La Liga Weekend Preview by Mark Young
Spanish La Liga Preview 14/01 - 15/01 by Mark Young (Twitter: @markyoung1988)
Real Madrid head into the second weekend of 2012 with a five point lead over Barcelona. They have also set up a mouth watering two-legged tie in the Copa del Rey after aggregate victories in midweek.
The Catalans lost to Espanyol in the Cataluña derby last weekend and as full time approached, Guardiola's men were denied three vital points by a Vasquez equaliser but could have easily been given a penalty for a late hand ball incident. Real beat Granada at home and these potentially vital results means that Real could still comfortably win the league without beating the champions.
This weekend the champions will be looking to bounce back when the host Real Betis on Sunday night. The champions are 1/12 to grab the victory that they want but Betis have been in decent form of late. It is typical of teams like Betis to go to the Nou Camp and not go out and give Barcelona are good game and the Catalans would usually come out comfortable winners but the champions are weak and an in form side may try and exploit this. This of course would be if we were talking about a team that isn't Barcelona. The William Hill match winner is for Real Betis to score two or more goals at 9/1. It is possible when the champions are like they are at this present time. Roque Santa Cruz, who has been linked with QPR and former boss Mark Hughes this week, is 20/1 to grab the first goal. Saying this, Barcelona should win if they have any aspirations of lifting the league title this season and they should win well. 4-2 to Barcelona is 50/1, as they will look to outscore their opponents.
Mourinho and Co go the island of Mallorca this weekend for what has proved a tricky game for many teams over the years but this Madrid team has a swagger of champions at present. They will most likely win in Mallorca but it may not be pretty or a goal fest. It is the kind of game where Real will probably make it difficult for themselves and to win by one or two goals may well be worth taking. 1-0 to the men from the capital is 17/2 with 2-0 priced at 13/2. It is 7/4 for the two sides to score under 2.5 goals in this encounter. Sergio Ramos is 20/1 to score first and it could be worth a bet if the game is as tight as predicted.
Saturday night sees third place Valencia take on Real Sociedad at the Mestalla. Los Che are 4/9 to record the victory of Sociedad and should do so. The on form Roberto Soldado looks set to be the starting striker for Spain in Poland and Ukraine this summer and will hope to keep his recent goal scoring form going against Sociedad. He is 8/1 with the William Hill match winner to score a penalty. That is terrific value in the form that he is in.
Atletico Madrid host Villarreal at lunch time on Sunday and Diego Simeone will be looking for his first win as boss on his second attempt. Villarreal got a credible draw at home to Valencia at the weekend but will be bitterly disappointed to have let a two goal lead go. 8/11 for Simeone and Atletico to pick up the victory is a must as they look to kick on in 2012. Another team that should record a home victory this week after an away draw last time out is Atheltic Bilbao. They are 8/13 to defeat Levante at home.
After denying Barcelona three points last week Pochetino and Espanyol could upset the apple cart once more by stealing a point from under the noses of Sevilla. It is 12/5 for the draw and 7/2 for an Espanyol win.
As we edge ever closer to some more El Classico action in the cup we have some league action to get our teeth into. Real and Barcelona will be looking to push on whilst the scramble for European places and the fight to stay in the league begins to take shape. There is some value out there, it is just finding it.