This weekend in Spain saw runaway leaders Barcelona beat Malaga 3-1, making it 18 victories from 19 games in the league, a new all-time points record for the first half of a La Liga season and why Barcelona are 3/100 to win the title this season! Malaga may have a better chance of finding out Barcelona than most now though, as they resume hostilities this Wednesday in the Copa del Rey quarter final first leg. The second leg will be played next week meaning Malaga will play Barca four times this season now. So can they unlock the puzzle?
Atletico Madrid cruised past Real Zaragoza 2-0 to remain 11 points behind Barca and increased their advantage over Real Madrid to seven points, as they could only draw 0-0 at bottom side Osasuna and mustered just one chance all game without the suspended Cristiano Ronaldo. It would seem a pretty concrete bet that Jose Mourinho will not be managing in Spain next season. Real Betis moved fourth just three points behind Real Madrid with a 2-0 victory over Levante and Malaga remain fifth despite their loss to Barca but are now on equal points with Real Vallecano in sixth, who won 2-1 in Bilbao.
Valencia continued their forward progress under coach Ernesto Valverde winning 2-0 thanks a brace from Roberto Soldado against a dreadful Sevilla. That result was enough for the powers that be in Sevilla, as today they announced the sacking of Michel Gonzalez and his replacement by newly appointed Unai Emery! Levante sit eighth after the Betis defeat, leaving five teams from fourth to eighth separated by just four points. Or six teams separated by seven points if Real Madrid continue to implode and dare I say it have to win the Champions League to qualify for next seasons competition.
At the bottom Osasuna must be congratulated on their point at home to Madrid and must try to build on that performance now though they remain bottom. Espanyol should be even happier with their 1-0 defeat of Celta Vigo which took them out of the bottom three and level with their visitors on points. Deportivo drew 1-1 at Real Sociedad with 10 men and Mallorca lost 3-1 to tenth placed Real Valladolid and are a point above the relegation zone.
As I write this Getafe and Granada have just completed Week 19 and the first half of the La Liga season, sharing four goals in a 2-2 draw that takes Granada out of the bottom three to be replaced by Mallorca and has Getafe maintain 11th place and increase slightly their cushion over those below. There were 24 goals scored in La Liga this weekend at an average of 2.4 per game as the sides at the bottom battled hard and the now bottom three all earned valuable points in Week 19 to close out the first half of the season.
And now to Week 20 in La Liga tips and predictions as to where your money should be going as I take you through all the games in Spain this weekend, starting in Barcelona Friday night at Espanyol and ending Monday night with the Andalusian Derby as Sevilla host Granada.
Friday January 18th 2013
Espanyol vs. Mallorca
Espanyol could be looking at back to back wins as they take on Mallorca this Friday. The two sit one place and one point apart and this is a genuine six-pointer if ever there was one, with the two sitting in sixteenth and 17th respectively going into this one. Espanyol have lost just one in six, and that at the hands (feet) of Barca, winning two and drawing three with a 2-2 stalemate at Real Madrid in there for good measure as the other Barcelona team builds confidence and moves away from the relegation places. Mallorca are the polar opposite having lost four and drawn one of their last six.
Home win for me at 10/11 with bet365
Saturday January 19th 2013
Granada vs. Rayo Vallecano
Granada needed a 93rd minute penalty to snatch a point at Getafe today but were arguably the better side throughout in their 2-2 draw. Rayo Vallecano are the revelation of the season so far and are on a run of four straight wins going into this match and sit in sixth. Granada are third from bottom and desperately need to turn good performances into wins before it is too late. They have won just once in six games, drawing three and losing two.
Away win for me at 21/10 with William Hill
Real Sociedad vs. Barcelona
Sociedad sit in ninth place but have just 26 points to Barcelona's 55 and could not beat second from bottom ten man Deportivo at home last time out. They have won two of their last six games but as has been already stated in these pages today, they are playing a side that has won 18 from 19 games so far this season. Make that 19 from 20 after this one! Barcelona do have the Copa del Rey to think about this midweek and next but volume of games and playing on three fronts doesn't seem to be making too much of a difference now does it!
Away win for me, you, everyone at 1/4 with bet365
Getafe vs. Sevilla
Getafe should have won today, dropping two points to a late, late equaliser at home to Granada. Sevilla are in all sorts of trouble but have sacked their manager as of today and already appointed a new boss in Unai Emery. Now league position alone still suggests that 11th placed Getafe should win this one but there is always a difference in a team when a new boss takes over, which makes this one quite an attractive proposition to bet against the odds. Getafe last won in Week 14, losing three and drawing two since then so are not exactly on fire themselves right now and like I said, new boss syndrome could well rule the day here. Sevilla also have a Copa del Rey quarter final 1st leg tie Wednesday in Zaragoza and Getafe will hope that their focus is more on the two games this is sandwiched between than this one. I doubt the new man in the hot seat at Getafe will let that happen though.
Away win for me at 17/10 with both William Hill and bet365
Málaga vs. Celta Vigo
Malaga only lose or win it seems, as three wins and three losses their last six games would seem to back up quite nicely. They have lost their last two however and yet won the previous three back to back to back, so form with them is a relative term it seems and they win more than they lose and are fifth because of it and challenging in Europe this season also. They beat Real Madrid 3-2 one week then lose to relegation threatened 19th place Deportivo the next to confound and delight in equal measures! Celta Vigo have a similar record of not drawing games and last drew in Week 14 but have lost four and won only one since then and losing here will see them firmly amongst the relegation dog fight even more so than now.
Home win for me at 4/7 with William Hill
Sunday January 20th 2013
Osasuna vs. Deportivo La Coruña
The bottom two do battle this Sunday coming off of creditable draws in both cases last weekend, especially Osasuna at home to giants Real Madrid even if it is a good time to play them right now it seems! Deportivo's draw at Sociedad was almost as impressive as they played the last 30 minutes down to ten men after Evaldo's second yellow card. With only 31 points from 38 games between them all season though, the one thing neither side needs is another draw in this one and to the braver of the two sides may come a victory and a little hope, momentum even, in the fight to avoid the drop. I fancy the home side to build on their performance against Real Madrid but Deportivo are unbeaten in two. Both teams have identical records of one win, three losses and two draws their last six but Osasuna have not won since Week 14.
Score draw for me at 5/2 and a correct score prediction of 1-1 at 11/2 both with bet365
Real Valladolid vs. Real Zaragoza
Valladolid won comfortably last weekend as Zaragoza lost to Atletico Madrid in a one-sided affair. Three points and three places, not to mention different halves of the league table separate these two sides and mid-table mediocrity beckons both though a loss or two with some improving teams below them could yet see them (both) sucked into a relegation battle. Again, two sides with similar records as both have won twice their last six games, losing three apiece also. Zaragoza have lost their last two though and the hosts will be looking to build on their fine performance last weekend to cement their top half place in La Liga. Zaragoza are another team involved in Copa del Rey quarter finals this week and next and as their tie is with struggling Sevilla they may have their eyes on those two games a little more than this one. Dangerous but true!
Home win for me at 21/20 with both bet365 and William Hill
Atlético Madrid vs. Levante
Atletico were in cruise control when beating Zaragoza last time out and even with a Copa del Rey game this Thursday with the very impressive Real Betis in between time, this should present the second best team in Spain with little or no problem. Levante were beaten by said Betis side 2-0 at the weekend but have won three of their last six, losing two. It is a real shame to me that Falcao may well leave this January for pastures (lucrative) and new, and certainly won't be in red and white stripes next season for sure, as this is obviously the only side that could even think of challenging Barca with half the season still to go. Their European challenge may suffer the same fate and I for one think it is about time the January transfer window was scrapped and players actually stay at their team for the full season but then I am saying that as a fan and lets face it, do we really matter that much to people with 40 million Euro buy out clauses in their 'not worth the paper they are written on' contracts?
Home win for me at 3/10 with William Hill
Valencia vs. Real Madrid
Valencia may well be relishing this one and the prospect of playing Real and beating them three times in eight days as these two meet in the Copa del Rey also, must have the fans salivating with expectation all over Spain. The fans of Betis, Malaga, Levante and Vallecano will most certainly be adding their voice to Valencia's own support as Madrid are in real danger of getting it all very, very wrong after yet another poor display at bottom club Osasuna has opened the door to all those clubs to go for Europe and even a Champions League spot. Familiarity could breed contempt in this one as these two will know each other pretty well come Thursday morning and I am desperately looking for someone to lay betting odds on a Valencia 1, 2, 3 starting tomorrow in Madrid. It could just happen!
Home win for me at 7/2 with Pinnacle and bet365
Monday January 21st 2013
Real Betis vs. Athletic Bilbao
One of the top three sides right now in Spain and fourth in the table to prove it, Real Betis systematically tore apart Levante last time out, with Ruben Castro scoring his 11th of the season in the 2-0 win. Bilbao are poor, have lost their last three and four of six, winning the other two. Betis have won their last two and four of their last half dozen games, losing two. So a draw is not exactly likely then! Betis are the last of the final eight to play Copa del Rey matches this week and with Atletico Madrid their opponents it will be tough but then Betis are tough, with coach Pepe Mel turning them around in fine style in the last 12 months. Bilbao are by no means safe from harm in 14th as only nine points separate the whole bottom half of the table and with the title almost certainly over, the relegation battle is where the real betting action is to be had.
Home win for me at EVENS with bet365 and Ladbrokes[gameodds]17/134487/43-349-192/us[/gameodds]