Spanish La Liga Preview

Barcelona and Real Madrid recorded big winning margins on Gameweek 19, while Atletico Madrid maintained their position at the top of La Liga with a 2-0 win over Celta Vigo. It now looks like a three-horse race following the sacking of Rafael Benitez, or rather the appointment of Zinedine Zidane. The Frenchman got off to a flying start as Los Blancos coach when Gareth Bale hit a hat-trick in a 5-0 win over Deportivo La Coruna, after a sparkling Lionel Messi had earlier inspired Barca to a 4-0 success at home to struggling Granada. This weekend, Los Blancos welcome Sporting Gijon to the Santiago Bernabeu, while leaders Atletico Madrid travel to Las Palmas. Barcelona have the toughest test as they host Athletic Bilbao, but the La Liga champions are firm favourites to claim maximum points. 

Saturday 16 January

11/20 Sevilla | Draw 3/1 | Malaga 9/2 (17:00)

Sevilla climbed up to seventh in La Liga with a 2-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao last Saturday. Kevin Gameiro struck twice for Los Rojiblancos, his first coming in the 24th minute, then adding a penalty just before the hour mark. Unai Emery’s side will return to their stamping ground where they’ve won seven on the spin in all competitions. Their opponents, Malaga, come off a 1-1 draw away to Las Palmas. Javi Gracia’s men are unbeaten in four matches with three wins, including their notable 1-0 victory over Atletico Madrid. Both sides are in good form, but the Europa League champions are tipped to make home advantage count. 

5/10 Celta Vigo | 3/1 | Levante 52/10 (19:15)

Celta Vigo went down 2-0 to leaders Atletico Madrid last Sunday. Eduardo Berizzo’s side have lost three on the trot in La Liga without scoring a goal. Much of that has come down to the absence of Spanish star Nolito, who has missed all three of those fixtures due to a hamstring injury. Celta Vigo will be desperate to return to winning ways and will have a perfect opportunity of doing so as they host bottom-placed Levante. Les Granotes got only their third win of the season as they saw off fellow basement club Rayo Vallecano 2-1, with Deyverson and Jose Luis Morales getting the goals. Coach Rubi will be hoping to build on that performance, but their away form is a major concern. Levante are winless in four matches on the road with three straight losses. Back the home win at 5/10. 

7/20 Villarreal | 36/10 | Real Betis 13/2 (21:30)

Two goals from Cedric Bakambu fired Villarreal to a sixth successive victory as they overcame struggling Sporting Gijon 2-0 at El Madrigal. Marcelino's side tightened their hold on fourth place after the win and have taken 39 points from the first half of the season, equalling their best ever points record for the first half of a campaign. Real Betis, meanwhile, have sacked Pepe Mel following a dreadful run of form. They are winless in eight matches with five defeats, including four on the bounce. The home win is tipped confidently and should be included in all multiples for the weekend. 

17/20 Real Sociedad | 23/10 | Deportivo La Coruna 33/10 (23:05)

Real Sociedad piled further misery on Gary Neville as they saw off his Valencia side 2-0, thanks to two second half strikes from Jonathas de Jesus. That was Sociedad’s first win in six matches and coach Eusebio Sacristan will be hopeful of clinching victory over a wounded Deportivo La Coruna. Victor Sanchez’s side were on the receiving end of a Gareth Bale masterclass as the Welshman netted a hat-trick in a 5-0 trouncing. Deportivo are now winless in four matches, but their defeat against Los Blancos was only their first loss in five away games. With home advantage, Real Sociedad are tipped to edge the win.

Sunday 17 January

11/20 Valencia | 3/1 | Rayo Vallecano 42/10 (13:00)

Gary Neville is still without a league win as Valencia manager after two goals from Brazilian striker Jonathas gave Real Sociedad victory last Sunday. Although he has impressed onlookers at Valencia since taking charge, Neville's record after five league games does not make for encouraging reading, losing two, drawing three and winning none. His team have also been beaten in the Champions League since he took over, losing 2-0 to Lyon. Valencia are much better at the Mestalla Stadium and Neville will be confident of securing his first league victory. Their opponents, Rayo Vallecano, are winless in eight matches with six defeats, including a 10-2 annihilation from Real Madrid. Valencia have to come good sometime and I’m expecting it to happen sooner rather than later. Take the home win at 11/20. 

1/16 Real Madrid | 95/10 | Sporting Gijon 23/1 (17:00)

Zidane got off to a perfect start in charge of Real Madrid with a 5-0 thrashing over Deportivo La Coruna. A Bale treble and two goals from Karim Benzema lifted Real to 40 points, two behind Barca, with Villarreal a point further back in fourth after they beat Sporting Gijon 2-0. Los Blancos have won five on the spin at the Santiago Bernabeu and will be looking to build on that. Sporting Gijon are without a win in five matches with four defeats, including three on the trot. Real Madrid are a banker bet, but are too short for the straight win. Back them to Win Both Halves at 6/10. 

12/10 Getafe | 2/1 | Espanyol 23/10 (19:15)

Getafe recorded a 1-0 victory over Real Betis last Saturday to stretch their unbeaten run to six matches. Fran Escriba’s side have won half of those matches, including two on the spin. Their opponents, Espanyol, come off a 2-1 defeat away to Eibar and remain winless in four matches. In those fixtures, they’ve suffered three losses, including a 4-1 defeat to Barcelona in the Copa del Rey. Just three points separate the sides in La Liga with Getafe above in 12th place on 23 points and Espanyol below in 13th. Getafe are tipped on the Win/Draw Double at 3/10. 

52/10 Las Palmas | 26/10 | Atletico Madrid 11/20 (19:15)

Atletico Madrid returned to the top of the Primera Division standings with a 2-0 victory at Celta Vigo. The win moved Atletico two points ahead of second-placed Barcelona, who have a game in hand, and four points clear of city rivals Real. Los Colchoneros are unbeaten in four matches in all competitions with three wins. They’ve been brutal at the back, only letting in eight goals all season long. Las Palmas did well to hold in-form Malaga to a 1-1 draw last time out, stretching their unbeaten run to four matches. They won’t be a walk in the park for the league leaders, but Diego Simeone’s side should prove too strong here. Get on the away win at 11/20. 

1/8 Barcelona | 67/10 | Athletic Bilbao 16/1 (21:30)

Barca, who have a game in hand over their title rivals, thrashed Granada 4-0 at the Nou Camp, with Lionel Messi netting his first hat-trick in 10 months and Neymar also on target. The match also saw both Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal make their long-awaited debut’s. The Catalans are unbeaten at home with nine wins from 10 games and Luis Enrique will be looking to extend that run of form. Athletic Bilbao suffered a 2-0 defeat away to Sevilla last Saturday. Ernesto Valverde will be hoping his side recover from that loss, but a trip to the Nou Camp is not the best place to travel to. The Lions have lost two of their last three away matches and Barcelona should secure maximum points here. I’m going with Barca to Score In Both Halves at 5/10.  

Monday 18 January

7/10 Eibar | 23/10 | Granada 4/1 (21:30)

Eibar boosted their European hopes by beating Espanyol for a third consecutive win. Borja's penalty 16 minutes from time sealed the 2-1 victory to move Eibar to within a point of sixth-placed Sevilla. Coach Jose Luis Mendilibar, who is in his second stint at the club, has played down their chances of European qualification and claims maintaining their top-flight status is the priority. However, if they continue to outshine teams and grind out results, they could end the season off as overachievers. Granada were thumped 4-0 by Barcelona, courtesy of a hat-trick from Lionel Messi. The Nazaries have lost four of their last five matches in all competitions. Take the home win at 7/10. 

La Liga Picks
Sevilla WIN 11/20
Celta Vigo WIN 5/10
Villarreal WIN 7/20
Real Sociedad WIN 17/20
Valencia WIN 11/20
Real Madrid WIN BOTH HALVES 6/10
Getafe WIN/DRAW 3/10
Atletico Madrid WIN 11/20
Eibar WIN 7/10

Written by Chadley Nagel