La Liga Week 26
Malaga sit in fourth place right now and hold the 4th Champions League place as it stands, but whilst they are a huge 14 points adrift of their second place visitors this Sunday, they are only a point ahead of Valencia in fifth and with 10th place Levante only eight points away, you can see how tight it is and how one of as many as six teams could make a move for that coveted fourth spot.
Atletico Madrid went out of the Europa League last week but then drew 2-2 in Sevilla to progress 4-3 on aggregate to the Copa del Rey Final where they meet arch rivals Real Madrid in April some time, the date and venue to be arranged. Malaga are very much still in the Champions League however and face a very winnable game at home with a 1-0 deficit to overcome against Porto in just under two weeks time. So they will know from this season the financial value of keeping that fourth spot as well as Atleti will know how much they must keep their second spot advantage over city rivals Real to be able to reap those same Champions League rewards next season along with the all important bragging rights!
Malaga are at 9/5 soccer odds with bet365 to close on their visitors and hold on to fourth spot, whilst Atleti are 3/2 to make it four wins from their last five, with three on the bounce preceding the Copa del Rey draw and aggregate win! Malaga have lost their last two including the Porto tie but had won three of four drawing the other before that, so in the last six both sides have similar records overall but Madrid the better of the two, with five wins the last ten against three for the hosts, who have drawn and lost one more than Atleti in that time. The draw is at 23/10 with bet365 but these two have managed just five stalemates in their last 20 games so I am steering clear of that one personally.
With just the league to concentrate on now and with the chance to stay four points ahead of Real in the hunt for second and, if Barca continue to falter starting at the Bernabeu this weekend and with Barca still to visit the Vicente Calderon this season, Atleti could find themselves within six points of Barca as the last 12 games and 36 points are fought over in the coming weeks. And with Real Madrid firing on all cylinders in the big games and winning in the league then maybe, just maybe, the race for La Liga is not quite as over as it has seemed for most of the season thus far.
Also, check out our prediction for the Real Sociedad vs. Betis fixture~
Barca are still 1/200 to win the title and yes, they should, with their points advantage, walk it. But Atleti at 40/1 and Real 33/1 for the title, which I still don't quite get with the respective league positions but I digress, that's the prices, I really do think there is some value in a small flutter on either of those two as Barca could just lose their way. Much will depend on this weekend and their now pivotal Champions League tie with AC Milan which, if you have been to Mars or Peckham, they trail 2-0!
The return of 21 goal Radamel Falcao and the return to winning ways for Atleti is no coincidence. He has scored in his last three games and it is a shame that the financial climate may rob them of the kind of player that could have them seriously challenging the stranglehold of the top and dominant two, with the superb work of coach Diego Simeone not to be underestimated either. They will struggle to keep either of them on this season's showing! Falcao to score and Atleti to win is at 3/1 whilst new signing Julio Baptista is 6/1 to notch his first for Malaga and them to win, having not scored in his first four outings for his new team!
Atletico Madrid will be in buoyant mood having secured another major final in the Copa del Rey and with the extra spice of it being a Madrid Derby too, and with all to play for as I have stated, it is time to prove their real metal here and who knows, Barca wobble a time or three more and there could yet be the word 'Madrid' on the La Liga trophy, just a new one for a change. Stranger things do and have happened! I like Atleti to come out and win this one early on and so am leaning towards the double result of Atletico/Atletico at 10/3 with William Hill here.
The corresponding fixture in October ended 2-1 to Atleti with Falcao on the score-sheet and a repeat of that score is available with William Hill for 9/1 as is, in fact, the identical price for Malaga to reverse that score and win 2-1 themselves. They have failed to score their last two though and only netted once in three, whilst Madrid have failed to score just once their last ten matches. I am favouring the under 2.5 which is 4/6 with bet365 for my soccer picks in this one and a win for the visitors who must surely be motivated by the home stretch in their campaign, upcoming matches to prove their validity and 'that' cup final. Malaga with one eye on Europe and Porto and their slump in form and goal drought to continue in this one.
Free Soccer Picks: 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