MARK O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) talks us through the best selections from Spain’s top tier this weekend.
Barcelona v Rayo Vallecano | Saturday 19.30 | Sky Sports 2
No need to go over old ground, here. I’ve made no secret of my obsessional love for Rayo Vallecano previously. The penniless club from the working-class Vallecas district of Madrid are always engulfed in warm-hearted tales and their continuation to punch above their weight is incredible admirable.
They’re a unique team, especially under the guidance of the underrated (and frankly cool dude) Paco Jemez. He’s kept Los Franjirrojos in the top tier with a brand of easy-on-the-eye, possession-based football with a real attacking intent. Rayo fear no one and look to implement their ideology in each fixture, often to great success.
Rather than play for a draw in tight encounters, Los Franjirrojos prefer to go all-out for three points. In the past two seasons, tiny Rayo have recorded just eight stalemates and also held the dubious honour of leaking nearly 150 goals. But their rigid approach has worked and they’ve stayed in La Liga comfortably in both campaigns.
However, this philosophy has often has its pitfalls. Refusing to buckle or amend their ways when taking on La Liga’s big-hitters, Rayo’s attempts to go toe-to-toe with Barcelona and Real Madrid often ends in suicidal results. The group of free transfers and loans get blown away and often embarrassed.
Last season, Rayo were slaughtered 6-1 at the Camp Nou and their past nine matches with Barca have resulted in nine defeats by an aggregate score of 2-40. The minnows have leaked at least three goals in all bar one of those contests and been trailing at the interval in each defeat.
Since being handed the reigns at Vallecas, Jemez has overseen 12 league fixtures with La Liga’s big-two and on all bar one occasion the L-L double result has banked. The aggregate score of those 12 defeats has been 5-45 with 11/12 losses by at least a two-goal margin and exactly half by three goals or more.
Looking at Rayo’s six away days at the Catalan giants and their Madrid neighbours, the minnows have lost 3-27 with their most recent four trips on the road resulting in defeats by at least four goals. It’s bleak.
Another trip to the Camp Nou is a daunting prospect, even without Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and potentially Luis Suarez. The hosts might be thin on the ground but it’s almost unthinkable to see them failing to collect maximum points.
In 20 league matches against bottom-half clubs under Luis Enrique’s stewardship, Barcelona have W17-D2-L1 and that record reads W9-D1-L0 when taking only Camp Nou results into account. Eight of those victories came by three goals or more with the hosts running out 42-3 aggregate winners.
I’m fully expecting Barcelona to do the business but we’ll throw a Rayo goal in too to add Both Teams To Score. The hosts have kept just two clean sheets in 12 games this term and in La Liga they’ve already leaked nine goals in seven outings – the most at this stage since 2005/06.
The Catalans have failed to shutout any of their last seven opponents and managed just one in six at the Camp Nou. Rayo scored here last season and have done so in four of their last five. A Barca win and BTTS can be backed at 13/10 with Boylesports.
Real Sociedad v Atletico Madrid | Sunday 15.00 | Sky Sports 3
I’m not going to give up supporting David Moyes at Real Sociedad just yet but things must improve fast if he’s to avoid a second sacking in the space of two years. He’s all the tools at his disposal to return La Real into a top-half team but results seem to be transpiring against the Scot.
Before the international break, Sociedad were beaten 3-1 by Malaga – the same Malaga that had failed to score in their first six games. Strangely, La Real actually produced one of their better performances of the season but once again, sloppy defensive errors and wayward finishing left them pointless.
The San Sebastian club have just six points on the table and in his 34 matches in charge, Sunday’s hosts have W10-D13-L11 – that’s an average of 1.26 points-per-game – not good enough. Moyes’ boys have W7-D6-L3 at Anoeta but in 2015/16 that return reads W0-D2-L2. Again, not good enough.
Not since 2006 and the season La Real were relegated have they gone five without a win at their Basque home base and with Atletico Madrid arriving this weekend, I expect the record to be equalled. Atleti have W4-D1-L0 at Anoeta in recent years with Diego Simeone succeeding on three occasions at Anoeta.
In fact, the Mattress Makers have W7-D1-L2 in their last 10 with Sociedad and make the journey with only Luciano Vietto absent. The return of Koke to full fitness is a huge boost and although the visitors have to pick up maximum points against Villarreal, Benfica and Real Madrid in recent weeks, they have come out on top in 14 of their previous 20 at bottom-half dwellers.
Understandably some are pointing out flaws in Simeone’s side but as he put it himself, “We have new players and it is not easy to come here and get used to our systems. Thirteen points in seven weeks is not too bad. We have played Sevilla, Barcelona, Madrid, Villarreal, Eibar away”.
I’m happy to put my faith in the travellers getting the job done this weekend and intensifying the pressure on David Moyes. Atletico are surprisingly odds-against at 11/10 with Coral to collect a win and it might also be worth having a wee poke on Boylesports' 13/5 on an Atleti win and Under 2.5 Goals.
Since Moyes arrived in Spain, Sociedad have recorded Under 2.5 Goals in 21/34 (62%) of La Liga games and in 9/16 (56%) at home. The visitors also average well over 50% in the same market since the start of last season.
Deportivo La Coruna v Athletic Bilbao | Sunday 19.30 | Sky Sports 1
New-look Deportivo could be worth siding with in the Draw No Bet market at 15/16 (Marathon) when Athletic Bilbao head west on Sunday night.
Depor coach Victor Sanchez took charge at the back end of last season and has made a significant effort to make La Coruna a more forward-friendly side. The more offensively-minded team have reaped the benefits and have now suffered just one defeat in 11, taking seven points from their previous nine.
The hosts have notched 11 goals in their last five and their one defeat from their first seven league outings represents their best start in 12 years. Even more impressively, Depor have conceded fewer shots than any other team in this La Liga season.
Victor Sanchez’s men also boast a tremendous W7-D5-L1 La Liga record against their Sunday night Basque visitors Athletic Bilbao with a W5-D1-L0 return at the Riazor during that time.
Athletic have lost 10/22 (45%) away league fixtures since the start of last season, failing to score on 12 occasions and should the shot-shy Lions fail to fire, you’d expect a hungry Deportivo side to clinch maximum points at a solid price.
Barcelona v Rayo Vallecano – Barcelona to win and Both Teams To Score (13/10 Boylesports)
Real Sociedad v Atletico Madrid – Atletico Madrid to win (11/10 Coral)
Deportivo La Coruna v Athletic Bilbao – Deportivo La Coruna draw no bet (15/16 Marathon)
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