Hercules v Atletico Madrid
After Royston Drenthe threatened to go on strike and went public about not being paid by Hercules, morale has dropped at the club and tonight's visitors, 6th placed Atletico, have a man in goalscoring form with Sergio Aguero. Will the Argentine reap further misery on the club or will Hercules beat another big team?
The biggest shock of the current Primera division campaign saw Hercules nullify Barcelona's red hot offence, before eventually defeating them 2-0 at the Nou Camp in September.
Now in financial trouble, the Alicante based club have been unable to pay their players for a number of months. Results on the pitch have not, however, suffered as you would expect.
Hercules (15/8) were not expected to keep on pulling off massive upsets but, at home, they did lead Real Madrid at half before falling to a Ronaldo inspired comeback, and they were unlucky to draw 2-2 with Villarreal a few games prior to that.
Like most mid table teams though, Hercules tend to beat similar or lesser teams and home but lose to just about everybody away. Statistically, tonight's hosts have a record of four wins, one draw and three defeats at home, with one win, three draws and five defeats on their travels.
On the road is where Hercules last two games have been: A 0-0 draw in Santander and 3-0 defeat at Mallorca. These results are not unusual, but Hercules were truly pathetic on the Island last week and it's clear that morale at the club has sank even further.
Previously left out of the squad after his comments, Drenthe is apparently being left out tonight because he has fitness problems. While there is a tiny bit of truth in that, it's really because most of the players, unhappy about not being paid but happy to battle on and keep quiet until the club fulfils its promises, dislike and resent for Drenthe for going public.
There is a chance that, with Drenthe not involved tonight, the Hercules players on show will battle hard and show that they are united and a force at home, but it's not one I'm subscribing to pre-match.
While Atletico (11/8) sometimes win when they are not supposed to or fail to take all three points at home to a team they should demolish - see last weekend's shocking 0-0 draw with Racing for the most recent example of the latter, Los Colchoneros usually create chances and score goals if both or one of their strikers are in form.
Though Forlan (5/1 to score first, 5/4 anytime) is in the squad for tonight's game, he is neither fit nor in form. As alluded to in the title and opening paragraph, Sergio Aguero (9/2 to score first, 6/5 anytime) is fit, happy after signing a new contract and in form after scoring in Atletico's cup elimination of Espanyol midweek and looking a threat every time he gets the ball.
If they feel motivated, one of Hercules striker force of Trezeguet (6/1 to score first, 7/4 anytime) and Valdez could through a spanner in the works and score first tonight, but Valdez (7/1 to score first, 2/1 anytime) scores most of his goals away and, while he does score a lot at home, Trezeguet usually scores second.
Atletico have a cup tie with hated city rivals Real Madrid coming up, but Colchoneros coach Quique Sanchez Flores has assured the press that tonight's game brings a great opportunity to close the gap on 4th placed Valencia, and I expect the often criticised coach to lead his team to a win.
I can't fully decide on a favourite, but for scorelines I like 1-0 and 2-0 to Atletico - priced at 13/2 and 11/1 respectively.
Recommendations: Sergio Aguero e/w first scorer (9/2) and Atletico 90 minute win (11/8)
Worth a smaller punt: Wincast of Aguero scores first and Atletico win (7/1)
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