MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) has scoured the Spanish coupon to bring you his favourite fancies from La Liga this weekend.
Villarreal v Getafe | Sunday 17.15 | Sky Sports 5
Cedric Bakambu’s brace gave Villarreal a 2-1 first leg lead in their Europa League quarter-final against Sparta Prague on Thursday night but the victory could and should have been much more comfortable.
After an early error that gifted the Yellow Submarine a third minute opener, Sparta goalkeeper David Bicik produced an inspired performance to give the depleted Czechs hope going into next week’s decisive second leg.
Villarreal are expected to focus on that encounter, giving Bakambu a break this weekend, as an eight-point advantage of fifth-placed Celta Vigo with seven games to play suggests a return to Champions League football is on the cards already.
But Marcelinho’s men shouldn’t be discounted on Sunday. Having built a squad upon organisation, hard work and defensive discipline, Villarreal are a mighty tough nut to crack, especially at their El Madrigal home – just ask Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Napoli.
Bar a shock 1-0 home reverse to Las Palmas, the Yellow Submarine have been solid, if not often spectacular, hosts. Indeed, since returning to the Spanish top-flight, Villarreal have recorded W32-D10-L12 when welcoming La Liga opposition.
Seventeen of those aforementioned 32 home La Liga triumphs were by a margin of two goals or more and since May, the hosts have W19-D3-L3 across all competitions at El Madrigal, including 15/25 clean sheets. Ruthless.
Seven of the past 10 bottom-six visitors have departed pointless and this season’s record against clubs in 13th and below is W6-D1-L0. With only Barca and Atleti leaking fewer league goals, Getafe’s task looks mighty tough.
However, injuries to Daniele Bonera and Mateo Musacchio mean Eric Bailly and Victor Ruiz should figure at the heart of the defence, with Jaume Costa returning at left-back. It’s not ideal but Marcelinho’s men have more than enough to enhance their already glistening home CV.
Getafe pitch up have taken just two points from a possible 33 (W0-D2-L9) to take a major nosedive towards relegation. Never before have the capital club accrued so few points (28) after 31 games and last weekend’s reverse to city and relegation rivals Rayo was a hammer-blow.
Fran Escriba’s a talented coach but even he seems unable to stop the rot and with Santiago Vergini suspended here and Emiliano Velazquez also out, Juan Rodriguez might be asked to slot into the back four as a make-shift last resort. It’s hardly ideal.
The Deep Blues have failed to score in eight of their last 10 with their last five away days returning an aggregate score of 0-18. The visitors have conceded 42 goals in 15 away trips, notching just nine, and they’ve been beaten in 12 of those games as guests.
Getafe’s disastrous road record is nothing new, mind. The visitors from the capital have suffered 25/34 (74%) defeats on their travels since the start of last season, 18 (53%) of which were by margins of at least two goals.
The Madrid-club have fired blanks in 17 (50%) of those 34 matches and silenced their hosts just twice. In nine of their last 11 they’ve suffered L-L double results, as well as in 22/34 (65%) since the start of 2014/15.
The Deep Blues are averaging fewer than 2.50 shots-on-target per-game outside of their Coliseum home and that's led to a truly abysmal 28% shots-on-target ratio figure. It’s worse than bleak and almost deserves a double relegation!
So how do we make money on Sunday? I reckon Villarreal -1 (15/16 BetVictor) is a solid play – we’ll get our cash back should the Yellow Submarine win by just a one-goal margin but profit with a two-goal victory or larger.
And I’ll also have an interest in Villarreal-Villarreal in the Half-Time/Full-Time market at 10/7 (Unibet). Those HT-FT Getafe trends are just too good to ignore.
Athletic Bilbao v Rayo Vallecano | Sunday 19.30 | Sky Sports 2
Athletic Bilbao’s hopes of securing Champions League qualification this season were given a severe bashing in the past week.
The Basques dropped precious La Liga points at Espanyol (1-2) and when welcoming Granada (1-1), to fall away in the chase for a top-four finish. Those rotten results meant Les Leones’ Europa League quarter-final clash with Sevilla took on extra significance.
Ernesto Valverde’s charges were supposed to be targeting Europa success as a means to gaining a route into next season’s Champions League, so a 2-1 home reverse in Thursday’s first leg encounter wasn’t what the doctor ordered.
Athletic tend to be awesome operators at San Mames but since December their home return has dropped to just W7-D6-L3. They’ll be keen to right Thursday’s wrong when Rayo Vallecano arrive on Sunday night.
However, it’s hard to find the faith to support a home success with long-term injury keeping key centre-half Aymeric Laporte out of action and Bilbao’s dodgy defence leaking goals in 10 of their last 12. Each of the last four league visitors to the Basque Country have notched and it’s now just one San Mames clean sheet in seven.
Carlos Gurpegi and Borja Etxeita will continue at centre-half as Valverde has few other backline options to bring in. Aritz Aduriz, scoring of 17 league goals this season, could be rested ahead of the second leg with Sevilla but lively forward Inaki Williams is available to lead the line for the hosts.
Les Leones have notched in 46/53 (87%) of home La Liga games under Valverde’s watch and they should get on the scoresheet again here. The hosts hold a strong return when taking on bottom-half teams in the Basque Country, (W19-D6-L4), firing blanks in just three of those 29 encounters.
Athletic have scored 15/49 (31%) of their La Liga goals through headers and with only Eibar (11) conceding more headed goals than Rayo (10) this season, the hosts are bound to target set-piece situations and look to bombard the visitors’ box with crosses.
Rayo head north knowing they rarely come away with anything but a defeat at top-half teams. In the Paco Jemez era, Los Franjirrojos have W6-D2-L27 at top-10 clubs, including a pointless return from six trips in 2015/16.
However, the capital club have found the back of the net in four of those six games and delivered winning Both Teams To Score bets in 19/35 (54%) against top-half teams.
Rayo have netted in 14 fixtures on the spin – their best ever scoring streak in the Spanish top-flight – and seen five of their past six road games end exactly 2-2. BTTS has proved a profitable punt in each of their last 10 away days; unfortunately, the visitors have shipped two or more goals in nine consecutive games as guests.
Ze Castro and Adri Embarba are back from bans this weekend but Tito and Yoel now sit out through suspension and there’s a suggestion that Paco Jemez could go even more offensive than usual for this encounter, starting both Miku and Javi Guerra together in attack.
The Vallecas-club are on a high having landed a major knockout blow to a relegation rival when seeing off struggling Getafe 2-0 last weekend and know back-to-back victories could prove crucial to preserving their La Liga status.
Fixtures between these two teams tend to entertain with seven of the last eight meetings breaking the Over 2.5 Goals barrier, whilst the last 10 league contests in Bilbao have produced an average of 3.20 goals-per-game. I’m expecting another ripsnorter on Sunday night.
Both Teams To Score has been quoted at 8/11 by SkyBet and that looks far too kind based on the short and long-term trends of these two. It’s most definitely a value price.
Rayo have scored in 51/72 (71%) of road trips under Paco Jemez as they’ve kept just 13 clean sheets. Only Barcelona, Real Madrid and Seville are averaging more on-target attempts than the travellers this term and so I’m confident they can play their part in another winning BTTS selection here.
Real Sociedad v Barcelona | Saturday 19.30 | Sky Sports 5
Barcelona’s record-breaking 39-match (W32-D7-L0) unbeaten run came to a juddering halt last weekend as arch-rivals Real Madrid pinched a 2-1 triumph at the Camp Nou in the Clasico.
But Luis Enrique’s men resumed normal service in midweek when coming from behind to take a 2-1 first leg Champions League quarter-final lead against Atletico Madrid in a pulsating encounter.
The return fixture in Madrid is scheduled for Wednesday night but sandwiched between the two ties is a tricky trip to Real Sociedad. The Blaugrana are hunting back-to-back trebles and although another La Liga crown is all but secured, the Catalans will be keen not to giveaway further ground to the chasing pack.
Barcelona have W0-D1-L1 in their last two domestic dates – not since May 2014 have they failed to record a victory in three games on the spin – and head to the Basque Country without the suspended Luis Suarez. Munir should take the Uruguayan’s place in attack with Arda Turan and Sergi Roberto expected to rotate into the starting XI here.
Suarez’s absence is a blow but with Lionel Messi and Neymar still available to headline the visitors’ front-three, the Catalans should in theory come out of this content unscathed. The visitors have scored at least twice in each of their last seven away games, returned W8-D3-L0 in their most recent 11 La Liga road trips and avoided defeat in 18 games as guests outside of the Camp Nou.
But it could well be a bumpy ride for Barca, who haven’t the happiest memories of Sociedad’s home. The San Sebastian-side may have been thumped 4-0 in Catalonia earlier this campaign but when welcoming the European champions to Anoeta, La Real have W4-D2-L0 in their past six encounters.
Taking La Liga results on their own, Sociedad have seen off the Catalans in each of their last three meetings in the north of Spain and Eusebio's men will be full of confidence after surprising Sevilla 2-1 last week.
Markel Bergara's opener and an own goal from Grzegorz Krychowiak earned the points, ending Sevilla's incredible 17-match winning run in all competitions at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, although Bergara was then sent off midway through the second half and is suspended for Saturday's clash.
Nevertheless, the Txuri-Urdin outfit have Inigo Martinez fit and available and although a lengthy absentee list could hamper their prospects in taking maximum points here, the hosts have a knack for goals when welcoming the league’s elite.
La Real have failed to keep their sheets clean in six but since 2010/11, the Basques have only been silenced in 11/55 clashes with top-half clubs at Anoeta, with 31/55 (56%) featuring winning Both Teams To Score bets.
Take a look at Sociedad’s return against Barcelona and Real Madrid since 2010/11 and the Basques have found the back of the net in 17/22 (77%) home and away matches with 16/22 (73%) rewarding BTTS backers. Impressive.
During Luis Enrique’s reign, Barcelona have W24-D6-L4 when playing away in La Liga but it’s now only three shutouts in 13 and three clean sheets in 10 games on their travels since early-January.
Suarez’s suspension, a weak head-to-head record and a crucial Champions League contest on the horizon are reasons enough to bypass a bet on Barcelona and instead I’ll take the 4/5 on offer for Both Teams To Score at Bet365.
Real Sociedad v Barcelona – Both Teams To Score (4/5 Bet365)
Villarreal v Getafe – Villarreal-Villarreal (10/7 Unibet)
Athletic Bilbao v Rayo Vallecano – Both Teams To Score (8/11 SkyBet)
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