La Liga Overview Week 26
As Week 26 begins tonight at European hopefuls, Getafe, who host relegation threatened Real Zaragoza at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez, we look at the Champions elect Barcelona and see what their recent slump in form means for La Liga and our soccer picks with 12 games left to play.
They are out of the Copa del Rey at the hands of Real Madrid, losing 3-1 at Camp Nou Tuesday to go out 4-2 on aggregate and are trailing 2-0 in their Champions League last 16 tie to AC Milan with the return leg March 12th now taking on huge significance. But it was the manner of those two defeats that will really have them worried and another loss this weekend in the sixth and final 'El Classico' between the two this season and with Atletico Madrid still to play and that 12 point lead could be down to six points and a few nerves may start to jangle a touch more fervently at Camp Nou. Throw in a draw or two against relegation battling opponents and European hopefuls, a sudden drop in self belief and this title race could yet still have a twist or two in it's tail.
The 2-1 win last weekend against Sevilla was far from convincing but still crucial as it was, sandwiched between two defeats, and in a very strange anomaly amongst all five matches played on Friday and Saturday, Barca too needed to stage a comeback after going a goal down in the first half. Lionel Messi may be missing from this weekend too as he is unwell and has missed training. We will see but he was as ineffectual against Real on Tuesday as the team where as a whole and I don't know, are they complacent, becoming predictable or just plain bored?
They do not seem to have a plan B when their passing game grinds to a halt or more accurately and exasperatingly maybe, sets up home ten to fifteen yards outside the opposing area and then fails to penetrate. Have they been found out at last, is the balance of the side in question or is it simply impossible to maintain week in week out on three fronts without some dip in form.
Well, five wins from their last eleven games is a dip for sure and for me it all goes back to the defeat by Real Sociedad which has been widely under appreciated for it's effect on Barca in that it ended much more than their unbeaten start to the league season in Week 20. They have failed to keep a clean sheet in 12 games during and since then and though only losing (and drawing) three games in that time, they have all been crucial to say the least, with two of them cup ties and one, so far, proving fatal.
Since the Real defeat, both midfielder Andres Iniesta and stand-in coach Jordi Roura have suggested changes are required to the Barca line-up to inject more energy and ideas into the team. Villa is expected to start in place of Fabregas in a reshuffle that would see Iniesta returned to his favourite central midfield position. Messi may be back in training today. It remains to be seen if the crisis is a tactical or mental one for Barca and their powers of recovery in both may prove to be at the centre of where their season goes from here.
With Barcelona at 1/200 soccer betting odds to win La Liga it seems they are still there with it all to lose or win themselves but at 40/1 for Atletico Madrid and 33/1 for Real Madrid to win the title I like the idea of a flutter on one of those two, likely Real, to snatch the title as Barca crumble. It could just happen and the bookies may start to think so too if they lose to Real and Milan these next couple of weeks!
Elsewhere in La Liga it was again a tale of two halves much like Week 25, with the top half of the table dominating the bottom. Noteable exceptions were Celta Vigo who closed on all four teams above them by virtue of their 2-1 defeat of Granada but remain in the bottom three though five points above 19th now as the bottom two are cut adrift, both losing. Osasuna were the only other bottom half team to win whilst Zaragoza where the only other points earner.
Real Sociedad are now sixth just two points from Malaga in the coveted fourth spot which holds the last Champions League place. Only eight points separate 4th from 10th in La Liga so like I say, there will be some tough games for the big guns in the coming weeks as teams hit form and mount serious challenges for the top six or fight to stave off relegation instead.
And so to Week 26 in La Liga with all my Free Picks, Odds and Predictions right here at SBRForum.
Friday 1st March 2013
Getafe vs. Real Zaragoza
Getafe won 1-0 at Zaragoza back in October and will expect to do the double over their 17th placed opponents this Friday night. They have won their last two, three of four and lost just two in their last eight and those at Barca and Real Madrid. They have won by 3-1 their last three victories. Zaragoza by contrast have won just one of the last ten and lost five of them to sit just two points out of the relegation places. Getafe all the way in this one and an outside chance at a Europa League spot if this form continues.
Home win for me at 10/11 and the 3-1 correct score prediction at 16/1 with bet365
Saturday 2nd March 2013
Real Madrid vs. Barcelona
Real Madrid and Barcelona are both expected to make changes to their starting line-ups for Saturday's La Liga Clash at the Bernabeu, with Madrid's Jose Callejon and Luka Modric possibly coming in, and Barca's David Villa and Javier Mascherano in line to start. Definitely out is Madrid winger Angel Di Maria, after his suspension for the game was confirmed on Wednesday afternoon. Lionel Messi has been ill and has missed training but may yet start and will train Friday. Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 11 goals in his 18 El Classico starts including two on Tuesday night.
Home win for me at 15/8 with bet365 and Ronaldo to score and Real to win at 3/1 with William Hill
Deportivo La Coruña vs. Rayo Vallecano
A good performance last week hosting Real Madrid but ultimately a sixth defeat on the bounce with their last win eight games ago for Deportivo who sit bottom some nine points from safety and ten in reality with their terrible goal difference. Vallecano are not in the best form having lost their last two, three of four but still sit eighth just three points off a European place. They won five of six games prior to those last four played to be where they are and need to rediscover that form to stand a chance of qualifying next season. Deportivo simply have to win every home game and gather some points away from home too. to stand any chance of survival.
Score draw for me at 23/10 and a correct score prediction of 1-1 at 6/1 with William Hill
Osasuna vs. Athletic Bilbao
14th plays 16th in this crucial relegation battle with both teams desperate to maintain their advantage over the bottom three, slim as it is. Osasuna are in form having won three of their last four including the last two on the bounce and have lost just two in eight. Bilbao are on the slide and though they beat Atletico 3-0 recently it was only their second win in ten with six defeats. They have lost their last three scoring just once. Osasuna have scored in six consecutive games keeping three clean sheets also.
Home win for me at 13/10 and the 2-0 correct score prediction at 10/1 with bet365
Valencia vs. Levante
For a full preview of this match at the Estadio Mestalla by regular contributing writer Steven Suarez and for all free odds, picks and predictions on this match go here: Soccer Picks: Valencia vs. Levante
Home win for me at 1/2 and a 1-0 correct score prediction with bet365
Sunday 3rd March 2013
Granada vs. Mallorca
The Estadio Los Cármenes greets the islanders of Mallorca as they travel to Granada on the southern mainland in search of three points this weekend. 15th hosts 19th as Granada aim to maintain or lengthen the gap to those below them. Both sides lost last time out and both have lost two in a row but there the comparison ends. Mallorca are just two points better off than Deportivo at the bottom and have lost six of eight winning once, eight weeks ago! Granada have a chequered record beating Real Madrid four weeks ago after being thumped in Sevilla.
Home win at 21/20 and Odion Ighalo to Score and Granada to Win at 3/1 with William Hill
Espanyol vs. Real Valladolid
Three straight victories and undefeated in six with five victories came to an end last Saturday for Espanyol with a 1-0 defeat by Atletico, but the resurgence under their new coach and boss Javier Aguirre is all but complete it seems. I have mentioned complacency and how it can affect 'any' side though and Espanyol should need little reminding of their position in the first half of this season, when it took them eight games to register a win and four to even earn a point. A third win in eight at Rayo Vallecano last time out coupled with two draws in the same sequence represents some kind of form form mid-table Valladolid but Espanyol will be too strong for them and will win this one to further their pursuit of a top half finish, unthinkable three months ago.
Home win for me at 5/6 and a 2-0 correct score prediction at 7/1 with bet365
Malaga vs. Atletico Madrid
For my full preview of this game at the Estadio La Rosaleda and all your free odds, picks and predictions on this match, simply click here.
Away win for me at 8/5 and a 1-0 correct scoreline at 7/1 and also Radamel Falcao to score and Atletico to win at 3/1 all with William Hill
Real Sociedad vs. Real Betis
For a full preview of this match at the Estadio Anoeta by regular contributing writer Mike Richardson and for all SBR's free odds, picks and predictions on this match between Sociedad & Betis, simply click here!
Home win for me at 5/6 and the Real Sociedad/Real Sociedad double result at 15/8 with William Hill
Monday 4th March 2013
Sevilla FC vs. Celta Vigo
The Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in Sevilla is the venue for the last game of Week 26 in La Liga. Sevilla are nine points and six places above Celta Vigo, who come into this off their first win in eight including five losses. The hosts may be suffering a hangover from the Copa del Rey aggregate defeat by Atletico Wednesday night but have to shrug that off and concentrate on the 13 games and 39 points still up for grabs in La Liga and not get sucked into the same mess that Celta find themselves in. Celta Vigo will look to do just that as they face several of those around them in the final run in.
Away win for me at 6/1 and Iago Aspas to score and Celta Vigo to win at 10/1 with William Hill