MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) shares his favourite fancy from across the continent this weekend.
Real Madrid v Sevilla | Sunday 19.30 | Sky Sports 1
The Premier League is home to 17 of the top 30 richest clubs on the planet but the English clubs have produced just two quarter-finalists in European competition and that figure could quite conceivably be zero when we reach the semi-final stage.
If the strength of La Liga was ever in question, Spain’s current top-six remain in continental competition and two of those heavyweights clash at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday night for what tends to be a classic encounter.
Over the past 10 years, Real Madrid have met Sevilla on 26 occasions and those contests have produced an eye-popping 114 goals, at an average rate of 4.38 goals-per-game. Nineteen of those 26 fixtures have featured winning Over 2.5 Goals selections and 18 have banked in the Both Teams To Score market – 14 have even broken the three-goal barrier.
Real Madrid have enjoyed the lion’s share of success – W16-D0-L10 across that sample, including eight successive home triumphs – with Cristiano Ronaldo proving particularly deadly, notching 19 gaols in La Liga alone against the Andalusians.
So the stage has been set for another thriller. Madrid may not have anything major to play for in La Liga now but the expectant Los Blancos support will still want their moneys worth from the current batch of underperforming Galácticos.
Ronaldo should be joined in a fearsome front three by Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez and the capital club are more than capable of turning on the style after another subdued display on their travels at Las Palmas last weekend.
Boss Zinedine Zidane was far from impressed by their performance in the Canary Islands – goalkeeper Keylor Navas was again their leading light with the two goals Madrid scored in a 2-1 success arriving from corners.
Indeed, the difference between Madrid’s home and away displays is striking. Sure, Real results have often hidden their flaws and Atletico Madrid overturned Los Blancos at the Bernabeu, but their home record under Zidane read: 5-0 Deportivo, 5-1 Sporting Gijon, 6-0 Espanyol, 4-2 Athletic Bilbao, 0-1 Atletico Madrid, 7-1 Celta Vigo.
No side has fired in more shots than Madrid in La Liga this season and even when unconvincing against Roma in the Champions League, Zidane’s troops had 37 attempts on goal. With Sevilla conceding the most shots in the Spanish top-flight this term, Real could cut loose if they’re in the mood.
The visitors are the only side in Europe’s top-five leagues, along with Serie A’s rock-bottom club Hellas Verona, to fail to record three points on their travels (W0-D9-L5) and Los Rojiblancos were involved in Europa League action on Thursday night for the past fortnight. Will they be in peak condition? That’s questionable.
Unai Emery’s men have been beaten in each of their last eight away days at Barcelona or Real Madrid and whilst I expect that record to reach nine by Sunday’s conclusion, there’s better value ways of getting the hosts onside.
A Madrid win and Both Teams To Score is available at 5/4 (William Hill) and appeals with the hosts having recorded just three clean sheets in 21 La Liga outings. And they go into battle on Sunday night without either of Zidane’s first-choice defenders – Pepe and Sergio Ramos – through suspension.
Meanwhile, Real have scored at least three goals in eight of their last nine home La Liga encounters with 18/34 (53%) Bernebeu league dates since the start of last season featuring both sides scoring, as the capital club have churned out W28-D3-L3.
Since Emery took charge of Sevilla, Los Rojiblancos have W3-D1-L9 when taking on the big-two – losing all seven games as guests. And all 13 of their fixtures against Barca or Real have covered the Over 2.5 Goals hurdle as well as bank in the BTTS market – 8/13 (61%) featured at least four goals.
The visitors are set to be without Ever Banega, Vitolo, Evgen Konoplyanka and Steven N’Zonzi this weekend but there’s enough quality on the pitch to land a blow, considering Sporting Gijon, Getafe, Rayo Vallecano and Las Palmas have all grabbed a goal here this season.
Real Madrid v Sevilla – Real Madrid to win and Both Teams To Score (5/4 William Hill)
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