Sunday's Spanish La Liga Preview
Athletic Bilbao v Espanyol, 16:00
For the first time in the league this season, Bilbao (10/11) failed to score and paid the price by losing 2-0 away to Basque rivals Sociedad. Athletic did have a couple of very good chances but. with defender San Jose giving away a penalty and scoring an own goal, it was simply not their day.
On paper, today should, however, be their day as Joaquin Caparros's boys are back at home in San Mames - a ground where they have only lost to an in-form Atletico and a rampant Barcelona this season.
Those games aside, Athletic have won five out of five and it seems senseless to bet against them making it six in six tonight against opposition who have proved to be a win at home, lose away side for many years.
However, Pochettino's Espanyol (3/1) have begun to dispel that theory after winning away to Mallorca and Atletico in the last month. With hindsight, the Mallorca defeat is the more surprising of the two as Los Colchoneros lost their subsequent home fixture, while Mallorca won theirs.
Winning at San Mames is a big ask though, and a tempted as I am to look at a draw, I'm going with what makes sense on paper and betting on a Bilbao win.
Though he has not scored in a couple of games, Fernando Llorente (7/2 to score first, evens anytime) is probably the man to get them that win.
Given the 2-1 I've just thrown out there, I think there is a decent chance that Espanyol will score. I'd say it's a 50/50 simply because Luis Garcia (9/1 to score first, 5/2 anytime) - and not Pablo Osvaldo (13/2 to score first, 7/4 anytime) - made it two goals in two games after scoring the winner in the Catalans 1-0 home defeat of Sporting last weekend.
Consistency in as striker is what I want to see when betting on goalscorers, but be warned that besides the very best, most of them can't maintain consistency away from home for long.
Recommendation: Athletic (evens)
Hercules v Malaga, 16:00
In their 1-0 away defeat to Deportivo last Monday evening, Hercules (6/5) showed that they are near useless away from home after managing to register only a solitary shot on target.
Back at home in Alicante this afternoon, David Trezeguet and Nelson Valdez should register a few more between them.
As usual, in home matches only, I prefer Trezeguet out of the two as he is the more prolific. Maybe Valdez will turn things round sooner or later, we'll see.
The Malaga (23/10) faithful saw a game full of goals last weekend as The Anchovies crushed Racing Santander 4-1. With one goal each were Recio and Eliseu With two goals was the boy Rondon, a young Columbian whom I hope can develop the required consistency to allow punters to confidently bet on him in home matches.
Today is, however, an away game and Hercules are good at home so I'm expecting Trezeguet to fire his team to victory, possibly by a 2-1 scoreline - (15/2) for the correct score.
The "Yes" (7/10) option in the both teams to score market ties in with that scoreline but, be warned, a lot of by both teams to score punts went wrong last weekend. Perhaps this was due to the road travel caused by the air traffic controllers strike in Spain. How would they have coped 20 years ago?!
Recommendation: Hercules (6/5)
Mallorca v Racing Santander, 16:00
Losing away to Getafe by three goals was not what I expected to see last weekend. More disturbingly from my perspective, Laudrup's Mallorca (8/11) could not even score, ruining my both teams to score recommendation.
Pierre Webo (4/1 to score first, 11/10 anytime) had a penalty shout denied and Castro (11/2 to score first, 6/4 anytime) came close but, other than that, the islanders offered little threat going forward.
Racing (7/2) lost 4-1 away to Pellegrini's Malaga last weekend with Rosenberg (13/2 to score first, 7/4 anytime) scoring their consolation goal. If Racing are to notch one today, it will probably be him who scores it.
Scorelines to consider are 1-0, 2-0 and, if you think Racing will score, 2-1 to Mallorca - The three are priced at 11/2, 13/2 and 15/2 respectively.
I can't see past a Mallorca win in the 90 minute market and see that as the safest bet.
Recommendation: Mallorca (8/11)
Sporting Gijon v Levante, 16:00
Despite playing against ten men for 38 minutes, Sporting (evens) still lost 1-0 away to Espanyol last weekend. Nonetheless, losing away is exactly what I expect from the Gijon side.
One of the side's from Valencia, 15th placed Levante (11/4), managed to take advantage of Atletico Madrid's recent slump by beating them 2-0 in Valencia last Saturday.
On the scoresheet were Nano (33/1 to score first, 10/1 anytime) and Caicedo (15/2 to score first, 2/1 anytime), with the latter confidently placing his shot into the top corner from 15 yards.
Impressive stuff from the on -loan Manchester City striker, but can his team win away today?
Probably not is the answer, but I don't fully trust Sporting after their last home game - a 3-1 defeat to Sociedad - so I'm willing to take a chance on a draw (23/10).
Scorelines to compliment my 90 minute pick are 0-0 and 1-1, priced at 9/1 and 6/1 respectively. However, I would not blame you for going got the home team wins theory and if you are of that mindset, 1-0 to Sporting (6/1) could be for you.
Worth a punt: Draw (23/10)
Barcelona v Real Sociedad, 18:00-Sky Sports 1
After being told that the game would be played on the Sunday by his president, Sandro Rosell, due to the air strike, Pep Guardiola had to rush his players down to Osasuna by rail and coach land travel after the Spanish FA changed their mind and decided that their match with the team from Pamplona must in fact go ahead as planned on Saturday or Barcelona (1/10) would be docked points.
Crazy stuff, but after taking twenty minutes to find their feet, Barca cruised to a 3-0 victory through a Messi (7/4 to score first, 4/11 anytime) brace and a cool Pedro finish.
With a largely inexperienced team of youngsters, Barcelona beat Rubin Kazan 2-0 in the Champions league midweek - Impressive stuff considering that a full strength team has struggled with the Russian side many times in the last couple of seasons.
Real Sociedad (16/1) will put up a struggle tonight and have a couple of good players in Griezmann (20/1 to score first, 7/1 anytime) and Prieto (also 20/1 to score first, 7/1 anytime), the latter of whom scored in Sociedad's 2-0 home derby defeat of Athletic Bilbao last Monday night.
With that win, Sociedad are now up to sixth position. Their stay there should, however, prove to be brief as Barca have many in - form, fresh players to fit back into their team for this match.
Iniesta, Xavi and Messi have been shortlisted for the World Player of the Year award and all should be on show today - As should David Villa (9/4 to score first, 1/2 anytime) and Pedro (7/2 to score first, 10/11 anytime).
Messi is my favoured option in the scorers market and a player I like to put on in wincast and anytime wincast bets. Today the former is priced at 2/1, the latter at 4/9.
As for the correct score: Well, Barca are just so enjoyable to watch that I don't want to commit to anything in case I get it wrong. There are other bets to be had and, as is the theme this week, I will look to the handicap market for my favoured bet.
Recommendation: Barca - 2 goals (8/13)
Real Zaragoza v Real Madrid, 20:00-Sky Sports 1
While it took them a long time to do it, Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid (2/7) twice breached Valencia's defence to record a 2-0 victory. With both goals was the leader in the Pichichi race, Cristiano Ronaldo (2/1 to score first, 2/5 anytime).
With Benzema (3/1 to score first, 8/11 anytime) not a certain starter - even in Higuain's absence - CR7 can likely be counted on to score in every match. The bad news is that he's always very short priced, whether in form or not.
A slightly better price can be found in the wincast and anytime wincast bets at 12/5 and 11/20 respectively.
From the penalty spot, Zaragoza (9/1) went ahead through Gabi (25/1 to score first, 8/1 anytime), but later conceded to draw 1-1 away to Almeria in their last fixture.
Tonight, the only outcome involving a draw will likely be the double result bet of draw/Madrid (16/5), which has been a winner several times this season - including the match with Valencia.
The winning double result could also be Real Madrid/Real Madrid (4/6), so I prefer to look to handicap betting once again. Real - 2 goals is acceptably priced at 9/5 and is as far as I'd push it given Los Blancos Champions league participation last Wednesday. However, the conservative amongst you may wish to take the safer Real - 1 option at 7/10.
Recommendation: Real Madrid - 2 goals (9/5)
Sunday double recommendation: Mallorca (8/11) and Athletic (10/11)
Enjoy the action and if don't forget that William Hill offers over 100 in-play markets for you to choose from.