MARK O'HAIRE'S (@MarkOHaire) ever-popular European NAP started 2017/18 with a winner. His second selection arrives from Spain on Sunday night.
Real Madrid v Valencia | Sunday 27th August 2017, 21:15 | Sky Sports
Never before has the La Liga title been a squad success quite like Real Madrid’s last season. Los Blancos utilised the bench superbly to juggle European and domestic duties and the way in which balance was maintained was remarkable.
For large swathes of the campaign, Zinedine Zidane’s side appeared a little unconvincing but there was no doubt that when the final furlong arrived, Madrid were Spain’s deserved champions and the Champions League’s most worthy winners.
So with bitter rivals Barcelona in turmoil – lacking inspiration and identity – the stage has been set for Real to secure back-to-back La Liga titles for the first time in 10 years. Right now, it’s very difficult to see how any side can stop the capital club’s charge.
Real opened their La Liga defence with a 3-0 triumph against Deportivo La Coruna in Galicia despite the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo. Sergio Ramos’ late red card and the 44-pass move that ended with Toni Kroos notching Madrid’s third will have caught the headlines.
However, it’s worth noting that Florin Andone fluffed two great opportunities in the opening 10 minutes and also missed a penalty. Sure, Zidane’s troops always seemed in control with Kroos and Modric running the game but once more, they failed to completely impress at the back.
Valencia are now under the stewardship of form Villarreal head coach Marcelinho. The Bats concluded another frustrating campaign in 12th following a reasonably positive 2017 and the fallen giants kicked-off 2017/18 with a deserved 1-0 success at home to Las Palmas.
Marcelinho’s men fired in 22 shots in the contest, albeit against 10 men for an hour, with Simone Zaza grabbing the only goal of the game. Now Valencia head to the Bernabeu, keen to make a positive impression despite the absence of injured pair Gabriel Paulista and Martin Montoya.
Goals on the agenda
Real Madrid and Valencia are often involved in exciting, end-to-end battles. The past nine meetings have seen Both Teams To Score bank with the most recent eight showdowns also delivering for Over 2.5 Goals backers.
Although Marcelinho is renowned for a more pragmatic approach, I still expect Valencia to enjoy enough opportunities to grab a goal here. The visitors have only failed to score twice in their last 16 La Liga encounters with Real or Barcelona and Ramos’ absence only enhances their chances.
The betting angle
Valencia have made life tough for Madrid at the Bernabeu in recent seasons – the Bats have picked up a point in four of their past five trips to the capital but Los Blancos are worthy favourites here and it’s hard to oppose the hosts.
The visitors lost 11 of their 13 away days at sides outside of the bottom-six last term, whilst Real claimed 14 triumphs in 19 on home soil. However, Zidane’s men shutout only five sides and Valencia did manage to get on the scoresheet in 14 of their 19 away trips last term.
What’s more, Both Teams To Score has paid out in 40/59 (68%) of Real Madrid’s La Liga outings under Zidane, including 18/29 (62%) at the Bernebeu. So with that in mind, I’m happy to take the 23/20 (Betway) available on a home victory alongside BTTS for Sunday night’s showdown.
Real Madrid v Valencia – Real Madrid to win and Both Teams To Score (23/20 Betway)