LA LIGA fanatic Mark O’Haire’s (@MarkOHaire) lined up three selections from Spain this Sunday.
Athletic Bilbao v Espanyol | Sunday 11.00 | Sky Sports Interactive
Athletic dismantled Partizan Belgrade in the Europa League to continue their fine run of form. Across the last five La Liga games, only Barcelona have won accumulated more points than the Basques and after a slow start, Ernesto Valverde's outfit are hitting their stride.
It’s four wins from five in all competitions, a reasonably healthy squad and at least two goals scored in each of their last four league outings. There’s plenty to like about Athletic right now and on Sunday morning I expect Les Leones to justify 5/4 quotes from Boylesports on a win and Over 2.5 Goals as Espanyol visit.
The Parakeets welcome back Victor Sanchez from a ban but Rober is suspended on Sunday with Gerard Moreno their only injury absentee. Sergio Gonzalez’s side tend to toil away from their Barcelona base and have won just once in five (W1-D3-L1) now and were held to a draw by rock bottom Granada last time out.
The visitors have leaked at least twice in five of their last six away and conceded three goals or more in each of their last three road defeats, unsurprisingly losing by a two-goal margin on each occasion. Indeed, Espanyol have lost by two goals in five of their last 10 trips to top-half sides that exclude Barcelona or Real Madrid.
Athletic are famed for their strong performances at San Mames but the goals angle is also strong. Bilbao have delivered three or more goals in seven of their last eight including each of their most recent four in front of their home fans. And their last three victories in the Basque Country have seen the hosts net at least three goals.
As already alluded, Espanyol also feature heavily in the pro-goals columns. The Parakeets have featured in six successive Over 2.5 Goals games away and in a huge 17/24 (71%) of matches under Sergio’s watch on their travels.
And for those who like head-to-head trends, nine of the last 10 La Liga meetings have delivered Over 2.5 goals including each of the last five at San Mames. An Athletic Bilbao win and Over 2.5 Goals is 5/4 with Boylesports.
Atletico Madrid v Sporting Gijon | Sunday 17.15 | Sky Sports 3
Atletico Madrid were rather uninspiring during their long-haul midweek Champions League trip to Astana but I’d expect Diego Simeone’s charges to be back on song for Sunday’s date with Sporting Gijon.
The Mattress Makers have won each of their last 10 against promoted clubs at the Vicente Calderon with nine of their last 11 against the same opponents delivering W-W double results. The hosts have been ahead at the interval in 17 of their last 23 La Liga outings on home soil and I’ll bank on Atleti following suit against Sporting.
Goals are never plentiful when Simeone’s side host league action – just 11 in five this term and never more than three in any of their 10 La Liga contests this term – but Atletico are superbly consistent. Only Barcelona have beaten the Mattress Makers at the Calderon since mid-December, one of only three losses in 38.
The home side have an almost fully fit and available squad to choose from and are still in pursuit of Real Madrid and Barcelona. Only four points separates Atleti from the big-two and the margin should really only be two after a rare defensive blunder cost the club a victory against Deportivo last time out.
Sporting have made a solid impression on the Spanish top-flight this season and have already registered away wins at Deportivo and Espanyol. But the visitors have conceded at least twice in five of their last seven and taken a solitary point from their three games against top-eight clubs already.
With Atletico W5-D1-L0 against teams below them in the standings, I’ll back Simeone’s troops continuing their solid theme of being ahead at half-time and full-time at 7/9 quotes with 888.
Sevilla v Real Madrid | Sunday 19.30 | Sky Sports 3
Real Madrid haven’t lost a La Liga game since March and are unbeaten in nine on the road. But the table-toppers’ most impressive stats have come under Rafa Benitez – the Champions League winner has led Los Blancos to W7-D3-L0 from their opening 10, smashing a league-high 24 goals and conceding only four.
The capital club escaped with a fortunate 1-0 victory over PSG in midweek and are likely to be without Karim Benzema (naughty) as well as a few others on Sunday but should be supported to make it 13 wins from their last 15 meetings with Sevilla.
Sevilla, winners over Barcelona on home soil just a month ago, are being dogged by infuriating inconsistency and were ruthlessly exposed by Manchester City in midweek. Should Real follow a similar blueprint, the visitors shouldn’t have a problem picking up maximum points.
As well as City, Atletico Madrid and Celta Vigo have left the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan with well-earned victories this term and overall Unai Emery’s men have lost exactly half of their 14 fixtures. They won’t be helped by an injury to star striker Kevin Gameiro, either.
But rather than just back the plain away win, I’m going to throw in Over 2.5 Goals to the equation to boost the odds to a handsome 11/5 with Bwin. Sevilla’s last seven on home soil have featured at least three goals with Los Rojiblancos posting a solitary clean sheet in nine.
The hosts have actually lost six of their last 10 when welcoming Spain’s big-two and their previous 12 against the same opposition have each broken the Over 2.5 Goals barrier – eight featuring four or more goals and seven even producing five or more goals.
Real Madrid’s proud defensive record – 10 clean sheets in 14 games – is likely to come under threat from an attack-minded Sevilla side and with Keylar Navas and Marcelo likely absentees, I’d be surprised if they added another shutout to their tally. After all, PSG scuffed a host of opportunities in midweek.
Looking at Los Blancos’ away days since the start of last season, a whopping 13 of 15 have seen Over 2.5 Goals when Madrid have conceded a goal with eight of those fixtures even collecting for Over 3.5 Goals players.
Athletic Bilbao v Espanyol – Athletic Bilbao to win and Over 2.5 Goals (5/4 Boylesports)
Atletico Madrid v Sporting Gijon – Atletico Madrid-Atletico Madrid (7/9 888)
Sevilla v Real Madrid – Real Madrid to win and Over 2.5 Goals (6/4 Boylesports)
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