European NAP: Plucky underdogs may meet their match in Spain

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MARK O’HAIRE’S (@MarkOHaire) European NAP has given us plenty of joy this season. His latest arrives from Spain.

Sevilla v Eibar | Saturday 19:45 | Sky Sports 5

Sevilla had to dig deep last weekend to inflict the first home defeat of the season on Las Palmas with head coach Jorge Sampaoli saying his side “played with fury” as they kept the pressure on La Liga’s big-two.

Los Blanquirrojos appeared a little jaded but with five consecutive midweeks off and with their Champions League clash with Leicester not on the agenda until Wednesday, I expect a full throttle performance from the Andalusians on Saturday.

Vicente Iborra and Stevan Jovetic both made positive impacts off the bench and could be given a start on Saturday night whilst match-winning youngster Joaquin Correa could also feature should Sampaoli feel his team requires freshening up.

Rock-solid home record

Either way, I’m happy to invest faith in Sevilla picking up another three points at their fortress Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium.

The hosts only reverse at home under Sampaoli came against reigning champions Barcelona and since the start of 2013/14 the Andalusians have won 46/67 (69%) of home La Liga outings.

Exclude Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid from that sample and Sevilla have picked up maximum points in 41/55 (75%) of home league matches.

Backing Sevilla to win is a little too skinny so I’m chucking in Over 1.5 Goals to bolster the odds on offer to 5/6 with BetStars. Sevilla have scored at least twice in 43 (64%) of those aforementioned 67 encounters with 54 (81%) featuring Over 1.5 Goals in total.

Los Blanquirrojos have only fired blanks in seven (10%) of that 67-match sample whilst they’ve been noticeably sloppy at the back during the Sampaoli era. The Andalusians have shutout only three of their 10 visitors to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan which should encourage a carefree Eibar outfit.

Eibar flying high

The visitors are flying high in seventh, just a solitary point behind Villarreal. The Basque minnows have scored at least three goals in three consecutive victories, including a 4-0 thumping of Valencia at the Mestalla.

That nine-point haul is part of a recent spell that includes four triumphs in five but it’s worth noting all four wins came against clubs in the bottom-six of Spain’s top-flight.

Jose Luis Mendilibar has built a brave team that’s at their best on the front foot, playing fast and direct football. Top scorer Sergi Enrich has nine La Liga goals to his name this term and will provide the Sevilla defence with plenty of problems but it’s at the back where Eibar will come up short.

Missing key personnel

Los Armeros make the journey with both centre-halves Alejandro Galvez and Ivan Ramis struggling to be fit whilst key midfielder and captain Dani Garcia is also absent. In the six matches Garcia has missed since the start of last season, Eibar have won once – against relegated Getafe.

The Basques also tend to struggle when taking on La Liga’s big-hitters. The guests have lost eight of their last 10 trips to top-six sides with six of their most recent trips to the league’s elite resulting in defeats by at least a two-goal margin.

Eibar are in the top-half on merit but I’m not sure they’re capable of coping without important personnel. They’ve lost 15 of 29 road trips since the start of last season and have already shipped two goals or more in exactly half of their 10 away days in 2016/17.

Best Bets

Sevilla v Eibar – Sevilla to win and Over 1.5 Goals (5/6 BetStars)

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After starting his career in newspaper journalism, Mark soon found his way into the online betting world, forging a career in content, social media and marketing production. With a huge passion for stats, the Football League and European football, Mark’s other interests include playing rugby, following his beloved QPR and travel.

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