MARK O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) gave us a full house of La Liga winners on Wednesday. More of the same this weekend, please!
Atletico Madrid v Athletic Bilbao | Sunday 17.00 | Sky Sports 5
Atletico Madrid have found their best La Liga form just when it’s mattered most this season with Diego Simeone’s side establishing themselves in third following a W7-D4-L0 record across their last 11 league fixtures.
This weekend the defending champions are back at their Vicente Calderon home where they’ve proven so strong under their Argentine boss. With Atleti just left to focus on their league campaign, I’m expecting the Mattress Makers to continue their recent run with another victory and to come flying out of the blocks.
We can back Atletico/Atletico in the Half-Time/Full-Time market at a healthy 23/20 with BetVictor and that holds plenty of appeal. Since Simeone returned to Madrid to coach the Mattress Makers, Atletico have W49/65 (75%) of their La Liga matches at the Calderon with 37/65 (57%) resulting in winning HT/FT bets on the hosts, including 12 of their most recent 15.
Athletic Bilbao make the journey south with a Copa del Rey final clash already lined up but due to a rule change in European qualification places, the Basques must beat Barcelona to book a place in the Europa League. Therefore, seventh-place would be good enough to secure qualification via the league and Les Leones are currently level on points with Malaga, in seventh.
But Ernesto Valverde’s Bilbao have endured a rough time of things when travelling away to Spain’s leading lights and their W1-D1-L6 return at top-half clubs this term is of concern, as is the fact that the Basques have failed to even score in seven of those eight outings. In five of the aforementioned six defeats, Bilbao were trailing at the interval.
Need more? Simeone’s side have lost just one league game at the Calderon in nearly two years and their midweek win at Villarreal was their 127th in the Argentine’s 200th in charge. They’ve kept 100 clean sheets in that sample and with Athletic missing Iker Muniain and Ibai Gomez and Benat Etxebarria and Aritz Aduriz doubtful; it looks a tall order for the Basque visitors.
If you prefer something a little duller, BetVictor’s 17/20 on Under 2.5 Goals looks a little on the large side. It’s six clean sheets in eight when hosting for Atleti and they’ve failed to break the two-goal barrier in seven of their most recent 10. It’s a similar story for Bilbao with 11 of their last 13 dropping Under 2.5 Goals along with eight of their previous 10 trips to top-six teams.
Sevilla v Real Madrid | Sunday 19.00 | Sky Sports 5
Real Madrid’s trip to Sevilla on Saturday evening is easily La Liga’s most attractive fixture this season, and a game which could go a long way to deciding both the title winners and top four finishers. It’s always a feisty affair when these two teams lock horns and it’s by far Real’s toughest final hurdle to negotiate in a fascinating battle for La Liga honours.
Sevilla are unbeaten since February last year at their Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan home in a run that stretches 25 games (W18-D7-LO). The Rojiblancos proved their mettle when coming from two goals down against Barcelona on home soil to take a draw recently and are also undefeated in 18 games in all competitions with a Europa League semi-final on the horizon.
Carlo Ancelotti’s team will be well aware of the threat posed. Real have lost here in each of the past two seasons and although the Italian has turned the tide back in the Los Blancos favour following their Clasico defeat, they remain below par on the road when taking on La Liga’s best. In fact, the Champions League semi-finalists have suffered defeats at all three top-four rivals on their travels this term.
It was a similar story last season under Ancelotti’s watch. Real failed to beat a top-six side away and their patched up squad were far from impressive despite their 3-0 success over Almeria in midweek. Injuries and lack of rotation are hurting Madrid and I can’t be siding with them on Saturday. Sevilla at 5/6 in the Double Chance market with Coral is the first port of call.
As well as being a bad-tampered fixture, this head-to-head normally features plenty of goals. Sevilla themselves have scored exactly twice in seven of their previous eight Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan meetings with Real and have also netted two goals or more in eight of their last nine La Liga starts.
Since Emery took charge of Sevilla, they’ve faced the Big-Two nine times and Over 2.5 Goals has banked in all nine matches with 6/9 (67%) also returning four goals or more. The average goals-per-game in those nine fixtures is 4.88.
During Ancelotti’s reign at Real, Los Blancos have seen 15/18 (83%) of outings at top-six clubs break the crucial two-goal mark with 8/18 (44%) also going on to feature four goals or more. Madrid kept just one clean sheet in that sample and so gives us ample ammunition to take a punt on Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score at 4/5 with Bet365.
Valencia v Eibar | Sunday 18.00 | Sky Sports 5
Valencia have the opportunity to keep seven consecutive home clean sheets for the first time in their top-flight history on Sunday and you wouldn’t be against Los Che achieving that goal. And Nuno Espirito Santo’s side are also just one home win away from setting a new club record for the most home victories in a La Liga season.
The Bats have W14-D2-L1 at the Mestalla this term and with Shkodran Mustafi their only potential injury absentee, are in decent nick for the visit of Eibar. The hosts have won nine of their last 10 on home soil and struck two goals or more in eight of those fixtures too.
Eibar’s season continues to ring alarm bells and the Basque side are now just two points afloat of the relegation zone. Gaizka Garitano's men have lost 13 of their last 15, W0-D2-L6 in their previous eight away and failed to even score in six of their most recent seven on the road. It’s looking bleak.
With Valencia certs to pick up maximum points, I like the idea of profiting from a win by two goals or more. BetVictor have made Valencia -1.75 a 9/10 play on the Asian Handicap line and that looks the best route for profit. Should Los Che win by three goals or more, we’ll have ourselves a full pay-out but even if they only secure a two-goal victory, we’ll bag half of that potential full pay-out.
In 11/17 (65%) of Mestalla matches under Nuno’s watch, Valencia have won by a margin of two goals or more and it’s a similar story in eight of their last 11 when hosting bottom-half teams. I’ll count on the Bats doing the trick once again this Sunday.
Atletico Madrid v Athletic Bilbao – Atletico Madrid/Atletico Madrid double result (23/20 BetVictor)
Atletico Madrid v Athletic Bilbao – Under 2.5 Goals (17/20 BetVictor)
Sevilla v Real Madrid – Sevilla double chance (5/6 Coral)
Sevilla v Real Madrid – Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score (4/5 Bet365)
Valencia v Eibar – Valencia -1.75 Asian Handicap (9/10 BetVictor)
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