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Anyway, here are my La Liga tipse:
Levante vs. Valladolid (Sat 5pm)
Levante’s poor away form predictably continued against the best home side in the league, Atletico, at the weekend. Their league position has taken a fall with 3 defeats in their last 4 being a clear cause. Their home form however has been nothing short of excellent, with the only losses coming against Real Madrid and Barcelona – the overall record being W6 D1 L2. Valladolid have impressed recently, with back to back wins launching them into the top half of the table. The most important news is that Valladolid will be without Patrick Ebert for 3 weeks, making a whole world of difference to their style of play. In the games without him recently, they drew 0-0 with Deportivo, lost to Barca and lost to Celta Vigo. Even after he was substituted in the game vs. Zaragoza, Valladolid looked notably weaker and far more nervous.
Although I understand why the bookmakers have priced this game this way, it still doesn’t make logical sense. Levante are on a downwards trend, and Valladolid are operating in the reverse manner. But take Patrick Ebert out of the equation and Valladolid literally fall to pieces. Ironically in a similar fashion to Valladolid last week, Levante to win here is incredible value.
Real Zaragoza vs. Espanyol (Sat 7pm)
Even after back to back away losses, including last weekend to Valladolid, Zaragoza retain their place amongst a small group of sides with a better away record than home. They do however continue to reign supreme in the volatility charts, with 4 losses from 5 mixing in with being unbeaten in 3 from 4. Espanyol continue to impress after a change in management and are now unbeaten in 6 of their last 7 (the exception being a hiding from Barcelona). Coming back against Mallorca showed a degree of character not exhibited yet this season by them, certainly a positive aspect that they will look to continue throughout the season. Their away record however has been poor, with a single win from 9 games, but have picked up 3draws.
On face value, Zaragoza look to be good value at above even money, but that’s without considering squad fatigue. The home side have really struggled in recent weeks with a hectic cup and league calendar, evident from their struggling form. Both games have gone unders in the previous two rounds and I expect this game to be similarly tight, and with a draw being the likely option, the positive handicap is extremely appealing.
Deportivo la Coruna vs. Valencia (Sat 9pm)
Unfortunately for Deportivo la Coruna, their season hasn’t managed to improve in recent weeks. Still winless away, they sit rooted to the bottom of the table. Valencia were surprisingly hammered at home by a struggling Real Madrid side and like Deportivo, they haven’t performed away from home this season. 2 wins from 9 attempts is not good enough from a side challenging for a top 4 spot. Despite being a poor away side, Deportivo have been competent, but not inspiring, at home, with a record of W3 D2 L4. I do like the Deportivo handicap options, especially considering the Copa del Rey fixture midweek, but there is a whole lot more value in the goals markets here.
I can’t get my head around the odds for under 2.5 goals. 78% of Deportivo home games go under this amount, with 78% of Valencia away games doing exactly the same. With both sides set up to defend in regular games and in most cases play for the draw, add in Roberto Soldado carrying a knock (thus decreasing Valencia’s firepower), there really should be no question marks over this being a value price.
Real Madrid vs. Getafe (Sun 11am)
Real Madrid surprised almost everyone at the weekend by teaching Valencia a lesson in their own back yard and winning 5-0, giving a massive boost to their confidence in what has been a troubling time for everyone involved in/around the club. Getafe have had similar problems in recent times, and although a point against Sevilla is respectable, they are now without a win from their last 6 games. Most of this is down to missing players, with Pedro Leon’s injury and Barrada’s AFCON duty hitting hardest. As always with Real Madrid games, it’s hard to get any kind of value out of the bookmakers without taking an incredibly risky big positive handicap on their opponent, something I’m not willing to do here.
Real Madrid have a tendency to score early goals, in a similar fashion to other big teams at home in the league, and have managed to score before the 25th minute in 8 of their 9 home games this year. As such, backing them to repeat this task at odds of 1.83 offers considerable value, even allowing for potential Copa del Rey hangover and the competitiveness of the local derby.
Rayo Vallecano vs. Real Betis (Sun 4pm)
Rayo Vallecano had a poor week by their standards, with a relatively comfortable loss to a struggling Granada side. Their home record has been a revelation this year, with 6 wins from 10. Real Betis also had quite a poor result at the weekend and despite dominating the first half against Athletic Bilbao, they very quickly hit the wall and ran out of steam suddenly – in the end they were lucky to escape with a point. They have one of the best away records in the league, with 6 wins, a draw and 2 losses. Rather incredibly, they have squirmed their way into the Champions League spots and have profited by the shortcomings of their rivals.
In summary, this game is one of the hardest to call this round. Rayo Vallecano will easily be the fitter side, but are missing their best player in Leo Baptistao. It’s very hard to say which of these factors will overrule, but I suspect Betis will come with the intention of playing on the counter attack and not look to expel as much energy as usual, but they are looking extremely thin on the ground. At the time of writing, they did not have enough players for a complete squad in the Copa dey Rey and I expect this to hit them extremely hard.
Barcelona vs. Osasuna (Sun 6pm)
Barcelona were beaten, in what for me was the biggest upset of the season so far, by Real Sociedad in the previous round. Their opponents on this occasion stood toe-to-toe with the Catalan giants and capitalized well on the sending off of Gerard Pique. Their home record is still as immaculate as always, with the points dropped against Real Madrid being the only blemish. Osasuna on the other hand won well at Deportivo to build on their point against Real Madrid, but still remain in the drop zone at this stage. Their away record is particularly worrying, with a single win (Espanyol) and 6 losses to their name.
Barcelona, as expected, also score a lot of early goals, but not as prolifically as title rivals Real Madrid or Atletico. In addition, they are hit by a very low line (23 minutes) to try and beat, something which they have actually only done in 6 of 9 home games. Although this is clearly not the biggest value bet in the world, it does seem that the pricing is a little off considering that the odds for Barcelona to win the first half are 1.3 and only even money to win it with a 1.25 goal handicap.
Athletic Bilbao vs. Atletico Madrid (Sun 8pm)
Athletic Bilbao put in one of their best performances of the season against Real Betis in the Monday night fixture, with Betis keeper Adrian being the only man stopping a complete massacre. A particular highlight for the Basque side were the performances of Laporte and Ekiza at centre back; whilst far from being first choice, they silenced one of the most prolific strikers in the league. At home they have been good, with 4 wins, 4 losses and a draw. Atletico’s victory at home to Levante was extremely routine, but despite having maximum points at the Vincente Calderon, they have only won 4 of their 10 away games.
The handicap on Athletic Bilbao should never be positive for a few reasons and I would be willing to accept this even without some of the external factors at play. Radamel Falcao was injured in the Levante victory, but after initially being ruled out for 3 weeks, it appears it was not as serious as first thought. Regardless, he will not be at full fitness and most likely unprepared for this fixture. In addition, Atletico play midweek football, meaning lethargy has to also be considered.
James’ La Liga Tips
Levante v Valladolid – Levante Win (2.05 – Coral)
Real Zaragoza v Espanyol – Espantol +0.25 (2.03 – Betfair)
Deportivo v Valencia – Under 2.5 (1.85 – Bet Victor)
Real Madrid v Getafe – Madrid Goal before 25mins (1.83 – Bet365)
Vallecano v Betis – Vallecano -0.25 (2.03 – Ladbrokes)
Barcelona v Osasuna – Barca goal before 23mins (1.83 – Bet365)
Bilbao v Atletico Madrid – Bilbao +0.25 (1.85 – Bet365)
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