EUROPEAN football expert Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) unearths the value in Monday evening’s La Liga action.
Malaga v Sevilla | Monday 20:00 | Sky Sports
Sevilla odds-on to win away? No thanks.
A campaign that promised plenty for Los Blanquirrojos is eroding fast and I’d admire any punter that can find the faith to punt Sevilla on Monday night.
Jorge Sampaoli’s side can move level on points with third-placed Atletico Madrid by pocketing maximum points and arrive at La Roselada unbeaten in their last four La Liga games, but three of those encounters were home wins.
Thursday night’s 2-1 triumph against 10-man Celta Vigo was far from convincing and Sevilla appear to be slipping back into their rotten road form. The visitors are winless in four (W0-D2-L2) games as guests in domestic action, firing blanks in each of their last two outings on their travels.
Sevilla in state of flux
However, results don’t tell the full story. The Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan club are in a state of flux following the departure of legendary sporting director Monchi after 17 years of service in the role.
The man who has made the club over €300m in sales – at a profit of more than €200m – has moved to Roma and local press described the side’s recent performances as “exhausted, blocked, frustrated, anxious and depressed about Monchi’s departure”.
But there’s another elephant in the room. Head coach Sampaoli insists he would “die” for Sevilla after refusing to discuss his future ahead of Monday’s match but reports in Argentina claim he’ll be unveiled as the new Argentina coach on 22nd May 22, one day after Sevilla’s final game of the season.
Sampaoli, who was born in Argentina, is under contract with Sevilla until June 2018 but can leave this summer provided his €1.5 million release clause is met. The Argentine FA president went public in his bid to secure Sampaoli’s signature and the deal seems to be all but done.
Reasons to oppose the visitors
It’s a hammer blow for Los Blanquirrojos. Earlier this campaign Sampaoli was being described as Liga’s great revelation but his exit, along with Monchi’s, is likely to plunge the club into off-field crisis and that’s only going to impact negatively on the first XI.
So looking at Monday’s match at Andalusian rivals Malaga, Sevilla can be opposed. On paper the visitors haven’t been beaten by a bottom-half Spanish side in 11 games but four of the past six ended all-square and Sampaoli’s side have failed to record three points in 10/17 (59%) away days this term.
Delve a little deeper and Sevilla have recorded just 17/55 (31%) triumphs on their travels since the start of 2014/15 and whilst Samir Nasri should return to a starting role here, the continued absence of Vitolo, Mariano and an in-form central striker only adds to the nagging doubts.
Sevilla have won this derby in four of the past five meetings but their record at La Roselada reads just W1-D2-L2 in recent visits and Malaga look well worth our support with a +0.50 Asian Handicap start at the 109/100 (Bet365) on offer – we’ll be paid out should the hosts avoid defeat.
Michel’s arrival at the Costa del Sol club has reinvigorated the first team and Los Boquerones have now bagged four wins from five to kick-on away from the potential threat of relegation.
Michel is the club’s fifth coaching appointment since Manuel Pellegrini left in 2013 but the former Real Madrid player brings a wealth of experience to the role having bossed Marseille and led Olympiakos to three league titles in a row amongst his recent gigs.
Barcelona and Valencia have both been dispatched 2-0 here under Michel’s watch and whilst the home side have W0-D1-L7 against top-half clubs that aren’t Barcelona or Real Madrid of late – failing to score in five of those losses – they’re resurgent form makes them a tricky test.
The hosts boast four successive clean sheets and have shutout five of their last seven opponents. Each of those seven encounters featured fewer than three goals and with Diego Llorente back fit to start at centre-half, I wouldn’t expect Los Boquerones to be giving much away here.
The suspension to Youssef En-Nesyri is a blow but I’m confident enough to believe an organised and motivated Malaga can pick up a positive result here. Since the start of last season they’ve lost just 11/35 (31%) at La Roselada so I’ll count on them enhancing that record on Monday night.
Malaga v Sevilla – Malaga +0.50 Asian Handicap (109/100 Bet365)