BEN Levene (@benlevene96) visits sunny Spain, to delve into La Liga for a Sunday double-header.
Barcelona v Real Betis | Sunday 20th August 19:15 | Sky Sports
In one of La Liga’s headline opening weekend fixtures, Barcelona host Real Betis. Much has been made of Barcelona’s poor Super Cup showing but in reality, the issue lies far deeper than that.
They’ve failed to adequately replace the likes of Dani Alves, Carlos Puyol and Xavi and this coupled with a lack of top-quality talent coming through La Masia, means the Catalan giants have ultimately been left with an underwhelming squad.
In defence and midfield, they’re in need of a massive overhaul and over the last few seasons have been heavily reliant on moments of individual brilliance from Neymar, Messi and Suarez. As well as losing Neymar to PSG (an issue which widened divisions between the board and players), Ernesto Valverde will now be without Luis Suarez for the opening month of the season.
I’ve personally opposed Barcelona by backing Real Betis +2 on the Asian Handicap at 6/5, unfortunately, that’s now been backed into below evens. I’m not one for forcing a bet when the value isn’t there so we can steer away from that.
Instead, our attention should turn to the generous 51/50 offered by Marathon about Real Betis to score a goal. Barca conceded a goal in each of their closing four home matches at the Nou Camp the last term and in 11 of their 19 home La Liga games more generally.
Admittedly, Valverde will surely have worked on shutting up shop after the two-legged embarrassment to Real Madrid. But it’s not just Barcelona’s defensive frailties that make this bet appealing.
They face a Real Betis who despite losing key-man Dani Ceballos to Real Madrid, have strengthened all over the park, as well as the exciting Ryad Boudebouz, they’ve added Sergi Leon, Cristian Tello, Javi Garcia and Anders Guardado who all improve the squad in their own right.
In charge, they have new-boss Quique Setien who enjoyed great success at Las Palmas in a free-flowing style. His Las Palmas side was La Liga’s ninth highest-scorers last season despite finishing 14th and he has enough attacking quality in this Betis side to see them get on the scoresheet.
Deportivo La Coruna v Real Madrid | Sunday 20th August 21:15 | Sky Sports
Real Madrid was dominant in La Liga last season and could cap that off with their third Champions League victory in four seasons.
Zinedine Zidane’s men go off at below evens for the title and that is down to how efficient they were as an outfit last season. Cristiano Ronaldo is serving the second match of a four-game ban received for his antics during the first-leg of the Super Cup.
Maybe, it’s Ronaldo’s absence that means we can get Real Madrid to score Over 2.5 Goals at 11/10 (Coral). Madrid has won the last eight meetings with Deportivo and have been winning at half-time in six of those. They’ve scored three or more goals in five of those eight meetings, including both meetings last season when they cumulatively scored nine goals.
Casemiro, Isco and Gareth Bale were rested in the second leg of the Super Cup midweek with one-eye on this fixture.
Deportivo have been busy this window but it could once again be Florin Andone who spearheads any success for Pepe Mel’s side. Watch his strong running in behind. But overall it is difficult to see past an impressive Real team who look the best side in world football at the minute.