EUROPEAN football fanatic Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) heads to Spain on Sunday for his latest best bet on the continent.
Real Madrid v Athletic Bilbao | Sunday 22nd December 2019, 19:45 | Premier Sports
Real Madrid were the better team in Wednesday night’s Clasico at the Camp Nou and Zinedine Zidane’s side are favoured to continue their fine upturn with a positive performance at home to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday night.
Los Blancos extended their unbeaten streak across all competitions to 12 games in Catalan country (W8-D4-L0) and the capital club remain second only to their great rivals in the La Liga title race on goal difference. Madrid have largely excelled at the Bernebeu this season in league action (W6-D2-L0) and are also impressing on the underlying data metrics.
Zidane’s troops comfortably lead the way in both the Expected Goals (xG) and xG from open play ratio rankings, with no Spanish side coming close to their attacking output and only city rivals Atletico bettering Real’s ability to deny opposition outfits goalscoring opportunities.
Madrid now welcome an Athletic side that’s been beaten in 14 of their last 15 trips to the Bernebeu. The Basque boys have made enormous strides under the stewardship of Gaizka Garitano but Les Leones are untrustworthy on their travels, particularly in games as guests against La Liga’s leading lights.
Since the start of last season, Athletic have earned just three points from 12 trips to top-half teams (W0-D3-L9), firing blanks on six occasions. Under Garitano’s watch, the Bilbao club have won just five times on the road (W5-D6-L9) – three of which came against bottom-four opposition. The visitors have registered a solitary success away from San Mames this term.
Athletic’s issues centre around their inability to conjure of consistent goalscoring chances. The Basques are amongst La Liga’s worst for creating opportunities, and on average fire in fewer than six attempts per-game from inside the penalty area. Nevertheless, Garitano’s group make up for that deficit with an excellent defensive process.
Les Leones boast the joint second-best backline in Spain’s top-flight – shipping 12 times in 17 fixtures – with only Atletico and Real posting stronger rearguard performance data figures. It means matches involving Athletic are rarely thrill-a-minute affairs with Garitano’s charges happy to adopt a safety-first and patient approach.
Only four of Athletic’s 41 games under Garitano’s watch have produced at least four goals with only two creeping above the Over 4.5 Goals barrier. With that in mind, I’m happy to take Real Madrid here in a match featuring Under 4.5 Goals at a very fair 8/11 (Coral).
Real Madrid v Athletic Bilbao – Real Madrid to win and Under 4.5 Goals (8/11 Coral)