MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) is investing his continental faith in who he describes as ‘the ultimate flat track bullies’ on Sunday.
Real Madrid v Espanyol | Sunday 19.30 | Sky Sports 3
Real Madrid missed a fantastic chance to close in on city neighbours Atletico last weekend. With the league leaders dropping points at home to Sevilla, allowing Barcelona to take up the pace at the top of the table, Los Blancos couldn’t get past Real Betis on Sunday night.
It means Real have taken just two points from a possible nine on the road lately so they’ll be pleased to return to the Bernebeu this weekend. And with the top-two facing off in the Catalan capital, Zinedine Zidane’s star-studded squad have a second chance to close the gap.
The Spanish giants have improved under the Frenchman but the margin for more error this season is getting slimmer by the week. Madrid have already dropped 17 points this season and although they’ve struggled to grind out victories on their travels of late, they remain the ultimate flat-track bullies when hosting bottom-half clubs in La Liga.
Dating back to 2010/11, Los Blancos have returned astonishingly strong figures of W55-D2-L1 – a huge 36/58 (62%) of those triumphs were achieved by a margin of three goals or more. So the 13/16 from 888 Sport on offer for Real to beat a -2.5 Asian Handicap against Espanyol looks just the ticket on Sunday.
The capital club boast a fierce W13-D3-L0 head-to-head record with the visitors and have won their last five on home soil, scoring an average of 5.40 goals-per-game. The hosts have fired in more shots than any side on the continent and their average of 19.90 per-game should certainly aid our selection.
Espanyol arrive on the back of a W1-D3-L5 run and their seven successive away league losses is their worst return since 2002. Looking at their return from big-two trips since 2010/11, the Parakeets have lost on nine occasions, six of which were by a margin of three goals or more.
Cast your mind back to September, the visitors were stuffed 6-0 in front of their home supporters by Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo grabbing a hat-trick in the opening 19 minutes as he helped himself to five goals in the game.
And the guests have lost all eight visits to top-half teams this term, leaking at least twice in eight of their 11 away days already. What's more, Constantin Gâlcă could be without up to five key players with top goalscorer Felipe Caicedo injured, leading assist-maker Marco Asensio and Burgui unavailable due to the terms of his loan deals plus the suspensions of Victor Alvarez and Gerard Moreno.
I’d be stunned if Espanyol stopped rampant Real from running up another big win.
Real Madrid v Espanyol – Real Madrid -2.5 Asian Handicap (13/16 888 Sport)
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