MARK O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) delivered more La Liga profit on Tuesday night with a 100% strike-rate from his two recommended bets. Can the good form continue on Wednesday night?
Barcelona v Almeria | Tuesday 19.00 | Sky Sports 5
On Sunday Real Madrid destroyed Granada. On Wednesday Barcelona should hand Almeria a pummelling. After a hard-fought 1-0 victory at Celta, where the Galicians’ hard-pressing approach disrupted the Catalans’ rhythm, FCB will look to pick up a comfortable three points to keep their four-point advantage at the top of the table intact. It’s almost a foregone conclusion; Barca will win.
For me, it’s a question of how big the winning margin will be. The table toppers have secured wins in 12/14 home matches under Luis Enrique and won all five previous league games when entertaining Almeria at the Camp Nou. The aggregate score of those five fixtures was 15-2 in Barca’s favour.
When hosting teams in 12th and below this term, the Blaugrana have won 6/6 with an aggregate score of 27-1. They’ve netted five times or more in 6/14 La Liga matches at the Camp Nou and come out on top in 19 of their last 20 fixtures in all competitions. See? A foregone conclusion.
Barcelona’s task has been made even easier by the unfortunate circumstances that Almeria find themselves in. Following a pathetic performance when losing 4-1 at home to Levante, manager Juan Ignacio Martinez was sacked. It’s seven without a win for the Andalusians who sit third bottom and have the second worst attack in the division, netting just 24 goals.
It’s a three coach season for Los Rojiblancos who’ve handed former Barca defender Sergi Barjuan the reigns. And his task has been made even harder with five defenders set to miss the journey to the Costa Brava. Fran Velez joins Michel Macedo as an injury absentee, with suspensions for Verza, Maruo Dos Santos and Sebastian Dubarbier.
The one fixture that Verza has missed this season saw Almeria concede five times at Eibar and Dos Santos has played a part in 19 of their 29 games this term. The visitors have already conceded 13 goals in their previous six away trips and lost all three journeys to top-six teams and so it won’t be a surprise when we see Barcelona giving Sergi a right royal spanking in his first game.
Rayo Vallecano v Real Madrid | Wednesday 21.00 | Sky Sports 5
I love Rayo Vallecano. There, it’s out there. Growing up as a big Barcelona fan, I’ve become seduced by the charms of Rayo over the past four seasons to ditch my Barca obsession to curtsy in front of the tiny capital club in honour of their achievements, their kit, their coach, their stadium and their supporters.
I was lucky enough to catch a Madrid triple-header earlier this season and a visit to Getafe on Friday and the Bernabéu on a Sunday evening just didn’t compare to an early evening Saturday kick-off down the rickety Vallecas stadium in the working class district, south-east of the capital. If you get the chance, get to a game; it’s a fabulous club with wonderful appeal, not to mention a bouncing atmosphere.
Well on Wednesday night, it’s like Christmas morning for Rayo fans. A visit from their giant city neighbours is the highlight of the season and by the time you read this piece, the Vallecas district will be rocking. Real Madrid are in town and it’s Rayo’s time to shine. Well, at least they’ll try…
Head coach Paco Jemez has a brilliant attitude to football. Forget playing for draws, he wants to win matches. The hosts have W12-D2-L15 this term and it’s that ‘go for it’ philosophy that’s seen Los Franjirrojos defy all expectation yet again to climb into the top-half of the La Liga table.
Compare their approach to say, Granada. Abel Resino’s team sit in 19th having W4-D11-L14, scoring only 19 goals. Surely someone at the club will have pointed out the exploits of Rayo. Had they shown the slightest bit of adventure in some of their league outings, perhaps they wouldn’t be embroiled in a relegation battle.
Anyway, getting back to the game… Jemez’s gem of a team have secured three consecutive wins and turned Vallecas into a bit of a fortress since mid-February, bagging 12 points from their last four in front of their wonderfully passionate supporters.
Alberto Bueno’s been the man to hit the headlines. The former Real Madrid youth teamer’s scored eight goals in his last five appearances and has now been involved in 11 of the 15 goals Los Franjirrojos have netted in the second round of La Liga matches (scoring 10). A Spanish national call-up has even been mooted!
So how will they fare against the might of Los Blancos? Probably pretty poorly. The Jemez approach doesn’t lend itself too well to playing the big guns and in five previous games under his watch as hosts to Spain’s Big Two, Rayo have lost all five by an aggregate score of 2-16. Yeah, it ain’t pretty.
Madrid arrive on the back of their biggest win since 1967 having slaughtered Granada 9-1 on Sunday but a bit of perspective, please. Whilst everyone points and laughs at La Liga, Granada did start with only three first-team regulars and gave up after half an hour. Sure, it’s a poor reflection on Spain’s top-flight but there are a few mitigating circumstances behind the result (goal difference not counting in La Liga, for example) and it’s not like those scorelines don’t ever occur elsewhere or (don’t say it), England!
Cristiano Ronaldo’s five-goal haul got the ‘resurrection' headlines in Spain but it’s James Rodriguez and Luka Modric’s return from injuries that have given Real a huge boost going into the final furlong of the season. And whilst Gareth Bale might be missing with an injury, Isco is back from suspension, meaning the visitors will hardly be weakened.
It’s worth noting that Los Blancos have won just one of their previous five outings in all competitions and lost their last two on the road. They will win but I’d like to think Rayo can make life difficult and pinch a goal; it’s just three clean sheets in 11 league outings for Carlo Ancelotti’s side.
The visitors have W14-D2-L1 in 17 road trips to bottom-half teams since the Italian took over with nine of those matches featuring four goals or more. Rayo might be sitting pretty in ninth but in truth, they’re punching above their weight right and so I’ll take a punt on the 20/23 from BoyleSports that Real Madrid win with Over 3.5 Goals in the game. It should be fun.
Barcelona v Almeria – Barcelona -3.5 Asian Handicap (7/8 888 Sport)
Rayo Vallecano v Real Madrid – Real Madrid to win and Over 3.5 Goals (20/23 BoyleSports)
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