MARK O'HAIRE'S (@MarkOHaire) bagged a five successive European NAP winners. His latest arrives from Spain.
Athletic Bilbao v Real Madrid | Saturday 15:15
It’s been a peculiar past month for Real Madrid. The European champions head La Liga by two points with a game in-hand but their performances have been chalk and cheese.
Having lost at Valencia, Los Blancos recovered from two goals down to win in Villarreal before clawing back a 3-3 draw against Las Palmas after trailing 3-1 with 10 men at the Bernabeu.
Zinedine Zidane then fielded a much-changed XI for a tricky trip to Eibar and Madrid performed fantastically well in a 4-1 victory. The big-hitters then returned in Napoli and Real were second-best for the first hour.
And then we arrive at last Sunday night’s home encounter with Real Betis. The table-toppers fell behind for the fifth time in six outings – they’ve W4-D1-L1 of those games – and were fortunate to have Keylor Navas not sent off.
Off colour Madrid
The Costa Rican cat dropped a clanger to concede the opening goal but redeemed himself with a magnificent late save whilst Sergio Ramos was again called to rescue a positive result with Los Blancos looking well off colour.
The La Liga destiny is in their own hands but would I be trusting Madrid to deliver the goods at 8/11 when they travel to the Basque Country on Saturday afternoon? Based on the past month’s displays, absolutely not.
Sure, the European champions have beaten 10 of their past 14 top-half hosts that weren’t Barcelona and yes they’ve enjoyed a stupidly strong record against Athletic Bilbao – 22 wins from 25 head-to-heads – of late, including at San Mames – W4-D1-L1 last six meetings.
But Pepe and Raphael Varane are both struggling and Zidane’s defence has been at fault too many times of late. The visitors have recorded just 2 clean sheets in 15 fixtures, shipping eight goals in their past five outings.
Overwhelming goals stats
So instead, get stuck into the 10/11 available from Coral on Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score. Gareth Bale is back from suspension, Real have scored in each of their past 49 games whilst a huge 21/26 (81%) Madrid league matches have featured at least three goals with 19 producing BTTS winners.
This fixture has a history of goals – 12 of the last 14 renewals have broken the two-goal barrier – and Athletic have also featured prominently in the goals markets when welcoming la Liga opposition to their fortress home.
Les Leones have scored at least twice in all but four of their 13 San Mames matches against league visitors with 10 (71%) both sides scoring and nine (64%) delivering in the Over 2.5 Goals market.
Athletic arrive buoyed by a fifth successive triumph across all competitions in arguably their most significant match of the season, the Basque derby away at bitter rivals Real Sociedad.
Ernesto Valverde’s troops were 2-0 winners – their first victory outside of San Mames since September. Prior to their visit to Anoeta, Athletic had netted just seven times on the road, the lowest total in the top-flight.
The league’s fastest player, Inaki Williams, showed his pace for the concluding second strike and he should cause the Madrid defence plenty of problems from the right flank with veteran striker Aritz Aduriz leading the line.
In midfield, Mikel San Jose misses out due to suspension, which should see Ander Iturraspe feature in central midfield, but otherwise Valverde has a full compliment to select from. It should be a cracker.
Collectively, this selection has proven profitable in 17/26 (65%) of the two clubs’ respective home and away La Liga encounters. The 65% success rate implies betting odds of just 8/15 – the 10/11 available represents massive value.
Athletic Bilbao v Real Madrid – Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score (10/11 Coral)