EUROPEAN football fanatic Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) heads to Spain on Sunday for his latest best bet on the continent.
Athletic Bilbao v Celta Vigo | Sunday 19th January 2020, 17:30 | La Liga TV
Athletic Bilbao begin Matchday 20 of La Liga just six points off the top-four in Spain with the famous Basque club building their successful campaign upon their form at fortress San Mames. Les Leones have earned 69% of their 29-point tally on home soil (W6-D3-L1) and Gaizka Garitano’s group are worthy of our support once more when Celta arrive on Sunday.
The 44-year-old local inspired a marvellous turnaround in performances and results to push Athletic into a comfortable top-half position last term and the eight-time champions have continued their upward trajectory in 2019/20. Consolidating their place in the upper echelons of the top-flight, Les Leones have suffered only four defeats in 19 this season.
Les Leones haven’t been exempt from criticism, mind. The Basques have often struggled to inspire in the final-third, and reliant on their well-drilled defence to provide the foundation, particularly as hosts. Garitano’s outfit have delivered a remarkable 12 (57%) clean sheets in 21 games at San Mames, taking top honours on 14 (67%) occasions in that sequence.
Across all venues, only Real Madrid and Atletico are limiting opposition opportunities as well as Athletic according to Expected Goals (xG) this term. The home side are also amongst the leading pack for shots in the box conceded, whilst at San Mames they’ve restricted visitors to an average of 0.63 xG with 6/9 (67%) clubs generated less than 0.50 xG here.
Such a strong foundation should put the Bilbao outfit on the right track to profit on Sunday evening. Visitors Celta have triumphed just three times in 2019/20 and the Galicians have already been beaten in six of their nine away days, shipping two goals or more on six occasions and only twice producing an xG output of 1.00 or higher this season.
Celta have lacked an identity or system over the past 18 months and are once again being let down by a porous backline, rudderless midfield and a forwardline that’s unsustainably dependent on Iago Aspas to score goals. To compound the club’s woes, key midfielder Stanislav Lobotka departed for Napoli this midweek, reducing options.
Oscar Garcia was appointed in early November and has at least overseen minor improvements in performance levels, although the Galicians remain an unconvincing case on their travels, leaking three goals recent defeats at both Levante and Leganes. Meanwhile, Celta have returned pointless from 17/29 (61%) road trips since the start of last season.
I’m happy to support a home success at 21/20 with Matchbook.
Athletic Bilbao v Celta Vigo – Athletic Bilbao to win (21/20 Matchbook)