Wednesday's Spanish Copa del Rey Preview
The first leg Carling cup semi finals take centre stage in England midweek, but punters looking for extra betting options should look no further than the Spanish cup. Three of the four Copa Del Rey quarter final ties are on Sky TV, two and a half of which you can watch live without missing a minute of the English cup action. Tonight see's two of the four games take place:
Villarreal v Sevilla, 19:00
Most UK viewers will be very familiar with these two teams through their exploits in the Champions league. This season, however, both teams are playing in the Europa league as Sevilla - going through a major blip at the time - fell to Portuguese side FC Braga in the final qualifying round, while Villarreal, after finishing 7th in the Primera division standings, are only in Europe at all because 5th placed Mallorca were denied entry for financial mismanagement.
In all competitions this season, Villarreal (10/11) have come on leaps and bounds and many pundits think that their current team is the best they've ever had. The sarcastically nicknamed Yellow Submarines (through their now irrelevant ability to get promoted, then relegated) currently occupy third position in the league standings and, after a 0-0 draw in the first leg, beat local rivals Valencia 4-2 (after being 2-0 down at half time) in the second leg of their last cup tie.
Since their Champions league qualifying elimination, Sevilla (3/1) have seriously faltered in the league with countless dropped points and shock defeats costing manager Alvarez his job. New manager Manzano has also suffered several shock defeats, but his team have picked up form in recent games and offensively are firing on all cylinders. The Rojiblancos (red and whites) are currently 10th in the league standings and beat Malaga 8-3 on aggregate in the last round of the cup.
Though neither team has a massive squad and will be tired after playing three games in a week, they both score goals home and away and have strikers in form.
Former Manchester United forward Giuseppi Rossi has been fantastic for Villarreal, while Sevilla's strike tandem of Kanoute and Fabiano both netted at the weekend.
All three are valid choices to score first or anytime, but Sevilla's Negredo - a former Real Madrid player - has four goals in three cup games and, if he starts, will be a handful for Villarreal's defenders.
First legs of cup ties are often cautious games, but Villarreal attack at home - a ground on which they have won ten and draw one in eleven La Liga games - and Sevilla rarely keep clean sheets on the road.
Villarreal are the third best team in Spain and dominated the second best, Real Madrid, for 45 minutes before eventually losing 4-2 at the Bernabeu on Sunday night, so they should beat Sevilla at home - as they did a month ago in the league.
In early December though, Sevilla were in terrible form. Though still a little iffy at the back, they are starting to look really good going forward now and have excellent wingers in Navas, Perotti and Capel.
Sevilla are also the reigning Copa Del Rey champions after beating Atletico 2-0 in last year's final. That win gave them their second Spanish cup win in three years and, with two Uefa cups, a Uefa and Spanish super cup also attained in the last few seasons, makes them a fearful cup opponent indeed.
To conclude from a betting and price value perspective: Although I have a sneaky suspicion that, in true cup tradition, this will game will not go as expected, Villarreal are just so good at home that I'm picking them to win, hopefully by a 2-1 scoreline.
Worth a punt: Correct score of Villarreal 2 Sevilla 1 (priced at 15/2)
Barcelona v Real Betis, 21:00-Sky Sports 3
Of Course, Lionel Messi (2/1 to score first, 2/5 anytime) has now been crowned FIFA World Player of the Year for the second year running and all eyes will be on him tonight should he start. Though Barca are a wonderfully impressive team overall, there's no doubt that they are just not as good without the diminutive, sublimely talented Argentine.
If we are to be denied his presence from the start of this exciting top of the first meets top of the second division clash, then Segunda division leaders Real Betis have a real chance of keeping the score low until he appears.
In fact, along with winner Messi, Barcelona's creative hub of Xavi and Iniesta were in attendance at Monday's FIFA awards in Zurich and should they also not start tonight, I'd suggest a 90 minute draw is not out of the question and tempting at an 8/1 price.
However, without knowing the starting X1 until half an hour before this game kicks off, I'd suggest handicap betting is, in all seriousness, the best match outcome market to consider. Besides, what point in backing Barca at 1/20!?
If like me you don't trust players like Bojan - who will probably start the game should Messi be rested - and would like to see the weaker, lower division team do well, then handicap bets giving Betis two and three goals starts are available and recommended at 15/8 and 8/11 respectively.
As someone who used to take bets for William Hill over the phone, I know that some punters like the one team leading at half/the other at full time double result bets and for anyone in that category, I suggest you consider chancing a couple of quid on Real Betis/Barcelona at 28/1. I've already staked a massive £2.50 on it!
While I surely don't need to tell anyone about Barcelona, I will tell you that Real Betis (20/1) are a fairly big team, one that won the Spanish (King's) cup and played in the Champions league (remember when they beat Chelsea?) a few years ago.
To the Chagrin of their supporters, Betis have suffered from mismanagement in recent years and, despite a talented playing squad fatally labelled too good to go down, were relegated from the Spanish top flight at the end of the 2008/09 campaign.
Missing out on a head to head technicality, Seville based Betis failed to gain an immediate return to the Primera division, but they have been top of the Segunda all season and look nailed on to be back amongst Spain's elite next season.
Betis play the best of the elite tonight, but the reigning Primera division champions will probably field a weakened line up and the attack minded Andalusian outfit have a big, strong, durable Cameroonian attacking midfielder who scores goals in Emana (16/1 to score first, 6/1 anytime).
As someone who tries to take advantage of the massive price jumps opposition players get when they play Real or Barca, I'll be taking a chance on Cameroon's second best player (Eto'o has to be first) home and away.
However, I'll also be taking a chance on probably the most likely Betis scorer as striker Ruben Castro (14/1 to score first, 11/2 anytime) is in red hot form with 13 goals in 19 league games so far this season.
Castro also scored twice in his clubs impressive 3-1 defeat of Primera division side Getafe in the second leg of their cup tie last week, and it's fair to say that his skill and predatory instincts in front of goal are a perfect match for the expansive, attacking wing based play of Betis.
I'll confess to a great affection for Betis and am willing to waste a couple of quid on both the draw and the highly unlikely away win, but you should make your own decision.
However, being realistic about a Barca win while being interesting in the large correct score prices on offer, my final small punt in this match is a very plausible correct score of 4-2 to Barcelona, available at 33/1. That score could also win if you take the Betis + 3 handicap bet suggested earlier.
If it's only one decision you make pre - match, take a punt on my main bet and favoured goalscorer recommendation.
Recommendation: Ruben Castro e/w first scorer (14/1)
With FIFA World Coach of the Year Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid in action tomorrow, be sure to check back for a separate preview of Thursday's matches.