A solid start to the new La Liga campaign for Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) with two winners from three. Here’s what he’s backing on week two.
Eibar v Athletic Bilbao | Sunday 17.30 | Sky Sports 3
For any loons out there who find a league table interesting after one game, Eibar are currently top of the tree. It’s the first time in their history they’ve set the pace in La Liga so we might as well give the minnows their spot in the limelight because that’ll change this weekend.
Eibar’s new-look side dispatched Granada 3-1 on the road in the biggest shock of round one but it’s hard to see Los Armeros faring as well when Basque rivals Athletic rock up at Ipurua on Sunday evening. The visitors are the bet here at 23/20 with William Hill.
Going back to that short-term thinking, I’m totally convinced that if Eibar hadn’t have beaten Granada, there’d be no chance in Les Leones being available to back at odds-against quotes. Ernesto Valverde’s troops took four points off the hosts last season without conceding a goal and are already seven games into their season thanks to Spanish Super Cup and Europa League commitments.
Athletic may be suffering from a few injuries but I still expect them to be the sharper on Sunday despite their Thursday night European commitments. Last season Eibar kept only three clean sheets at home, lost 11 of their 19 fixtures in front of their home supporters, W1-D1-L8 when welcoming top-half teams and suffered L-L double results in five of their seven home meetings with top-half clubs that weren’t Barcelona or Real Madrid. Gulp.
Valencia v Deportivo | Sunday 19.30 | Sky Sports Xtra
La Liga made history this week with five clubs securing their place in the Champions League group phase. Valencia joined treble winners Barcelona, Europa League champions Sevilla plus Real and Atletico Madrid having overcome a spirited Monaco fight-back on Tuesday night.
Los Che showed their class from the first whistle, racing into an early second leg lead thanks to Alvaro Negredo’s sumptuous chipped finish and Nuno Espirito Santo’s men could have easily ran away with the tie thanks to their 4-1 lead. The French side did battle back into contention but in the end Valencia proved too strong and deservedly held out despite losing 2-1 on the night.
Returning back to fortress Mestalla, Los Che will now bid to turn their attentions to the league and a first three points of the new season. Last weekend Nuno’s troops played out a goalless draw at Rayo Vallecano but did have chances to seize a win with Negredo and Tono most guilty of missed opportunities.
Jose Gaya, captain Dani Parejo and Sofiane Feghouli all return from domestic bans and since Nuno took charge at the Mestalla, Valencia have W15-D3-L1 of home outings in La Liga, leading at the interval on 10 occasions. But perhaps even more impressive is the fact Los Che have finished 12/19 (63%) of games with a victory by at least a two-goal margin.
The hosts are 3/4 with BetVictor off a -1 Asian Handicap start on Sunday when Deportivo travel from west coast to east and it’s a selection I’m keen to explore. Should Valencia only win by one goal, we’ll get our cash back. But should they run out victorious by a two-goal margin or better, we’ll be in profit. Valencia have won each of their last eight when hosting bottom-half clubs, six of which beat the -1 handicap to net profit.
Depor began their campaign with a dour 0-0 at home to Real Sociedad and although the club have invested in a number of decent additions in the summer, they’ll need time to gel and settle. La Coruna W0-D1-L5 of their six visits to top-six clubs following promotion with each defeat arriving by two goals or more so a repeat at the Mestalla may well be on the cards.
Real Sociedad v Sporting Gijon | Saturday 17.30 | Sky Sports 3
I’ve spoken many a time in various other columns regarding football’s obsession with short-term results. I despise the investigations and subsequent conclusions that are drawn and this week has proven no different – Manchester City are suddenly the best side in Europe, Juventus won’t win Serie A and Real Madrid just won’t cut the mustard with Rafa Benitez in charge.
Real were held to a 0-0 away to Sporting Gijon in their opener and whilst I would never dream of taking anything away from newly-promoted Gijon, Abelardo Fernandez's were reasonably fortunate to take a point. Madrid attempted more shorts than any other side in La Liga on week one with Sporting failing to even register an effort on target.
That’s not a criticism at all. I’m purely pointing out, nine times out of 10, Real would have won that match. But Gijon move on to San Sebastian in the hope of picking up another point or three and I’m not overly confident regarding their prospects on Saturday night. Last season in the Segunda, the visitors W7-D13-L1 and conceding just 13 goals.
That’s an excellent effort, only to lose once on the road all season and leak so few goals. But at the same time, seven wins from 21 for a promotion side on their travels? Not actually that impressive, eh?
And Real Sociedad are a mighty tough side on their home soil. Looking back over my records, I can see that when hosting league games at Anoeta, La Real have won 53% of matches across the past three seasons. Take a sample of the past two campaigns and the rate stays exactly the same – 53%. So what about results under David Moyes’ watch? The Scot has managed W7-D4-L2 – the win rate? 54%. They’ve also kept clean sheets in six of those 13 outings.
Sociedad have managed six wins in nine when entertaining promoted clubs and this week announced the signing of Asier Illarramendi to add thrust and class to the midfield. With Jonathas already in the ranks following his summer signing, Carlos Vela fit to pull the strings in attack and Mikel Gonzalez back from suspension, I like Moyes’ boys to bag a first win of 2015/16.
We can back La Real at 10/11 with William Hill, which looks more than fair considering the hosts’ excellent home record. And lets not forget, although they held Real Madrid last week, Gijon were a second tier club just a matter of months ago.
Eibar v Athletic Bilbao – Athletic Bilbao to win (23/20 William Hill)
Valencia v Deportivo – Valencia -1 Asian Handicap (3/4 BetVictor)
Real Sociedad v Sporting Gijon – Real Sociedad to win (10/11 William Hill)
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