MARK O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) delivered more profit from last weekend’s La Liga tips. His latest thoughts from Spain are below.
Eibar v Barcelona | Saturday 17.00 | Sky Sports 5
The gift that keeps on giving – the La Liga title race! Real Madrid’s loss at Athletic Bilbao has seen Los Blancos surrender their lead at the top of the standings for the first time in months, allowing bitter rivals Barcelona to take control. With a Clasico on the horizon, the timing couldn’t be any worse for the capital club.
So whilst Real are in the midst of a crisis, the Catalans have been through the mixer and come out the other side. Luis Enrique’s side have been a team reborn since their January defeat at Real Sociedad and their 6-1 demolition of Rayo Vallecano last weekend was just another example of the firepower at the coach’s disposal.
Luis Suarez has settled into the central striking position while Lionel Messi netted another hat-trick without really having to lift a finger. Barca notched six without Neymar present and they’ll be keen to send out another statement of intent to Spanish and continental rivals when they head to Eibar.
The hosts became the first side to lose seven successive league matches this season when being turned over by Levante last time out and the La Liga debutants appear to be spiralling towards relegation. With just a three-point cushion above the relegation zone, Gaizka Garitano’s men could have done without a visit from the Catalan giants.
Barcelona can be backed at evens with a -2.25 start on the Asian Handicap at Bet365 and that’s the play to take. Eibar’s results against top-five teams read W0-D0-L5 and the minnows have only scored twice in those five, conceding a whopping 13. Those figures could look significantly worse after Barca’s visit.
Taking this selection means we’ll have a full pay-out on our hands should Luis Enrique’s side win by three goals or more but only lose half of our stake should they only manage a win by exactly two goals.
So far this season, the table-toppers have won all five games against teams below 13th, rattling in 20 goals in the process. And the visitors have come out on top in eight of their last nine in La Liga, scoring at least three goals in each victory. And on the road, it’s 18 goals in four wins from four…
Rayo Vallecano v Granada | Saturday 19.00
Rayo weren’t surprised by their hammering at the Camp Nou (they’re used to it) but back on home soil, Paco Jemez’s team will fancy their chances of taking maximum points in a big relegation showdown against Granada.
The Vallecas club have secured consecutive home league wins for the first time this season (against Villarreal and Levante) to continue to defy pre-season suggestions they’ll be heading to the Segunda. Los Franjirrojos will again look to top-scoring Spanish striker Alberto Bueno for inspiration and although Granada roll into town on the back of a horrid run of away results, I prefer a punt on goals.
Abel Resino’s travellers picked up three precious points last time out, defeating Malaga 1-0 on home soil. But it was only their second three-point haul in 22 La Liga matches and with six defeats from seven on the road, they must improve. Adrian Colunga should return to lead the line of the visitors but having leaked at least twice in their last seven away from home, keeping the goals out might be an issue.
But I’m looking at the 11/10 from 888 Sport that this match features Over 2.5 Goals and that’s occurred in 11 of Granada’s last 21 away, including seven of their last 12 trips to bottom-half teams. Indeed, struggling Granada can boast only seven shutouts on the road since the start of last season and despite their lowly position, have only failed to score in four of their last 14 outings.
As for the hosts, Rayo have recorded 20/31 Over 2.5 Goals winners at Vallecas since the start of last season. In the 50 home games that Paco Jemez has taken charge of, Rayo have only kept 14 clean sheets but managed to score in 35 matches themselves, while Los Franjirrojos have also seen 12 of their last 15 when hosting bottom-six teams feature three goals or more too.
Sevilla v Elche | Sunday 18.00 | Sky Sports 5
Big kudos to Sevilla. On Thursday night they toppled Villarreal at El Madrigal and will now have a 3-1 aggregate lead in their Last 16 Europa League tie when the two teams meet next week. What made the performance and result all the more impressive was, coach Unai Emery decided to rotate his squad while the Yellow Submarine fielded their strongest possible XI.
With a Champions League place still up for grabs, Emery should bring the likes of top goalscorer Carlos Bacca, Fernando Navarro, Coke and Ever Banega back into the fold for the weekend visit of lowly Elche. And I can’t see anything but a routine home victory for the hosts.
Los Rojiblancos have now gone over a year unbeaten at their Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán home and that includes an excellent W15-D6-L0 return in La Liga fixtures. The hosts have kept clean sheets in five of their last six on home soil and have also beaten nine of the last 11 visitors from below them in the table.
Fast starts have been a constant under Emery’s tutelage too. On Thursday Vitolo netted the fastest goal in Europa League history while Sevilla have also led at half-time in 22/28 home victories (including seven of their nine in 2014/15) since the former Valencia boss arrived in Andalusia. With those trends in our favour, I’ll take a punt on Sevilla-Sevilla in the HT/FT market thanks to the generous 21/20 on offer from BetVictor.
Elche make the journey with a W5-D4-L4 record when taking on the bottom-half. But results against the top-seven in Spain aren’t quite as fruitful. Even the majority of their encounters coming on home soil, Fran Escriba’s travellers have W0-D1-L8, leaking at least twice in every game and losing by at least two goals in seven of those eight defeats.
Last season the club worked wonders to survive relegation thanks to a late rally and with just one loss in four on the road before making the journey to Seville, Elche are again finding their feet for the business end to the season. But as their results suggest, matches against their relegation rivals will be where their destiny is decided.
Since reaching the top tier, Los Franjiverdes have been behind at the interval in 12 of their 17 defeats and must do without key midfielder Adrian for this test. Having not netted more than once in a game during their past eight, it could be a hard day at the office on Sunday. But back Sevilla to put an early nail in that coffin.
Eibar v Barcelona – Barcelona -2.25 Asian Handicap (1/1 Bet365)
Rayo Vallecano v Granada – Over 2.5 Goals (11/10 888 Sport)
Sevilla v Elche – Sevilla-Sevilla double result (21/20 Bet365)
Who are you backing in La Liga this weekend? Do you agree with Mark’s three selections?
We’d love to hear your thoughts so let us know in the comments box below.