EUROPEAN football expert Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) unearths the value in Wednesday evening’s La Liga action.
Barcelona v Osasuna | Wednesday 18:30 | Sky Sports 3
Lionel Messi’s brilliant brace in Sunday night’s sensational Clasico blew the La Liga title race wide open. Now Barcelona have the opportunity to pile more pressure on Real Madrid by beating Osasuna in Wednesday’s early kick-off in Spain.
The Catalans remain without the suspended Neymar but with magical Messi expected to feature – fresh from surpassing 500 goals for the Blaugrana – it’s nigh-on impossible to oppose the hosts here.
Luis Enrique’s charges have been handed a three-goal handicap to overcome but there’s a better bet elsewhere with Black Type dangling a hugely generous 11/5 quote on a Barcelona win and Both Teams To Score.
Barca have claimed top honours in each of their last nine at the Camp Nou, scoring three goals on eight occasions and triumphing by at leas three goals in six of those victories. However, they remain a muddle at the back.
Goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen has performed regular heroics for the home side but the Catalans have still conceded in nine of their past 11 outings and that spells obvious trouble against an Osasuna outfit that’s notched in 12 of their last 16 matches.
The visitors have collected seven points from their past four fixtures (W2-D1-L1) but remain nine points from safety with just five games to play. Petar Vasiljević’s charges were minutes away from a third win in four before Sporting Gijon’s late show denied them victory at the weekend and in Sergio Leon have a pacey striker capable of causing opposition defenders problems.
Osasuna have lost all 10 encounters with top-six teams this term though they have notched in five of six trips to the top-eight and considering this selection has landed in 12/33 (36%) of Barcelona’s La Liga games (and 6/16 at the Camp Nou), the 11/5 quote is just too big to ignore knowing Osasuna’s attacking intent.
Deportivo La Coruna v Real Madrid | Wednesday 20:30 | Sky Sports 3
Despite all the fall-out from Sunday’s loss, Real Madrid must steady themselves for a testing trip to Galicia on Wednesday night knowing that their La Liga fate remains firmly in their own hands.
Zinedine Zidane’s chaotic charges went for the jugular against Barcelona and whilst Los Blancos supporters can quite rightfully criticise their lack of control and game management, us neutrals should lap it up. Wonderful entertainment.
The French boss will be rotating his squad for this encounter with Gareth Bale injured, Sergio Ramos now suspended plus Toni Kroos and Cristiano Ronaldo left out of the squad. Raphael Varane has been included in the travelling party – a big boost with Nacho the only available orthodox centre-back available.
We should therefore see the likes of Marco Asensio, James Rodriguez, Alvaro Morata and Isco be given the opportunity to impress with the four aforementioned squad players arguably Madrid’s most in-form men in recent weeks, so little drop-off should be anticipated.
Nevertheless, the psychological consequences of Sunday could impact Real here and whilst they’ve won each of their last five away days, they also remain woefully poor at the back. It’s now just one clean sheet in 11 La Liga dates with the likes of Sporting Gijon and Leganes both scoring twice when welcoming the capital club in recent weeks.
There’s no margin for error for Madrid and whilst they’ve won by two goals or more in six of their most recent eight trips to bottom-half clubs, I’m going to oppose Zidane’s men from winning this encounter comfortably.
Deportivo can be backed with a +1.5 Asian Handicap start at 10/13 (BetVictor), an appealing angle considering how the hosts have tightened up since Pepe Mel took charge.
Depor have an eight-point buffer over Gijon so should be safe from relegation but they will want to confirm survival sooner than later. Having lost only five times at the Riazor this season, the hosts haven’t yet lost by two goals or more and have done so in only two of their past 14 when hosting a top-six side.
Only Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Sevilla have shipped fewer home goals in La Liga and lets not forget how tough a test the hosts gave Real when the two teams locked horns at the Bernabeu back in December.
Mel welcomes back Carles Gil, Alejandro Arribas and Guilherme from suspension and so I’m happy to overlook their recent W1-D1-L4 record and put my faith in the Galicians giving Madrid a stern examination on Wednesday evening.
Barcelona v Osasuna – Barcelona to win and Both Teams To Score (11/5 Black Type)
Deportivo La Coruna v Real Madrid – Deportivo La Coruna +1.5 Asian Handicap (10/13 BetVictor)