Valencia out to gatecrash La Liga top three
In-form Valencia will look to gatecrash the top three and cement Nuno Espirito Santo’s impressive first season in charge of Los Che when they visit the Vicente Calderon to take on Atletico Madrid on Sunday night.
Atleti boss Diego Simeone has worked wonders to ensure La Liga is no longer a two-horse race and the side from the Mestalla have made huge strides forward of their own this term to ensure they are in the top four mix at the ‘business end’ of the campaign.
Valencia inflicted a first league defeat of the season on the reigning champions with a 3-1 victory on home soil in October and will now look to build on a four-game winning run and take advantage of an Atletico side without the suspended Antoine Griezmann and Miranda.
Matches between Atleti and Valencia may not be as well known outside of Spain as El Clasico or the Madrid derby but meetings between the pair are fiery and Sunday night’s clash will be a close call between two sides desperate to secure the third automatic Champions League spot.
Atleti are favourites for the win at 8/13 owing to a run of just one league defeat on home soil in their last 33 matches, as well as Valencia’s struggles at the Calderon – Los Che have won just once in their last eleven visits.
The absence of centre-back rock Miranda and top-scorer Griezmann will be a blow for Simeone, however, and odds of 14/5 for the draw or 9/2 for an away win that would see Nuno’s men leapfrog their hosts into third look more enticing.
Fernando Torres is set to replace Griezmann alongside Mario Mandzukic in the Atleti attack and the former Chelsea and Liverpool man is 9/2 to open the scoring with his first league goal since returning to his boyhood club. Manchester City loan man Alvaro Negredo is 8/1 to do likewise for the visitors.
Both sides have impressed with their attacking football this season and odds of 1/1 for both to find the back of the net look good.
Bilbao buoyed by Copa final ahead of Madrid visit
An enticing match lies in wait in the Basque Country on Saturday afternoon when leaders Real Madrid visit Copa del Rey finalists Athletic Bilbao.
Time will tell as to whether Athletic will be buoyed by a 2-0 victory over Espanyol on Wednesday night that handed them a date with Barcelona in the final of the Copa del Rey in May, or whether tired legs will show against a Madrid side that have enjoyed a full week to prepare for their trip to San Mames.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men saw their lead at the summit cut to just two points last weekend when they had to settle for a draw against a much-changed Villarreal side and they’ll be keen to avoid another slip up this time.
Madrid are 4/9 for the win but don’t expect the winning margin to be great. Bilbao, who secured a 1-1 draw against Madrid on home soil last season, will give their visitors a fight but odds of 27/10 for a one-goal winning margin for the capital club look good.
Madrid will not welcome midfield maestro Luka Modric back from a lengthy injury lay-off just yet and Ernesto Valverde will be without Mikel San Jose through suspension.
Ancelotti could stick with the same eleven that started against Villarreal and Cristiano Ronaldo will be keen to continue his improved form, which has seen him score in Madrid’s last three matches. The former Manchester United man is 14/5 to break the deadlock and former Tottenham Hotspur forward Gareth Bale is 5/1 to end a seven-goal run without a goal.
The rest of La Liga
Levante will look to cash-in on Eibar’s six-game losing streak and secure a victory that would haul them out of the bottom three – for 24 hours at least.
The Valencia side have been in hit and miss form but have home advantage against an Eibar side have picked up just one point from a possible 21 and face a relegation battle if things continue on a downward spiral.
Lucas Alcaraz’s men may have lost at Rayo Vallecano last weekend but they have only slipped to one defeat from their last ten in the league on home soil. At 21/20 Levante look a good bed to pick up three points on Friday night that will do their survival hopes the world of good.
David Barral has scored six goals in his last seven matches and he is the man most likely to fire Levante ahead at 5/1.
Deportivo La Coruna and Sevilla are desperate for points for very differing reasons when they meet at Riazor on Saturday.
Depor will look for a victory that will keep them above the relegation trapdoor while the Andalusians make the long trip to Galicia eager for points to keep them in the race for Champions League football next season.
Unai Emery’s men have won just one of their last five league matches but with no Europa League action distracting them in midweek they are a good bet at 23/20 to bag all three points and end a four-match losing streak on their travels domestically.
With 14 goals to his name so far this term, Colombian Carlos Bacca is the best bet to open the scoring at 9/2 while a slender one-goal winning margin for the visitors is also a good bet at 27/10.
Elche and Almeria are well matched going into Saturday’s match at the Estadio Manuel Martínez Valero and the draw, at 23/10, looks a good option for two sides battling to stay in the top flight.
The hosts may well have an edge, however, owing to Thievy Bifouma, Edgar Mendez and Michel Macedo all being suspended for Juan Ignacio Martinez’s men. Elche are 11/10 to claim all three points.
Brazilian Jonathas picked up a knock last weekend but he should be fit to feature – and Elche will need him. The striker is top-scorer so far this season with nine goals and Elche will rely on his goals to help keep them in the top flight this season. He is 5/1 the open the scoring or 2/1 to score anytime.
Malaga are riding the crest of a wave thanks to victory over Barcelona last time out of their travels and a 3-2 home win against Getafe last time out that included some sublime goals.
The Costa del Sol club look good odds at 17/10 to make it three wins in a row and add more woe to Granada’s season of struggle.
Juanmi has been the man getting the goals for the side from La Rosaleda with three in his last four, including that winner at the Camp Nou and the first in last weekend’s Liga victory. He is 13/2 to open the scoring again on Saturday night.
Rayo Vallecano always receive plenty of plaudits for the attacking and brave nature in which they approach matches against Barcelona but clashes between the sides over recent seasons have produced one-way traffic.
Barca hit the Madrid club for six at the Camp Nou last season and the Catalans should have few concerns in seeing Paco Jemez’s side off again on Sunday lunchtime. In the last seven matches between the sides, Barcelona have won all seven and scored a staggering 31 goals, while conceding just the one.
Understandably, Barca are 1/20 to see off Rayo and keep the pressure on Madrid at the top. A winning margin of more than two goals brings better odds of 4/9 and for Barca to repeat their 6-0 trouncing of the side from Vallecas a year on offers 21/2.
Former Liverpool man Luis Suarez has scored six goals in his last seven games and is 14/5 to open the scoring this weekend, while Lionel Messi brings slightly shorter odds of 12/5 to breakthrough the Rayo defence.
Alberto Bueno scored a staggering four goals in 15 minutes as Rayo beat Levante 4-2 last weekend and for those more adventurous, Rayo’s 12-goal man is 20/1 to set the cat amongst the pigeons and score first against Luis Enrique’s men.
David Moyes and his Real Sociedad side may not do well on their travels but they have made Anoeta a fortress this season and should fancy their chances of defeating a confidence-sapped Espanyol on Sunday.
The Catalans bowed out of the Copa del Rey at the semi-final stage against Athletic Bilbao in midweek and Sergio will face a tough job of lifting his troops for the trip to the Basque Country.
La Real beat Sevilla 4-3 last time out on home soil in a thriller and are 5/4 to pick up another win that should edge them to safety.
Former Arsenal man Carlos Vela has returned to training but will not feature this weekend and the four goals scored against Sevilla was the exception rather than the rule for the San Sebastian club under the leadership of the former Manchester United and Everton boss. A one-goal winning margin for the hosts brings attractive odds at 13/5.
Celta Vigo have enjoyed a big upturn in form in recent weeks and should pose Villarreal plenty of problems at El Madrigal, especially on the back of the Yellow Submarines’ efforts against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday night.
The Galicians are unbeaten in their last five league matches and look good odds at 53/20 to leave Castellon with a share of the spoils against a Villarreal side that have shone this season but that have dropped plenty of points in recent weeks.
Marcelino’s men, at 81/89 for the win, have won their last seven home matches in La Liga but Celta will take the experience from a 2-0 win over high-flying Atletico Madrid into the contest.
Both teams play attacking football and with both likely to score, a 1-1 score draw looks enticing at 24/5.
Pablo Franco Martin will take charge of Getafe as permanent manager for the first time on Monday night at Cordoba after being picked as the man to succeed Quique Sanchez Flores.
The former Getafe B manager took control of the team in the 3-2 defeat at Malaga last time out and got the job on a permanent basis in midweek. Getafe are 9/4 to give him his first victory as boss at basement side Cordoba.
Alvaro Vazquez is in good form for the Madrid club with four goals in his last four outings and he is 13/2 to open the scoring in Andalusia and help guide his side to a victory which would make it seven consecutive defeats for the hosts.