THE Clasico might hog the headlines in Spain this weekend but Mark O’Haire’s (@MarkOHaire) picked out a few punts from the best of the rest La Liga action.
Athletic Bilbao v Almeria | Saturday 21.00
Few players are as pivotal to their team as Aritz Aduritz is to Athletic; think Charlie Austin at QPR. The veteran forward’s netted 11 of Bilbao’s 25 La Liga goals this season but quite incredibly, the Basque club are yet to score a league goal without AA on the field of play. So the hamstring injury suffered by Aduriz last weekend, is not good news for Athletic.
Lucky then, that the Lions have turned their season around after a treacherous first-half. If only the second round of games counted, Athletic would be third in the table with 17 points, thanks in large part to their recent run of four wins on the spin.
Ernesto Valverde's men have conceded just one goal in their last five and will fancy their chances of adding another three points to that tally when relegation-haunted Almeria head north. Athletic have won 11 of their last 14 fixtures against bottom-half dwellers at the San Mames with five of their last six victories coming with a clean sheet.
But Mikel San Jose's suspension and Adurtiz’s injury is enough reason to warn me away from getting involved with Athletic. After all, Almeria will be scrapping for their lives and recently recorded a hard-earned point on the road at Villarreal. They’re no mugs.
So the bet here is to take Under 2.5 Goals at 17/20 with BetVictor. As well as star striker AA’s contribution, the hosts have scored 14 of their 25 league gaols from set-piece situations, which suggests they find the going tough in open play.
Seven of the Lions’ last nine matches have featured fewer than three goals (one of the two exceptions came against a rampant Barcelona team), while eight of Athletic’s last 12 fixtures at the new San Mames have also failed to break the two-goal barrier for goal-hungry punters.
Juan Ignacio Martínez’s visitors have been bereft of an attacking threat lately, failing to find the back of the net in their last four outings as well as four of their previous five road trips. And a reasonable five of the 12 games that JIM’s overseen have resulted in fewer than two goals.
With all that information at hand, could you really contemplate backing a high-scoring game on Saturday night? I certainly couldn’t.
Real Sociedad v Cordoba | Sunday 18.00 ‘
And it’s all gone quiet over there, and it’s all gone quiet over there. And it’s all gone quiet, all gone quiet, all gone quiet over there’. Yes, the chant normally reserved for the terraces up and down the nation seems a little apt when it comes to the British media’s coverage of David Moyes’ new adventure.
Why no mention of Big Dave? Because there’s no story. Moyes guided his Real Sociedad to their first away win of the season on Monday night when leaving Getafe with a 1-0 victory. The result lifted the San Sebastian side into the top-half of the table for the first time under the Scot’s management and eight points clear of the relegation zone.
The Scot deserves high praise for the work he’s done, especially considering he’s been handicapped by the injury to talented forward Carlos Vela and was unable to strengthen his squad in the winter transfer window. But then, we’re unlikely to hear a peep on his progress unless he’s failing spectacularly in Spain.
Anyway, this weekend Moyes’ boys head back to Anoeta where their fierce home record should stand them in good stead against free-falling Cordoba. Since 2012-13 La Real have W28-D14-L10 of their 52 home La Liga fixtures and that 54% win ratio is strong enough to prompt a punt on the hosts at 5/6 (BetVictor) with a -0.75 start on the Asian Handicap line.
Taking this selection means we’ll win a full pay-out should Sociedad win by a margin of two goals or more but still bag half of that potential full pay-out if La Real win by a solitary goal. The hosts have won 16 of those 28 home victories by two goals or more and come up against a Cordoba side sitting rock bottom, on the back of eight successive defeats.
No Spanish top-flight side has ever lost eight successive fixtures and stayed up and the trigger-happy Los Califas board duly axed coach Miroslav Djukic following last weekend’s 2-0 defeat at Malaga. It’s the second sacking of the season at Cordoba following Albert Ferrer’s incredibly harsh dismissal; José Antonio Romero has stepped up to takeover on an interim basis.
The beleaguered visitors have been beaten in eight of their 13 road trips since returning to the Spanish top-flight at the start of the season. Six of those losses came by a margin of two goals or more and they make the journey without the likes of Fede Vico, Edimar, Nabil Ghilas and Deivid.
I have to put my faith in Moyes’ boys again. Should they win, we’ll make money and so with Cordoba without a catalogue of first-teamers and struggling to keep their heads above water, the -0.75 Asian Handicap selection looks the way forward.
Barcelona v Real Madrid | Sunday 20.00 | Sky Sports 1
I gave the Clasico the treatment it deserves with a full betting preview for Sunday’s star-studded showdown.
That link should take you straight there and there are three angles to consider investing in.