MARK O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) returns to La Liga to tackle this weekend’s best bets from Spain.
Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid | Sunday 19.30 | Sky Sports 1
Atletico Madrid went 14 years and 25 games without winning against their bitter cross-city neighbours. That was until Diego Simeone arrived. Last season these two teams met on eight occasions and Atletico W4-D3-L1. They completed the league double over Real for the first time in 64 years, have shut Los Blancos out in their previous four visits to the Vicente Calderon and are unbeaten in five (W2-D3-L0) when entertaining the 10-times European champions. That’s one heck of a turnaround.
It’s already Real’s worst scoring run at Atleti in history and failure to record three points on Sunday night will equal their worst ever winless streak in the venue dating back to 1956-63. Still, there’s an argument to be made that Los Blancos have won the meetings that arguably most mattered – the two Champions League duels in the past two campaigns.
Anyhow, it’s easy to take the early season results as the form for this but there’s more to the scorelines than meets the eye. Atletico have been beaten twice in a week as well as home to Barcelona already this season. Against the Catalans they were unusually timid, against Villarreal they were fairly beaten but they missed enough chances to see off Benfica comfortably.
Simeone has the biggest and best squad at his disposal and although Arda Turan’s sale and Koke’s injury have played a part (Atleti have only won five of the 10 games Koke has missed), the hosts have lost just three games in 38 at the Calderon and kept clean sheets in four of their six La Liga games this term.
Los Colchoneros haven’t suddenly become a waning force. The Argentine in charge is just struggling to find the right formula. A visit from Real should at least galvanise the group and despite failing to maintain the level they displayed in 2013/14 last season, Atletico have W31-D7-L3 at home in league football and W4-D4-L3 when taking on top-six challengers. Interestingly though, Under 2.5 Goals was a winner in seven of those 11 Calderon clashes.
Only once before have Real only conceded a single goal after six La Liga games but it’s not like Keylar Navas hasn’t had to make crucial saves whilst opponents have missed chances. Madrid scored an offside goal against Granada and twice they have failed to score, against Sporting Gijon and Malaga, albeit when dominating proceedings. They were workmanlike against Malmo in midweek and have only netted three goals in three games.
Prior to the Malaga game last weekend, Real had only failed to score in one of their last 62 home games (that came at Atletico in 2013/14) and it comes as no surprise that their recent struggle for goals has coincided with injuries to James Rodriguez and Gareth Bale, both of whom are doubtful.
James has missed 14 games since the start of last season and eight of those fixtures featured fewer than three goals – in the 30 he did play, only three failed to produce at least three goals. There was a similarly low-scoring theme in last year’s eight head-to-head matches – five went below the 2.5 line including three of the four at the Calderon. Throw in the low-scoring nature of Atleti’s showdowns with La Liga’s big guns and Under 2.5 Goals comes into focus at 6/7 with Marathon.
Last season Real’s road record was W14-D0-L5 and with the exception of a defeat in their opening away game of the season against Sociedad, all these defeats came against top-seven sides. Since 2013/14, Los Blancos have fared poorly away to top-six clubs – W2-D3-L5. Throw in the absence of Sergio Ramos and Pepe and there’s enough reason to ward off the visitors at short prices in such a high-stakes encounter. Give me the 8/13 (Bet365) on Atletico in the Double Chance every day of the week.
Sevilla v Barcelona | Saturday 15.00
It wouldn’t be a normal week in Spain without some sort of crisis. But in the past few days, Barcelona have been hit by a spate of injuries to key players and believe it or not, are struggling to fill their bench for this weekend’s trip to the loud, proud and always hostile Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
Luis Enrique has just 14 outfield first-team players to choose from and the vast majority of them scheduled to play their third game in the space of seven days on Saturday. The Catalans lost Andres Iniesta in their unconvincing midweek win over Bayer Leverkusen and already without Rafinha, Thomas Vermaelen, Adriano and quadruple Ballon d'Or winner Lionel. To combat the current medical woes, the Bluagrana chief has been forced to call up as many as six Barca B players to plug the gaps.
It’s hardly an ideal situation ahead of the visit to Seville and Barca have been far from their best this season. Leverkusen could (and probably should) have left the Nou Camp with maximum points on Tuesday night whilst the Catalans last two away days have seen them stuffed 4-1 by Celta Vigo and held to a 1-1 draw in Roma.
I’d usually be diving head first into opposing Barcelona at odds-on quotes when playing away in Seville but Unai Emery’s hosts are enduring their own injury problems and have been a shadow of the side that finished fifth last term. Timothee Kolodziejczak and Marco Andreolli will again be asked to deputise at centre-half as Los Rojiblancos hunt only their second league success in seven outings.
Emery’s men barely laid a glove on a fragile Juventus side in midweek and so whilst there’s a smidgen of value in keeping Sevilla onside to avoid defeat, this fixture is simply synonymous with goals and backing another high-scoring encounter looks the best solution.
The last seven Sevilla-Barcelona duels have produced a huge 37 goals in total with each clash breaking the Over 2.5 Goals barrier as well as ticking off winning Both Teams To Score selections. Cast your mind back to August and the duo played out a thrilling 5-4 UEFA Super Cup final that ended in Barca’s favour in extra-time.
Of course, a repeat is highly unlikely but I’m keen to play the goals angle with Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score backable at 10/11 with Bet365. Barca can still call upon Neymar and Luis Suarez in forward areas and they’re up against a patched up Sevilla backline.
The Andalusians won’t want to take a backwards step either. They may have leaked at least twice in each of their previous eight meetings with Barca and failed to shut the defending champions out in 15 previous encounters at the Sanchez-Pizjuan but Luis Enrique’s troops have been just as woeful at the back.
Already this season, Barcelona have conceded four goals on three separate occasions and boast only two shutouts in 11 matches. Throw in the fact that Sevilla have welcomed the big-two of Spain on four occasions under Emery’s watch and all four have featured three to five goals with BTTS banking on each occasion and I reckon a goals route is the most obvious option.
Malaga v Real Sociedad | Saturday 21.05 | Sky Sports 2
Poor Malaga. Having picked up a very creditable point at the Bernebeu last weekend they also managed to become the first ever side to start a La Liga season with six successive blanks. It was just one of three goalless games they’ve been involved in this term – the other three ending in 1-0 defeats, including a visit to the Camp Nou.
Javi Gracia’s now under intense pressure. The Anchovies are on their longest run without a win in five years, are winless in eight at their La Roselada home and have won just once in 17 La Liga outings now and that came at relegated Almeria. Malaga are hard to beat, tough to break but they just can’t score right now and the tables are starting to turn, sadly.
To make matters worse, Nordin Amrabat, their only big money signing of the summer and main creative and attacking fulcrum is suspended while Roque Santa Cruz is injured and Ignacio Camacho unlikely to be fit enough to start. Despite Real Sociedad’s well documented weaknesses on the road, it’s difficult find faith in backing Malaga in their current plight.
David Moyes’ visitors played out a goalless draw in the Basque derby with Athletic last weekend but did manage to run out 3-0 winners at Granada in their previous away day. Like their hosts, goals have been thin on the ground (failing to score in four of their six league fixtures) but consecutive clean sheets have provided welcome relief – it’s now four shutouts in six for La Real.
Sociedad have only been beaten twice in their previous nine trips to bottom-half teams and with players more than capable of performing, look the more likely. Eight of La Real’s last 10 trips to bottom-half teams have had fewer than three goals as have 12 of their 17 away games under David Moyes.
In total, 13/22 (59%) of La Roselada games under Gracia’s watch have gone below the 2.5 Goals line and with the two sides have already been involved in three 0-0s each in 2015/16, another dull as dishwater encounter could well be in our sights. Under 2 Goals on the Asian Goals line appeals at 21/20 – we’ll be paid out should one or zero goals are scored with our stake returned if exactly two goals are netted.
But I’ll also have a wee punt on Real Sociedad +0.25 on the Asian Handicap line. The Basques have W4-D3-L1 in their most recent eight games against Malaga with the most recent four each featuring fewer than three goals. Crucially, seven of La Real’s last 10 wins have come to nil, including four 1-0s so the 8/9 from BetVictor makes sense.
With this selection, we’ll take home maximum profit should Moyes’ boys win away at Malaga but should the match end all square, we’ll still pocket half of that potential full pay-out with the second part of our stake returned. The only way we won’t make money is if Malaga win.
Sevilla v Barcelona – Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score (10/11 Bet365)
Malaga v Real Sociedad – Under 2 Goals (21/20 BetVictor)
Malaga v Real Sociedad – Real Sociedad +0.25 (8/9 BetVictor)
Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid – Under 2.5 Goals (6/7 Marathon)
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