The weekend’s La Liga previews, 2013/14 – round 1
We've endured a long wait, but finally La Liga is back and I can't wait for it to start! If you are new to my previews, this is my fifth year covering Spain's top flight and I expect to get around six or seven of my picks correct each week.
Of course, I'd like to get them all right and have done this before, but picking every league game every week is not easy.
In most games, I will make a recommendation based on what I see as being the best bet. Price is, of course, a factor, but sometimes I just go with what I think - even if it's shorter than I'd like.
You should interpret my work as it's written and, most importantly, only bet what you can afford to lose.
Good luck if you follow my picks and feel free to comment either on the comments section at the bottom of this page or via my Twitter feed.
Finally, please do read and re-tweet/share my 2013/14 La Liga season preview
Saturday 17th August
Real Sociedad v Getafe, 18:00
After an unlikely 4th placed finish last season, Real Sociedad (5/6) lost their coach, Montanier, to Rennes and best midfielder to Real Madrid- who paid Illamendi's buyout clause. Hardly ideal, but the club messed their now former French coach about with regards to a new contract - and a buyout clause, well, what could they do.
Anyway, while La Real still have the players to make a top 6 finish, it remains to be seen how their small squad will cope with the demands of Champions League football. Last time they qualified for UEFA's flagship tournament, in 2003, not very well was the answer.
Little to set the pulse racing with summer changes at Getafe (19/5), but they do seem to well against Real Sociedad - drawing at San Sebastian last season and winning at the Alfonso Perez - and I'm going to see if they can get a draw or better this weekend.
Worth a punt: Getafe + 1 goal (19/20)
View our full range of betting in Real Sociedad v Getafe
Valladolid v Athletic Bilbao, 20:00 - live on Sky Sports 4
Coach Djukic has left Valladolid to join Valencia, while Bielsa has parted with Athletic Bilbao, replaced by Ernesto Valverde - who was at Valencia last season.
Merry go round aside, what does alll of this mean? My guess: Valladolid (17/20) will struggle, while Athletic (17/10) will prosper in the league without European competition to tire their limited squad out.
Given that the midfielder is good in the tackle and an excellent free kick taker who should weigh in with 7-10 goals this season, the addition of Benat from Betis should prove to be a very good move for Athletic. All in all, I think that Athletic will finish in the top 6 and maybe the top 4.
As for today's game, well, Athletic drew 2-2 here last season, so if I think they are now stronger and that the home team has weakened, Athletic draw no bet is surely worth a punt.
Recommendation: Athletic - draw no bet (19/20)
View our full range of betting in Valladolid v Athletic Bilbao
Valencia v Malaga, 22:00 - live on Sky Sports 4
Valencia's coaching changes are catalogued in the preview above, while I'm sure you all know that Pellegrini has left Malaga for Man City - replaced by former Real Madrid coach Bernd Schuster. As for player changes, Soldado has left, replaced by Helder Postiga in a cut price deal, while Isco, Toulalan and Demichelis have all left the Anchovies for a more consistent pay packet and better chance of winning trophies.
While Jonas was more consistent last season than he was in 2011/12, the inevitable loss of Soldado makes you wonder who'll score the goals for Los Che in 2013/14.
Positga's signing is better than nothing, but I'd prefer to assess Valencia (6/10) and their new forward in my own viewing before placing a bet on them.
Former Che player Djukic has achieved good pre-season results and I forecast a home win against Malaga (5/1) - who Valencia defeated 5-1 here last season - but the 4/5 that was available a few weeks ago is now 6/10 and too low for me to recommend, I think.
If you fancy it, we have a headline offer of Postiga to score and Valencia to win at 6/4. Otherwise, you can always bet in-play.
Sunday 18th August
Barcelona v Levante, 18:00 - live on Sky Sports 4
Most importantly, our best wishes to Tito Vilanova from all at William Hill - we hope he has a speedy recovery and encounters no further problems with his illness.
Now, of course, former Newell's Old Boys coach Gerardo Martino - a man who played attacking football in a safety first league - is the new Barcelona (1/10) coach.
In other news, Thiago, Villa and Abidal have left the club, with Neymar coming in from Santos on a record club deal.
I should expect the young Brazilian will spend a lot of time on the ground while he adapts to Spanish football, but he is an exciting talent and should be a joy to watch long term.
As for today's game, well, it's unlikely that Levante (20/1) will win but very plausible that we'll have witnessed two goals before half time. I'm certainly willing to bet that repeating this tactic over the course of a season will pay off.
Sadly, the price has lessened somewhat (was 5/6), but you can always chance waiting out a couple of minutes in-play for a better price if you wish.
Recommendation: Over 1.5 first half goals (4/6)
View our full range of betting in Barcelona v Levante
Real Madrid v Real Betis, 20:00 - live on Sky Sports 4
Mourinho out, the more reserved, more controllable and better behaved Ancelotti in. On the playing side at Real Madrid (1/6), notably, Higuain and Albiol have left, with Isco and Illamendi coming in.
Real, apparently, will focus on youth long term. We'll see how they get on with that, but the news signings are a step in that direction - as is bringing back Carvajal from Leverkusen (for more than they sold him for, naturally) and calling up forwards Jese and Morata from the B team, Castilla.
Along with loanees Campbell and Pavon, Benat has left Betis (16/1). Verdu is their only notable signing, joining from Espanyol. Betis, I think, will struggle to come anywhere close to repeating last season's 7th placed finish if their European campaign lasts beyond the group stages.
In conclusion, Betis have scored in their last three visits to the Bernabeu and last six games against Real Madrid, but it's only 6/4 for both to score and Real to defeat Betis so I've chosen a different bet.
Indeed, like Barcelona games, I expect this bet will win a lot more than it'll lose over the course of the season.
Recommendations: Over 1.5 first half goals (4/5)
View our full range of betting in Real Madrid v Real Betis
Osasuna v Granada, 20:00
Traditionally hard to beat on home soil, you'd expect Osasuna (23/20) to defeat Granada in Pamplona. However, low scoring Osasuna sold their best striker, Sola, to Athletic Bilbao and, as such, it's hard to see who'll score their goals this season.
Granada (5/2) have employed Riki and Piti - both adept at scoring goals with the former having netted thirteen for Deportivo last season and the latter eighteen for Rayo Vallecano. Also, Granada defeated Osasuna home and away in 2012/13.
Well, you'd fancy under 2.5 goals here, but it's the first week and I'm having a small punt on an upset instead.
Worth a punt: Granada (5/2)
Sevilla v Atletico Madrid, 22:00 - live on Sky Sports 4
As I expect you all know, Negredo, Navas and Medel have all left Sevilla, while Falcao parted company with Atletico Madrid to join the uber-rich Monaco.
Atletico (17/10), for whom Diego Costa shone for in 2012/13, often in Falcao's absence, have made the impressive signings of David Villa and Leo Baptistao, along with securing the services of former Malaga defender Martin Demichelis.
All in all, while Sevilla have brought in forwards Gameiro and Bacca to complement on-loan winger Marin, they've lost their best striker, winger and midfielder - and given the quality of the departed and likelihood that the new Sevilla attackers will need time to gel, coupled with the fact that Atletico won here last season, my opinion is that Simeone and his charges will get at least a draw here, probably all three points.
Recommendation: Atletico - draw no bet (4/5)
Monday 19th August
Rayo Vallecano v Elche, 19:00
Along with star player Leo Baptistao, nearly all of Rayo Vallecano's (13/10) midfielders and forwards have left, making them hard to judge at present.
Elche (23/10), Segunda champions in 2012/13, have brought in a few players with top flight experience, but still look likely candidates for immediate relegation.
With Rayo pretty strong on home soil last season, I feel I have to recommend a home win against a promoted team at a fair 13/10 price, but be warned that this is largely a different Rayo team that we're dealing with.
Recommendation: Rayo (13/10)
View our full range of betting in Rayo Vallecano v Elche
Almeria v Villarreal, 21:00
Whilst I have nothing against Almeria (17/10), it's nice to see the Yellow Submarines of Villarreal back in the top flight. Of course, nearly all of the players you will remember from a couple of years ago have left, but they look capable of avoiding an immediate return to Segunda football.
The Segunda's top scorer, Charles, has left Almeria and that gives Villarreal (17/10) the advantage, but its promoted team v promoted team and a hard call in the ninety minute market.
My temptation is to opt for both teams to score because it let me down in the Segunda last season, but with Charles now a Celta player, it loses a little credibility.
In conclusion, a 1-1 draw is my guess (priced at 11/2), but given that the last five clashes between these two have finished 1-0, 1-0, 1-1, 0-0 and 2-0, under 2.5 goals looks like the bet.
However, the price about the unders and has been backed in and I'll leave it alone, but it does look like the best bet if you don't know what to pick.
Recommendation: Under 2.5 goals (8/13)
View our full range of betting in Almeria v Villarreal
Celta v Espanyol
Surviving on the last day of the season, Celta (13/10) have now turned to Luis Enrique to advance their ambition and stabilise the club. Despite losing star forward Aspas to Liverpool and the Premier League, the former Roma and Barcelona B coach has acted swiftly by bringing in a plethora of Barca B players, either on permanent or loan deals.
Whether this just makes Celta a really good Segunda team or propels them up the Primera table remains to be seen, but against an Espanyol (21/10) side that has lost their best attacker, Verdu, and doesn't travel well, we've got to give the new Celta the nod on home soil.
Recommendation: Celta (13/10)
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