Spanish La Liga Preview

Gameweek 20 of the Spanish La Liga saw Atletico Madrid maintain their two-point lead at the summit of the table with a 3-0 victory at Las Palmas, while Barcelona and Real Madrid stayed hard on their heels with thumping wins over Athletic Bilbao and Sporting Gijon.  Luis Enrique’s side have a tricky fixture away to Malaga who they failed to beat last season, losing 1-0 at the Camp Nou before drawing goalless at La Rosaleda. The Catalans will be out to avenge that defeat, but will be wary of the threat Malaga pose. Colchoneros will also have a tough test on their hands as they host in-form Sevilla at the Vicente Calderon Stadium, while free-scoring Real Madrid will have they pleasure of playing against strugglers Real Betis. There are some exciting matches to watch and I think there could be a couple of upsets this weekend.

Friday 22 January

2/1 Sporting Gijon | Draw 2/1 | Real Sociedad 13/10 (21:30)

Abelardo Fernandez's Gijon were thrashed 5-1 by a rampant Real Madrid side last Sunday. That was their fourth consecutive loss and they remain winless in six matches. Results have to improve for Rojiblancos or a return to the Segunda Division is on the horizon. Real Sociedad, on the other hand, have improved in recent weeks, which has helped them climb up to 15th place. Eusebio Sacristan’s side are undefeated in three matches having beaten Valencia, while drawing with Rayo Vallecano and Deportivo. Sociedad, however, are winless in six away games with four defeats. The draw looks the likely outcome at 2/1.

Saturday 23 January

7/1 Malaga | 4/1 | Barcelona 3/10 (17:00)

Malaga’s four match unbeaten run finally came to an end as a brace from Kevin Gameiro handed Sevilla a 2-1 victory last Saturday. Javi Gracia would have been disappointed his side couldn’t maintain their good form heading into the match against Barcelona. However, Javi will be hopeful his side can spring an upset against the La Liga champions. Malaga are unbeaten at home in three games with two wins on the bounce, including a notable 1-0 victory over Atletico Madrid. Barcelona extended their unbeaten run to 22 games in all competitions when they thrashed Athletic Bilbao 6-0 at the Camp Nou in what was their biggest win of the season. Luis Suarez scored a hat-trick while Lionel Messi, Neymar and Ivan Rakitic were also on the scoresheet. Jordi Alba suffered a hamstring injury in that game while Messi picked up a small strain and will have tests later in the week. Barca failed to beat Malaga last season, losing 1-0 at the Camp Nou before drawing goalless. Enrique’s side did win the reverse fixture 1-0 this season, but Malaga are tipped to earn a commendable point.  

5/4 Deportivo La Coruna | 22/10 | Valencia 2/1 (19:15)

Deportivo had to settle for just a point against Real Sociedad last weekend as Xabi Prieto’s penalty cancelled out Luis Alberto’s strike. Victor Sanchez’s side are now winless in six matches in all competitions with three defeats. Gary Neville's failure to win a La Liga game since taking charge at Valencia extended to a sixth game after his side drew 2-2 with Rayo Vallecano last weekend. The former Manchester United defender's team needed an 88th minute equaliser from Paco Alcacer to claim a point at the Mestalla. Neville has now overseen four draws and two defeats in the league since being named as the Spanish club's new manager. He's at least had more joy in the Copa del Rey, beating lower league Barakaldo and then Granada in both legs of their tie. Deportivo are tipped on the Win/Draw Double at 3/10. 

27/20 Granada | 2/1 | Getafe 2/1 (21:30)

Granada were hammered 5-1 by Eibar on Monday in what was their fourth straight defeat in all competitions. The Nazaries, who have won only one of their last 10 away matches in La Liga, have 17 points and sit 17th, a single point above the drop zone.  Getafe continued their excellent run of form by beating Espanyol 3-1 at home to record a third successive victory. The Madrid side move above Valencia and up to 10th in the Primera Division and have now gone six league games without defeat. The away win is a top bet at mouth-watering odds of 2/1. 

17/10 Rayo Vallecano | 9/4 | Celta Vigo 15/10 (23:05)

Rayo Vallecano were close to recording their first victory in 10 matches but Alcacer’s last gasp goal secured a point for Valencia last time out. Paco Jemez’s side are languishing in 18th place on the table and have the worst defence in league, conceding 45 goals. Celta Vigo closed to within five points of fourth-placed Villarreal when they held off a spirited fightback from bottom side Levante to secure a 4-3 victory last Saturday. Eduardo Berizzo will be hoping to build on that result in a bid to make the top four. Celta have lost just once in their last five away matches with three victories. Back the away win at 15/10.

Sunday 24 January

6/10 Athletic Bilbao | 11/4 | Eibar 9/2 (13:00)

Athletic Bilbao will be hoping to recover from their 6-0 thrashing by Barcelona last time out. The Lions are now winless in three matches with consecutive losses. In those games, they only scored twice and conceded 10 times. Ernesto Valverde will be pleased to be back at San Mames Stadium where they are unbeaten in six matches with four wins. Eibar continued to exceed expectations by climbing to sixth with a crushing La Liga win over Granada on Monday. That was the Basque side’s fourth straight victory, scoring 13 goals while conceding just twice. Eibar on the Win/Draw Double Chance is my tip at 11/10. 

6/10 Atletico Madrid | 26/10 | Sevilla 5/1 (17:00)

Atletico Madrid secured a comfortable 3-0 victory over Las Palmas last Sunday to stretch their unbeaten run to six matches. Led by veterans Diego Godin and Juanfran, the Atletico backline is a well-oiled unit, compressing space well and rarely being caught out of position. When shots come through, usually from long range, goalkeeper Jan Oblak deals with them. Going foward Atletico don't waste numbers, usually attacking with a calm precision that makes certain they aren't caught short at the back. When an opportunity develops they are lethal about the business of supporting their front-runners. This weekend they host an in-form Sevilla side that come into the clash with four wins on the spin, scoring 10 goals in that run while conceding just once. Atleti have dominated this fixture in recent seasons – unbeaten in 12 attempts, winning half of those games. It should be a tight affair, but I’m tipping Atletico to edge it at 6/10.  

19/10 Espanyol | 2/1 | Villarreal 29/20 (19:15)

Constantin Galca’s Espanyol are winless in six matches in all competitions following their 3-1 loss to Getafe last Sunday. Five of those games have all ended in defeats but all were away from home. Galca’s side are unbeaten in their last five home matches, but have managed just two wins. The Yellow Submarine are in a rich vein of form with six wins from seven games following their goalless draw at home to Real Betis last weekend. Roberto Soldado and Cedric Bakambu inspired Villarreal to a 3-1 victory at the El Madrigal Stadium. The Yellow Submarine are tipped to emulate that with a comfortable win here. 

8/1 Real Betis | 9/2 | Real Madrid 1/4 (21:30)

Real Madrid continued their serene progress under new coach Zinedine Zidane when Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema scored twice apiece in a 5-1 destruction of Gijon. It was another morale-boosting performance following the sacking of the unpopular Rafa Benitez, under whom they failed to impress against any of their main rivals. The victory may have come at a cost, however, as Gareth Bale and Benzema were forced off the pitch due to injury. Zidane said Bale would need a scan to determine the extent of the injury, while Benzema had suffered a knock that was probably less serious. Los Blancos will be expecting another comfortable win against Real Betis, who are winless in 10 matches. In Juan Merino's first league game since Pepe Mel was sacked, the interim coach helped Betis end a five-match losing streak in all competitions. Their goalless draw away to Villarreal takes them up to 14th in the standings, but they have no chance against free-scoring Real this weekend. Take Real Madrid to win on the Half-time/Full-time Double at 7/10. 

Monday 25 January

27/20 Levante | 2/1 | Las Palmas 2/1 (21:30)

Bottom-placed Levante put in a spirited performance in their 4-3 defeat away to Celta Vigo last Saturday. Coach Rubi would have been pleased with his team’s performance and probably felt they deserved something from the game. However, it’s all about getting results and if they can’t string a few wins together they’ll certainly be in the Segunda Division next season. This weekend they host fellow relegation candidates, Las Palmas, in a potential six-pointer. The newly-promoted club are 16th on the table with 18 points, just four above their opponents. Los Amarillos are yet to win a match away from home this season with six defeats from nine games. I’m going for Levante to make home advantage count at 27/20. 

La Liga Picks
Sporting Gijon DRAW 2/1
Malaga DRAW 4/1
Deportivo WIN/DRAW 3/10
Getafe WIN 2/1
Celta Vigo WIN 15/10
Eibar WIN/DRAW 11/10
Atletico Madrid WIN 6/10
Villarreal WIN 29/20
Real Madrid HT-FT WIN 7/10
Levante WIN 27/20

Written by Chadley Nagel