MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) has analysed the odds from Spain and shares his favourite La Liga fancies below.
Real Madrid v Celta Vigo | Saturday 19.15 | Sky Sports 3
Hands up, I called Real Sociedad v Real Madrid wrong last week.
Los Blancos were missing key components – arguably Zinedine Zidane’s reliable spine with no Keylar Navas, Pepe, Luka Modric, Cristiano Ronaldo or Karim Benzema – but Gareth Bale’s opener just 74 seconds into the Anoeta encounter set the tone for Real.
Madrid were impressive and controlled the contest. The European champions were slick in possession, fast on the break and dangerous throughout. Marco Asensio added a delightful second and Bale completed the scoring bang on the full-time whistle.
Modric returns to the fold this weekend but few drastic changes are expected from Zidane as the capital club to go two from two in their first outing at the Bernabeu this season.
And it’s not rocket science to suggest Real are the most likely winners here having claimed maximum points in 65/76 (86%) of their home La Liga fixtures across the past four campaigns despite not claiming a league title in that sample.
But dig a little deeper and we can see a hugely impressive trend from those 76 contests. In 52 (68%) Los Blancos have enjoyed W-W double results – it’s a remarkably strong stat so seeing 7/10 (Coral) available on the Real Madrid/Real Madrid double result makes huge appeal.
If we were to take the 68% strike-rate literally, it would imply the real betting odds of the same selection would be closer to a 1/2 shot. I reckon we’ve found a fantastic value angle there and I’ll be making it my weekend NAP.
It’s a selection that’s won in 12 of Real’s last 13 as hosts – on 10 occasions they’ve led ‘to nil’ at the break – and the capital club have notched at least three goals in 12 of those fixtures too.
I see little to fear from Celta following a worrying opening weekend defeat at home to newly-promoted Leganes. The Galicians struggled without departed Nolito with Eduardo Berizzo leaving Pablo Hernandez and John Guidetti on the bench on Monday.
The visitors from Vigo enjoyed 64% possession against Leganes but only managed two efforts on-target. So how will they fare against a Madrid side that spanked them 7-1 in this fixture last season? Probably not too well.
Gustavo Cabral is expected to come back into the side at centre-back but Iago Aspas has been carrying a knock. Berizzo’s boys will do their best to dominate possession but they’re unlikely to be given too much change from Madrid’s high press and with the hosts eager to get amongst the goals, it could get ugly.
As well as the weekend NAP, I’ll also be backing Bale to score and Real to win at 10/11 with SkyBet.
Madrid scored 70 goals when winning on 16 occasions last term and with neither Ronaldo nor Benzema about, the Welshman is the experienced leader in Los Blancos’ front-three.
Bale was excellent in the summer and carried his hot form into last weekend’s opener despite playing little time in pre-season. He’ll be on free-kick duty here and notched with another header at Anoeta last weekend, making him the home side’s most formidable attacking weapon on Saturday night.
Leganes v Atletico Madrid | Saturday 21.15 | Sky Sports 3
Sometimes, just sometimes, betting (and betting on football) can be shit. Like, really, really shit.
A great example was last Sunday night’s clash between Atletico Madrid and newly-promoted Alaves at the Vicente Calderon. Diego Simeone’s side battered their visitors, eventually getting their rewards in stoppage-time when Kevin Gameiro converted a penalty. Game over. Or so we thought…
The ball was back in play for 46 seconds and somehow Alaves stole an equaliser in the 95th-minute of the match despite three minutes additional time being signalled by the referee’s assistant.
The match ended 1-1 despite Atletico winning the shot count 27-2 and Alaves netting with their first effort on-target.
Diego Simeone was understandably frustrated with his troops and you can be sure the Mattress Makers will be ready to make amends this weekend when they travel to Leganes on Saturday night.
Euro 2016 top goalscorer Antoine Griezmann is available after suspension and should join Gameiro in an exciting attacking partnership. Nico Gaitan’s addition adds more forward quality and creativity whilst the key defensive cogs remain intact.
It’s unlikely to be pretty but you’d assume Atletico have the tools to bounce back here. They rarely cut loose on their travels but the capital club did win 13 of their 19 road trips last term and a W12-D2-L4 return at bottom-six sides (including 10 clean sheets) suggests they’ll be very tough to stop.
Leganes caught the imagination with their deserved 1-0 triumph at Celta on Monday night with the newcomers defending stoutly but the hosts will be without midfielder David Timor after his late sending off in Vigo – Ruben Perez and Alberto should sit in midfield as a result.
In a first ever top-flight match at the 8,000 capacity Estadio Municipal de Butarque, Leganes will be buoyant ahead of the arrival of their near neighbours. The town is just 11 kilometres outside of Madrid and the side have won two promotions in the past three seasons to reach La Liga.
The hosts brought in 10 new players over the summer, mostly on free transfers and loans, but did secure the permanent signature of last season’s Brazilian loan star Gabriel. The attacking midfielder contributed plenty in the offensive phase as Leganes concluded their campaign as the top divisional scorers and so I’d like to keep the potential for a home goal open.
Asier Garitano’s group did record 24/42 (57%) of winning Under 2.5 Goals selections last season whilst Atletico shipped just 18 goals in total, recording 24 clean sheets. A huge 23 (61%) of Atleti’s games featured fewer than three goals with 14 (37%) returning profit for Under 1.5 Goals backers.
Eleven of Atletico’s away triumphs came alongside shutouts last term but with a wee concern for a home goal, I’ll back the away team to win alongside Under 3.5 Goals at 9/10 (Betway).
Only 14/76 (18%) of the Mattress Makers’ away encounters under Simeone since 2012/13 have crept over the line.
Villarreal v Sevilla | Sunday 21.15 | Sky Sports 1
Jorge Sampaoli declared he’d be “very offensive” in his approach following his appointment to replace Unai Emery as head coach of Sevilla. And boy, was he true to his word. Last weekend’s 6-4 opening day success at home to Espanyol was quite simply, bonkers!
It could and probably should have been more, particularly for Sevilla, as the former Chile boss left his defence exposed and encouraged his ridiculously attacking midfield to get forward at every opportunity.
Under Emery, Sevilla were largely a counterattacking side and averaged marginally less than 50% possession in each of his three full seasons at the helm.
In contrast Sampaoli, who led Chile to success at the 2015 Copa America, wants his teams to dominate their opponents with a high share of possession, clever movement and a stifling high press.
Sampaoli has experimented with various formations and configurations and while there are still a few quirks to be ironed out, there have been positive signs that the players are adapting to the demands of their new coach.
Six debutants scored the goals for Los Rojiblancos last weekend and you can bet your bottom dollar the visitors will turn up at El Madrigal eager to play.
Last term Sevilla returned W0-D9-L10 on their La Liga travels, scoring just 13 goals. But Sampaoli wants the treble Europa League winners to rid that unwanted winning record ASAP and will set his side out to attack from the off.
Villarreal are certainly vulnerable. Having enjoyed their best La Liga finish since 2010/11 last term but the Yellow Submarine have endured a dreadful off-season, so much so there’s plenty of ‘crisis’ talk being banded around with shrewdies also having a wager on relegation.
The La Liga side saw impressive head coach Marcelinho depart just a week before the start of the season after a disagreement over transfer strategy whilst the squad has been hit very hard by departures and injuries since May too.
Fran Escriba has taken charge – he was sacked by Getafe just weeks before they suffered relegation – and although the defensively-minded boss suits Villarreal’s style, plenty of pundits were queuing up to criticise the appointment.
Last year’s top goalscorer Cedric Bakambu is absent, as is Roberto Soldado, Jonathan Dos Santos and new addition Dennis Cheryshev. Meanwhile, first team regulars Alphonse Areola, Eric Bailly and Dennis Suarez have all departed the Yellow Submarine this summer.
In the 12 league matches that Soldado missed in 2015/16, Villarreal were beaten on six occasions and scored just 12 goals – four of those losses came against bottom-six finishers whilst two of their four triumphs in that sample came against the bottom-two.
It’s a similar tale with Bakambu – the Yellow Submarine lost just twice in 18 encounters with him leading the line. However, they were turned over in eight of the 20 fixtures he missed, failing to score on eight occasions.
Last season the hosts were excellent defensively, conceding just 35 goals and keeping 17 clean sheets. Villarreal were never prolific in front of goal though and as a result 23 of their games featured fewer than three goals, while 14 produced one or zero goals.
Nevertheless, Alex Pato and Sansone will relish the opportunity to attack a Sevilla defence that’s likely to be missing Sergio Escudero at left-back and with Samu Castillejo and Roberto Soriano providing the ammunition from the flanks, there’s enough intent to trouble the guests.
These two teams played out a 0-0 draw in the corresponding clash last season but that was one of only two games from the past 13 meetings to not feature an Over 2.5 Goals winner and I’m more than happy to snap-up 10/11 quotes on this fixture reverting to type.
Real Madrid v Celta Vigo – Real Madrid/Real Madrid HT/FT (7/10 Coral)
Real Madrid v Celta Vigo – Gareth Bale to score and Real Madrid to win (10/11 SkyBet)
Leganes v Atletico Madrid – Atletico Madrid and Under 3.5 Goals (9/10 Betway)
Villarreal v Sevilla – Over 2.5 Goals (10/11 William Hill)