MARK O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) has trawled the La Liga coupon in search of the best three bets from the Spanish top-flight.
Barcelona v Valencia | Saturday 15.00
We predicted Barcelona’s trip to Sevilla could have big knock-on effects on the La Liga title race and the 2-2 draw allowed Real Madrid to close the gap on the Catalans to just two points. Table-topping Barca must now face another stern examination as a buoyant Valencia travel up the east coast of Spain for a visit to the Camp Nou.
Last season Los Che ended Barca’s 31-game unbeaten streak at home with their first and only success against the Blaugrana in 15 league attempts and Nuno Espirito Santo’s visitors boast the craft and discipline to potentially strike another hammer blow to the Catalans’ La Liga hopes.
Only once in their history have the Bats recorded as many points as their current tally of 66 after 31 league fixtures and that year Valencia were crowned champions (2003/04). Without a defeat in five on the road (W3-D2), Los Che haven’t avoided defeat in six away games since March 2011 and make the journey without reliable defender Nicolas Otamendi.
That certainly weakens Nuno’s squad but the Portuguese mastermind has had time to prepare for this duel, unlike their hosts who were involved in Champions League duty on Wednesday night. Luis Enrique’s league leaders made it 21 wins in 23 but they’re unlikely to run riot on Saturday afternoon.
Sure, the Catalan giants have won 13 of their 15 La Liga home matches, including 11 of those by more than one goal. But when welcoming top-half teams, Barca have failed to cover a two-goal handicap in 10/15 matches excluding Real Madrid since the start of last season.
Valencia are unbeaten in 10, have suffered just one reverse in 18 league fixtures and kept a clean sheet in five of their last seven. As well as last season’s Camp Nou win, Los Che were the better team for long spells before Sergio Busquets scrambled a late winner at Mestalla in this season’s first meeting last November.
Should Valencia lose by a one-goal margin, draw or win we’ll have ourselves a winning selection. If Nuno’s men lose by exactly two goals, we’ll get our cash back and we’ll only end up empty-handed if Barca run out winners by three goals or more. Seems a fair offer, right?
Real Madrid v Malaga | Saturday 19.00 | Sky Sports 5
Real Madrid produced one of their best performances of the season in their midweek 0-0 draw at neighbours Atletico in the Champions League. Carlo Ancelotti’s side showed they’re starting to return to their best with a dominant display, not matched on the final score.
It will give Los Blancos further encouragement as they continue their charge towards La Liga and European glory this season. Barcelona’s dropped points against Sevilla last weekend has kept the title race alive with Madrid media labelling it ‘Operation 30’ with Real needing to win all of their next 10 games for a successful season.
The visit of Malaga on Saturday should see Los Blancos pick up a fourth consecutive league victory but it’s the -2 Asian Handicap market at 8/11 with 888 Sport that looks the best route for profit.
Taking this selection, we’ll make money should Real win by three clear goals but get our stake returned if Ancelotti’s charges only win by two.
Since the Italian took charge at the Bernabéu, Los Blancos have bagged 29/34 wins in La Liga matches on home soil. 27/34 (79%) have been secured by at least a two goals margin with 18/34 (53%) ending in a home win by three goals or more.
Malaga produced a huge shock when winning 1-0 at Barcelona earlier this season but convincing defeats at Atletico, Valencia and Sevilla suggests Javi Gracia’s men are unlikely to repeat that success. Recent form of W4-D2-L5 has seen Los Boquerones lose ground on Villarreal in sixth and a comfortable end of the season is in sight.
The visitors from the Costa del Sol have lost their last three on the road without troubling the scoresheet and although Boquerones coach Gracia normally puts together detailed tactical plans, the continued absence of defensive shield Ignacio Camacho could prove pivotal in their attempts to stem the Los Blancos tide.
Malaga arrive in the Spanish capital having suffered defeats in nine of their last 11 trips to the Big-Two and seven of their most recent nine encounters with either Real or Barca have ended in defeats by two goals or more.
With little left to play for, I’m happy to side with Madrid in the Asian Handicap market, getting my stake back should they only come out on top by two goals.
Eibar v Celta Vigo | Sunday 20.00
Eibar were on the end of a routine 3-0 defeat at Real Madrid last weekend but their hugely important 1-0 success at home to Malaga in their last outing at their Ipurua has given them much-needed breathing space.
The minnows from the Basque region sit three points above the La Liga relegation zone in their debut season but looked to be sinking without a trace following a run of nine defeats in 10 with only three goals to their name across those fixtures.
Gaizka Garitano’s men can’t be faulted in the commitment stakes but their quality (or lack of) is beginning to show and Los Armeros are likely to need at least one more victory to have a chance in staying up. Sadly, despite the best will in the world, I just can’t find the strength not to oppose Eibar on Sunday.
Celta Vigo are the visitors and with just one defeat in their last five (W2-D2-L1) on the road, Eduardo Berizzo’s men are no mugs on their travels. And take out a catastrophic nine-game run where Celta failed to score on seven occasions and the Sky Blues have W10-D8-L4.
Last weekend Berizzo’s charges weathered an early storm from Rayo Vallecano to hit back and cut loose, eventually running out 6-1 winners. Nineteen-year-old Santi Mina grabbed four goals, becoming the youngest player to ever do so in the Spanish top-flight and it was further evidence to suggest this Celta team aren’t yet done for this season.
The visitors can be backed at 5/4 to succeed on Sunday and at those odds, I’m happy to give the Sky Blues the chance to record back-to-back league wins for the fourth time this season. Away win.
Barcelona v Valencia – Valencia +2 Asian Handicap (9/10 BetVictor)
Real Madrid v Malaga – Real Madrid -2 Asian Handicap (8/11 888 Sport)
Eibar v Celta Vigo – Celta Vigo to win (5/4 Coral)
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