EUROPEAN football fanatic Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) heads to Spain on Sunday for his latest best bet on the continent.
Alaves v Athletic Bilbao | Sunday 23rd February 2020, 13:00 | La Liga TV
Alaves entertain Athletic Bilbao in Sunday’s Basque derby date in front of a sold-out Mendizorrotza and there’s reason to believe the hosts are underrated for the expected feisty fixture. El Glorioso have taken W5-D4-L3 from 12 home La Liga outings this term with all three losses arriving against top-six sides in Spain.
Asier Garitano’s group have proven stubborn opposition in home turf with all three losses arriving by the narrowest of margins and Alaves’ W5-D3-L0 efforts against bottom-half dwellers suggests they can at least match an out-of-form Athletic outfit that’s failed to take top honours in each of their last nine (W0-D5-L4) league encounters in 2019/20.
Les Leones have registered a solitary success on their travels (W1-D7-L4) and racked up a paltry average of 0.75 goals per-game on the road. Gaizka Garitano’s men are generating the fewest open play opportunities in the division according to Expected Goals (xG), and also sit inside the bottom-three for shots and on-target attempts in games as guests.
The visitors might be on the cusp of qualifying for the Copa del Rey final but the Bilbao boys remain desperately uninspiring outside of Bilboa. Athletic have generated less than 0.50 xG from open play in all bar two away days, failing to even score in 11/24 (46%) of road trips since Gaizka Garitano took charge, tabling a miserly tally of five triumphs in the process.
Alaves are functional rather than flashy, and won’t win prizes for aesthetics, however the hosts are tricky customers at their Basque base, giving away just 0.75 goals per-game here under Asier Garitano’s watch. El Glorioso have also allowed opponents just 0.50 xG from open play when excluding the visits of the Madrid pair, highlighting their robust attitude.
So I’m happy to oppose Athletic as favourites for Sunday’s showdown in a low-scoring duel. The duo have combined to see just one of their collective 24 home/away matches feature at least four goals – 17/24 (71%) producing Under 2.5 Goals – and therefore I’ll add in Under 3.5 Goals into the equation to bolster the odds on offer alongside Alaves Double Chance.
Finally, it’s difficult to dismiss the fact that Antonio Mateu Lahoz has the whistle for this derby match-up. The stringent official averages 5.92 cards this season in Spain and 64.61 Bookings Points. Considering Alaves have collected at least two cards in all bar two tussles under Asier Garitano, I’ll add that selection in for a tidy even-money (William Hill) shot.
Alaves v Athletic Bilbao – Alaves Double Chance, Under 3.5 Goals and Alaves to collect Over 1.5 Cards (1/1 William Hill)