EUROPEAN football fanatic Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) heads to Spain on Sunday for his latest best bet on the continent.
Athletic Bilbao v Granada | Sunday 1st December 2019, 13:00 | Premier Sports
Gaizka Garitano will celebrate a year in charge of Athletic next midweek and the Bilbao-born boss should be pretty chuffed with his first 12 months in charge of Les Leones. The 44-year old took the hot-seat with Basque giants rooted in the relegation zone following a 13-game winless run with survival the sole aim around San Mames.
Garitano was given the gig following a spell with Athletic’s youth set-up and the former Eibar supremo immediately set about improving fortunes at his hometown club. The eight-time champions rocketed up the La Liga standings and at one stage even appeared to be challenging for Champions League qualification before dropping away in late Spring.
Consistent form outside of Bilbao has proven particularly problematic for Athletic, although Garitano’s group ended regional rivals Osasuna’s long unbeaten home record last weekend to enhance a fine recent spell of results (W3-D1-L0) that’s lifted Les Leones into fifth. Victory was Athletic’s first on the road in 2019/20 and hopes are now high it can be backed up here.
Athletic’s impressive rise under Garitano
Garitano’s now overseen 38 La Liga fixtures with Les Leones earning W18-D11-L9 – that 47% win rate deserves immense credit, as does the 1.71 points per-game average that would give Athletic a handsome 65 point-tally across a full campaign. The Basque boys have shutout 15 of their opponents in that sample and shipped twice or more just seven times.
But as already alluded, Athletic’s upward trajectory really comes into focus at San Mames. Sunday afternoon’s hosts have returned W13-D5-L1 when entertaining La Lia opposition in Bilbao – that’s a 68% win rate – and that has arrived alongside a superb 10 clean sheets in 19 outings, making the 8/11 (Marathon) an appealing play against Granada this weekend.
Les Leones to enhance San Mames record
Athletic have been handy operators when chalked up at 11/10 or shorter during Garitano’s reign at San Mames (W9-D4-L1), suggesting they don’t have too much trouble dispatching the lesser lights of La Liga. Even so, I’m going to be greedy and I believe I’ve found a way to bolster the odds on offer to 11/10 (Coral) by chucking in Under 3.5 Goals.
Only three of those aforementioned 19 San Mames matches have produced four or more goals and the hosts have proven adept at silencing opposition outfits here. Athletic have conceded just 0.36 Expected Goals (xG) per-game on average at home this term, whilst giving up just 4.50 shots from inside the penalty area despite facing a tricky schedule.
Granada running out of gas?
In contrast, no Spanish top-flight side have generated a lower xG open play out than Granada (0.41) as the guests have landed only 4.64 attempts from inside the box on average-. The early pacesetters are rated in the bottom four of both metrics when ordered via ratio rankings and there’s been a noticeable dip in terms of results and displays.
The newly-promoted guests made a superb start to life back in La Liga, topping the table for the first time in 46 years, as well as accumulating more league wins than their last top-tier stint. However, Los Rojiblancos’ have slowly regressed and pocketed W0-D1-L3 in their last four against capable opponents Getafe, Sociedad, Atletico Madrid and Valencia.
The Andalusians are led by Diego Martínez – the division’s youngest head coach and without any previous La Liga experience – and boast the top-flight’s third lowest wage budget. Survival remains Granada’s chief priority and a trip to San Mames looks unlikely to bear fruit considering Los Rojiblancos have been beaten in three trips to the top-half already.
Athletic Bilbao v Granada – Athletic Bilbao to win and Under 3.5 Goal (11/10 Coral)