WITH five winners from seven best bets in Spain since the weekend, can you afford to ignore Mark O’Haire’s (@MarkOHaire) La Liga advice?
Athletic Bilbao v Valencia | Thursday 19.00 | Sky Sports 5
It took a long time coming but Athletic Bilbao have finally found their range in 2014/15. A run to the Copa del Rey has appeared to inspire Ernesto Valverde’s troops with confidence flowing back into the Basques in recent weeks. That was until Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Sevilla.
Arriving on the back of five wins in six, Los Leones just didn’t turn up or compete. The side were asleep for the majority of the match and allowed their in-form hosts to saunter into their two-goal lead before playing time out.
It was a disappointing display made worse by a serious injury suffered to Iker Muniain who will now spend the best part of six months on the sidelines. As well as Muniain, Valverde must do without Ander Iturraspe and Aymeric Laporte, depleting the hosts of two solid defensive stalwarts.
Athletic are the lowest home goalscorers in La Liga, scoring just twice or more in 4/14 fixtures and despite winning three on the spin at the San Mames, I’m not prepared to put my faith in the Basques on Thursday night.
Taking this selection means that should the game end in a draw, we’ll still pocket half of our potential full profit eked out should the visitors win the match. The only way we won’t make money is if Nuno Espirito Santo’s side fall to defeat.
Los Che won eight of their last 10 to propel themselves into third in the table but a goalless draw with sixth-placed neighbours Villarreal knocked Nuno’s men back down to fourth. It’s now just one loss in eight on the road (W4-D3-L1) and their five clean sheets in seven should stand the visitors in good stead against a misfiring home attack.
And for those who enjoy head-to-head stats, we’d have made profit in 11 of the last 12 duels between Athletic and Valencia when backing this selection, including four of the last five meetings at San Mames.
Villarreal v Espanyol | Thursday 21.00
Villarreal boss Marcelinho wasn’t happy with Valencia after their 0-0 draw at the Mestalla on Saturday, complaining that their neighbours had purposely let the grass grow, hampering the Yellow Submarine’s intricate passing game.
But it was a solid display from the Yellows as they held their more illustrious opponents at arms length for much of the battle. The result did mean Villarreal have failed to score in their last three outings and their failure to win those three fixtures represents their worst run of the season.
But the hosts should bounce back to their best when returning to their fearsome El Madrigal home on Thursday night. The Yellow Submarine saw their eight-game winning streak in front of their home supporters halted by Sevilla last time out but Moi Gomez’s return from suspension should provide the necessary attacking thrust to aid Marcelinho’s men in their bid for an 11th win from 15 when entertaining La Liga opposition.
Espanyol’s season has taken a nosedive since surprisingly being well beaten in the Copa del Rey semi-finals by Athletic Bilbao. The Parakeets have failed to net in three of their last four league games and haven’t tasted victory in five. Sergio’s charges will also have to make-do without the suspended Salva Sevilla and Juan Fuentes for their journey down the east coast.
The Catalan visitors D6-L6 in their last 12 league meetings with Villarreal and won just once in 14 top-flight trips to El Madrigal. With nine defeats in 14 away days this term, including all five journeys to top-five teams, you’ve got to fancy the home side to get back to winning ways here.
I’m going to take Villarreal -1 on the Asian Handicap line at 10/11 with BetVictor. It means that should the Yellow Submarine win by a solitary goal, we’ll get our cash back. But should Marcelinho’s hosts come out on top by two goals or more, we’ll have ourselves a winner. It’s a bet that would have won in six of Espanyol’s last eight visits to top-six teams.