not quite confident enough to pull the trigger. So instead, it’s the goals markets.
Celta have shipped at least two goals in five of their past six road trips and their midfield is weakened by the suspension to Nemanja Radoja. Daniel Wass is an able replacement but even so, Vigo-based club will do well to record just a third away shutout in the Mestalla.
You have to go back to October for the last time Valencia kept a clean sheet in La Liga – a 19-game streak – and Los Che can lay claim to just the 14th-strongest home record this season.
Slow starts have been the Bats’ Achilles heel – they’ve conceded the opener in 16 of their last 20 league fixtures – and any hangover from Thursday night’s gruelling and emotional Europa League exit should well be punished.
Gary Neville’s team competed well for large swathes against Athletic Bilbao in midweek but they’ve managed just eight points from a possible 27 (W2-D2-L5) in matches immediately after European competition this term but I’m happier delving into the Both Teams To Score market.
It’s proven a winner in 8/14 (57%) of Los Che’s home league games in 2015/16 as well as 9/14 (64%) of Celta’s road trips. The duo have only fired blanks in 6/28 (21%) home/away games accumulatively and I make BTTS closer to a 4/6 shot.
Matchbook have chalked Both Teams To Score up at 8/11.
Real Madrid v Sevilla | Sunday 19.30 | Sky Sports 1
The Premier League is home to 17 of the top 30 richest clubs on the planet but the English clubs have produced just two quarter-finalists in European competition and that figure could quite conceivably be zero when we reach the semi-final stage.
In contrast, Valencia became the first Spanish side to be knocked out of Europe on Thursday night – Los Che exiting the Europa League having been beaten by a fellow La Liga side, Athletic Bilbao.
If the strength of La Liga was ever in question, Spain’s current top-six remain in continental competition and two of those heavyweights clash at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday night for what tends to be a classic encounter.
Over the past 10 years, Real Madrid have met Sevilla on 26 occasions and those contests have produced an eye-popping 114 goals, at an average rate of 4.38 goals-per-game. Nineteen of those 26 fixtures have featured winning Over 2.5 Goals selections and 18 have banked in the Both Teams To Score market – 14 have even broken the three-goal barrier.
Real Madrid have enjoyed the lion’s share of success – W16-D0-L10 across that sample, including eight successive home triumphs – with Cristiano Ronaldo proving particularly deadly, notching 19 gaols in La Liga alone against the Andalusians.
So the stage has been set for another thriller. Madrid may not have anything major to play for in La Liga now but the expectant Los Blancos support will still want their moneys worth from the current batch of underperforming Galácticos.
Ronaldo should be joined in a fearsome front three by Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez and the capital club are more than capable of turning on the style after another subdued display on their travels at Las Palmas last weekend.
Boss Zinedine Zidane was far from impressed by their performance in the Canary Islands – goalkeeper Keylor Navas was again their leading light with the two goals Madrid scored in a 2-1 success arriving from corners.
Indeed, the difference between Madrid’s home and away displays is striking. Sure, Real results have often hidden their flaws and Atletico Madrid overturned Los Blancos at the Bernabeu, but their home record under Zidane read: 5-0 Deportivo, 5-1 Sporting Gijon, 6-0 Espanyol, 4-2 Athletic Bilbao, 0-1 Atletico Madrid, 7-1 Celta Vigo.
No side has fired in more shots than Madrid in La Liga this season and even when unconvincing against Roma in the Champions League, Zidane’s troops had 37 attempts on goal. With Sevilla conceding the most shots in the Spanish top-flight this term, Real could cut loose if they’re in the mood.
The visitors are the only side in Europe’s top-five leagues, along with Serie A’s rock-bottom club Hellas Verona, to fail to record three points on their travels (W0-D9-L5) and Los Rojiblancos were involved in Europa League action on Thursday night for the past fortnight. Will they be in peak condition? That’s questionable.
Unai Emery’s men have been beaten in each of their last eight away days at Barcelona or Real Madrid and whilst I expect that record to reach nine by Sunday’s conclusion, there’s better value ways of getting the hosts onside.
A Madrid win and Both Teams To Score is available at 5/4 (William Hill) and appeals with the hosts having recorded just three clean sheets in 21 La Liga outings. And they go into battle on Sunday night without either of Zidane’s first-choice defenders – Pepe and Sergio Ramos – through suspension.
Meanwhile, Real have scored at least three goals in eight of their last nine home La Liga encounters with 18/34 (53%) Bernebeu league dates since the start of last season featuring both sides scoring, as the capital club have churned out W28-D3-L3.
Since Emery took charge of Sevilla, Los Rojiblancos have W3-D1-L9 when taking on the big-two – losing all seven games as guests. And all 13 of their fixtures against Barca or Real have covered the Over 2.5 Goals hurdle as well as bank in the BTTS market – 8/13 (61%) featured at least four goals.
The visitors are set to be without Ever Banega, Vitolo, Evgen Konoplyanka and Steven N’Zonzi this weekend but there’s enough quality on the pitch to land a blow, considering Sporting Gijon, Getafe, Rayo Vallecano and Las Palmas have all grabbed a goal here this season.
Granada v Rayo Vallecano – Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score (21/20 Stan James)
Valencia v Celta Vigo – Both Teams To Score (8/11 Matchbook)
Real Madrid v Sevilla – Real Madrid to win and Both Teams To Score (5/4 William Hill)
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