MARK O'HAIRE'S (@MarkOHaire) hunting a hat-trick of European NAP winners. His latest arrives from Spain.
Eibar v Malaga | Saturday 19:45 | Sky Sports
Jorge Sampaoli admitted Eibar were the better team in last Saturday’s 2-0 win for Sevilla at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, a result that ended the Basque minnows’ run of three successive victories.
But I’m backing Los Armeros to make an immediate return to the winners enclosure on Saturday evening when they entertain out-of-sorts Malaga at their wonderfully unique Ipurua stadium. And the hosts are great value 11/10 (BetVictor) shots to pick up maximum points.
Jose Mendilibar's men have cemented their place in the top-half of the La Liga table thanks to numerous outstanding and cavalier displays, especially excelling when welcoming sides outside of the league’s elite here.
Eibar have claimed four wins from their past six outings and their home record of W7-D2-L3 is reasonable. However, two of their defeats came when hosting Barcelona and Atletico Madrid with fellow Champions League outfit Sevilla only picking up a point at Ipurua.
In fact, top-half teams such as Real Sociedad, Villarreal and Celta Vigo have all departed pointless from their trip to the tiny Basque town and Los Armeros boast a wonderful W7-D1-L1 return when taking on clubs from outside of the current top-four here this term.
Include last season under Mendilibar's watch and Eibar have now W15-D6-L3 when hosting sides outside of the Champions League places.
The hosts have scored seven goals in their last two home outings – destroying Granada 4-0 and Deportivo 3-1 – and have scored the opening goal of the game in 16 of their past 20 when bottom-half teams arrive at Ipurua. Another early goal here should put the hosts on the trail of another success.
The hosts boast the league’s fourth best shots on-target ratio return (57.07%) whilst only Real Madrid, Barcelona and Sevilla have landed more on-target efforts on-goal per-game this season – remarkable trends for a side with such a tiny budget in Spain’s top-tier.
Eibar’s team news is also welcome ahead of Saturday night’s contest. Captain and midfield mystros Dani Garcia returns from suspension to replace the now banned Fran Rico and star striker has shaken off a muscle problem to lead the home’s attack.
Malaga missing key personnel
In contrast, visitors Malaga will be missing key defensive midfielder and playmaker Ignacio Camacho as well as central midfield partner Jose Rodriguez here. It means Pablo Fornals may need to drop back into a holding role, with out of favour Diego Llorente coming into the team in midfield.
Los Boquerones have claimed only four victories in 17 without Camacho pulling the strings since the start of last season – failing to even score in 11 – and although the side from the Costa del Sol picked up their first triumph in 10 when overcoming Las Palmas at La Rosaleda, it was far from convincing.
Malaga have W0-D6-L6 in 12 away trips this term, have failed to record a clean sheet in 11 fixtures and have yet to really function collectively under new head coach Marcelo Romero.
Considering the Andalusians have lost six of eight away days at top-half teams that weren’t Barcelona and Real Madrid, it’s easy to oppose Malaga again here.
Eibar v Malaga – Eibar to win (11/10 BetVictor)