MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) talks us through his favourite weekend fancies from La Liga.
Villarreal v Eibar | Sunday 15.00 | Sky Sports 5
Villarreal’s match with Eibar looks primed for a Both Teams To Score play at a bulbous 11/8 with BetVictor.
At El Madrigal, Marcelinho’s hosts have triumphed in all bar one of their La Liga matches this term but have kept just one clean sheet in the process. Looking further back, the Yellow Submarine have run out winners in 14 of their 19 contests in front of their adoring supporters but only three of their most recent 12 outings at home have seen the hosts shutout their opponents.
Eibar have lost just once in six away (W2-D3-L1) and that came in a 3-1 reverse at Barcelona. Despite that Nou Camp defeat, the minnows have now netted in all bar one of their five road trips in 2015/16 with Malaga the sole side to stop them scoring.
Dani Garcia returns from suspension for the Basques who’ve also now notched in each of their last seven matches and so backing them to do so again looks well worth an interest.
For those hunting even more value, Villarreal and BTTS can be backed at 16/5 with Coral.
Granada v Athletic Bilbao | Sunday 17.15 | Sky Sports 5
With just four games to play last season and sitting six points adrift of safety, Granada decided to roll the dice one last time. Abel Resino was sacked and Jose Sandoval became El Grana’s fourth boss of the 2014/15 campaign.
The change did the trick with Sandoval’s 10-point return enough to keep Granada’s La Liga status intact for another season. Naturally, the great escape was greeted with incredulity, as the Andalusians fate appeared doomed heading into May.
However, joy and optimism heading into the 2015/16 campaign has duly dissipated as El Grana have slipped back into their rotten old ways. Eleven games into the new season and Granada sit one place off the bottom of Spain’s top tier (W1-D4-L6) on goal difference.
Sandoval’s side are winless since August and have yet to keep a clean sheet in 11 attempts. But Granada have managed to find the back of the net in each of their last five and in eight of their 11 La Liga contests already this season. At their Nuevo Los Carmenes home, all bar one of their five fixtures have featured both teams scoring.
Athletic Bilbao make the journey south on Sunday and the Basques can ensure that impressive record stays strong. Les Leones have notched at least twice in each of their past five league outings, failing to strike just once since August in La Liga football.
Include all competitions and Ernesto Valverde’s troops have bagged six wins from seven and whilst they look the most likely victors, I’m happier to take a goals-angle in Andalusia this weekend with Both Teams To Score quoted at 22/23 with Unibet – a big value price.
I’ve already outlined Granada’s strong trends for BTTS winners this term and Athletic have followed suit in 8/11 (73%) of La Liga contests (3/5 away), as well as 10 of their previous 13 games in all competitions.
The 2015/16 trends suggest we’ve around about a 70% chance of Both Teams To Score landing again on Sunday evening – that equates to around a 4/9 chance in betting terms – meaning Unibet’s value 22/23 price should be snapped up.
Real Madrid v Barcelona | Saturday 17.15 | Sky Sports 2
El Clasico is number one. There’s no club game that can match the rivalry of Real Madrid against Barcelona whether it be footballing, political or ideological and Saturday night’s encounter should deliver the goods once more. If you’re uninterested in this bout, I doubt we’d get on…
This fixture features the world’s undisputed best players of their generation –Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo hog the headlines – but all over the park you’ve names and faces that would fill the majority of best XIs on the planet. It’s no surprise then that these two clubs have won three of the last five Champions League titles between them.
Everything is set for yet another humdinger of a clash and although we’re only coming into the winter now, the price of collecting maximum points from the weekend’s fixture could well open or close the La Liga title race.
That might sound like a horrid overreaction but following Real’s loss at Sevilla before the international break, Los Blancos now trail their hated enemies by three points. Defeat at the Bernebeu on Saturday night could have dire consequences for Rafa Benitez’s boys seeing as the Catalans could hold a six-point advantage with trips to both Madrid clubs, Sevilla, Athletic Bilbao and Celta all out the way before December…
Conversely, a win for Real would send Madrid back to the top of the table and with the hosts having W19-D3-L0 in their last 22 La Liga fixtures at HQ (and just one goal against in five this season), they shouldn’t be written off.
Despite the criticisms of Benitez in the aftermath of that Sevilla reverse, the former Liverpool boss has made the capital club a more rounded, stable and balanced side. He’ll have been boosted by the news that both Keylor Navas and Sergio Ramos are fit but his major quandary remains over the inclusion (or not) of a fully fit James Rodriguez.
Casemiro’s filled the defensive midfield role excellently for the hosts this term but James’ return would see Toni Kroos shift back into his unfavoured holding role and the Colombian lining up alongside Luka Modric. It’s a wonderfully exciting sight but Los Blancos would lose the balance and stability that cost them so dearly in last season’s biggest matches under Carlo Ancelotti.
In attack, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale will be chomping at the bit but question marks remain over Karim Benzema’s mental state. Could the Frenchman’s off-field distractions leave him undercooked when his club need him most? Perhaps.
Interestingly, Real have W2-D1-L4 in their last seven La Liga matches when welcoming Barcelona to Madrid and in all competitions that record reads a paltry W3-D3-L6. But can we back the Catalans considering they’ve already been beaten at Celta and Sevilla and could be without Lionel Messi from the start?
The Argentine magician has been out of action for eight weeks and although he’s returned to full training, is unlikely to be in peak condition to play 90 minutes. Since Messi made his debut, he has missed only two Clasicos (2005-06 and 2007-08) and Barcelona did not win either.
Nevertheless, Barca have got by without him as Neymar and Luis Suarez have combined magnificently to keep the Bluagrana ticking along nicely, netting each of Barcelona’s last 17 goals.
With the two teams displaying signs of vulnerability and fragility, our best option is to avoid the Match Odds market and dip into a goals-based bet. The Clasico rarely lets punters down when it comes to goals and the last 18 have delivered winning Both Teams To Score bets.
In fact, since 2010/11 the giants of Spanish football have clashed a remarkable 22 times and BTTS has proven profitable in 19 of those fixtures with 17 matches featuring at least three goals.
Naturally, both options are too short to consider but you can combine a play on Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score at 4/6, which looks more than reasonable considering the historic trends. I’m in.
We’ll take that selection as a juicy starter before moving onto our main course and desert. Four of the last six head-to-heads have actually seen the Both Teams To Score selection bank inside the first-half and a repeat can be snapped up at a juicy 5/2 with William Hill. Barca have leaked before the interval in seven games already this season whilst Madrid’s league matches have featured two or more goals before the break on six occasions under Benitez.
Finally, of those aforementioned 18 fixtures, 16 broke the Over 2.5 Goals barrier and nine also reached Over 3.5 Goals. With a 50% success rate, even-money on Over 3.5 Goals is what we should be expecting, so the 13/10 (BetVictor) on offer represents fantastic value and should be taken as our main play on Saturday night.
For those looking to eke out slightly more value from the fixture, a convincing 13/18 (72%) head-to-heads have finished with exactly three or four goals – Sportingbet are offering 27/20 on a repeat.
Deportivo La Coruna v Celta Vigo | Saturday 21.05 | Sky Sports Interactive
The Galician derby arrives with both Deportivo and Celta enjoying excellent starts to their La Liga campaign. Depor started their campaign with W2-D4-L1 but have now gone five without victory (W0-D4-L1) and will be looking to end a sorry run of results against their neighbours (W1-D1-L5).
Víctor Sanchez's side have been beaten in three of their last four when welcoming Celta to their Riazor home, failing to net on each occasion. But I do expect the hosts to grab a goal this weekend – they’ve managed to notch in nine of their last 10 and are boosted by the absence of Celta centre-half Gustavo Cabral.
Cabral serves the final match of his three-game ban leaving Eduardo Berizzo's visitors short as they bid to stop the bleeding at the back. The Sky Blues have leaked seven in their last two matches and although Cabral’s only missed eight games since the start of last season, both teams have scored in each of the last seven as they’ve failed to keep a clean sheet without him.
It’s the Both Teams To Score angle that stands out strongly as it’s also proven a successful formula in nine of Celta’s 11 La Liga fixtures this term whilst the travellers arrive on the back of their best run without defeat on the road in top-flight Spanish football (W6-D4-L0). Only Real Madrid have scored more away goals than Berizzo's boys and so they’ll be confident of continuing that excellent run in front of goal at the Rizaor.
Depor have been equally impressive in the BTTS standings with eight matches also proving profitable in the market and so Boylesports’ 8/11 on a repeat looks more than fair, especially when considering it’s banked in in five of the last six Galician meetings between the old foes.
Villarreal v Eibar – Both Teams To Score (11/8 BetVictor)
Villarreal v Eibar – Villarreal to win and Both Teams To Score (16/5 Coral)
Granada v Athletic Bilbao – Both Teams To Score (22/23 Unibet)
Real Madrid v Barcelona – Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score (4/6 Bet365)
Real Madrid v Barcelona – Both Teams To Score In The First-Half (5/2 William Hill)
Real Madrid v Barcelona – Over 3.5 Goals (13/10 BetVictor)
Deportivo La Coruna v Celta Vigo – Both Teams To Score (8/11 Boylesports)
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